[thelist] Client doesn't know his audience

Janet Green JGreen at desmoinesmetro.com
Tue Aug 5 15:21:42 CDT 2003

>>>are we supposed to accept the client's vague idea, or are we supposed to do something about it. Because that would appear to be outside our normal remit and probably something not many of us are skilled in. <<<

We are supposed to do something about it. Clients come to us not only to write code, but to be given advice on how to make the web *work* for them. The web won't work for them until their site speaks to their audience and enables that audience to respond with the appropriate "next step." Yes, it's outside the realm of most site designers' expertise - so, you can either learn it, or team up with a marketing professional who's willing to help you either on site in the client's office or behind the scenes. I think it's critical, personally, for anyone owning their own web design business, to be interested in the broader marketing industry as well as in web design.

>>>What happens when you decide that your audience is 55 year old blue collar males? How do you translate that
into behavioural expectations for your website. Do we just use our own imagination and prejudices? Do we trawl through academic research? Where are the resources for this stuff?<<<

Again, this is why true client service in the web development industry isn't just about writing code. It's about having expertise in how to make the web really work for a client. And no, you don't just rely on your own prejudices to write for blue-collar males (or whatever group). You ask the client what strategies they use; you study their existing marketing pieces, and ask how well those pieces are working for them. You study *other* marketing pieces aimed at that audience, too, not just those of your client. You read "American Demographics" or some similar publication that focuses on consumer behavior (AC Nielson's "Consumer Insight" perhaps) ... and "Ad Week," the industry mag for ad agencies to see what campaigns are being launched, aimed at what audiences, etc.  (Sorry these are US resources - there must be UK counterparts...) Along with your favorite web development publications, as long as they don't just focus on writing the latest code snippet. (As the internet manager for my local chamber of commerce, I read not only several marketing publications, but also several chamber industry publications and a web development newsletter called "Web Content Report." When I was freelancing, I always took time to read a couple issues of whatever industry magazine the client relied upon so, if nothing else, I could understand the industry lingo. I also read a TON of small business marketing and PR books, which helped me understand my own marketing needs as well as those of my clients.)  

And you find your favorite resource for the latest research in web usage trends, and see what your target audience is up to. Are they getting more comfy with e-commerce? Staying away from the web in droves? 

Yes it's a tall order, but in my opinion, if you are marketing yourself directly to business clients, you have to either immerse yourself in the marketing side, or partner with someone who knows the marketing side, to be truly useful. OR - you can market yourself to ad agencies and other creative "middle-men". Those folks already have the marketing knowledge and research infrastructure in place, and you can rely on them when it's time to say, "ok, let me see your latest research on e-commerce habits of 50+ blue collar males." Chances are, they'll also be writing the copy for you, so you only have to worry about making the site's appearance and navigation intuitive, and the features functional.  

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