September 17, 2021 - 9 min

How Do We Build Tangible Products by Educating Our Clients?


				
				

Etjen Suljic

Senior Business Analyst

One of the most sensitive topics for clients are – time and price. As a consequence, there are two frequently asked questions – when a product can be delivered and how much it costs? Before answering these questions, one of the first things that we are doing with our clients is – education.



By educating the clients about our business practices, processes, and industry standards, they are very quickly creating the perception of the prerequisites that have to be done before we mutually bring their product to life.
 On the other hand, they are getting an impression of why building a certain product can sometimes take more time than they expected. In this mutual discussion, by gaining these first insights we are getting closer to the answers.


Twitter has it, so does Instagram


The clients are mostly coming with an idea of how the final product should work and look like and usually that idea includes the requirements for a large number of functionalities that are sometimes not aligned with the business goals. Having as many functionalities within a certain app is something that sounds very catchy since from the client’s point of view it mirrors the quality and the credibility of the product.


But the actual product development works a little dierently, since the beginning of its journey is characterized by the definition of the MVP (minimum viable product), where the slogan less is more is pretty welcome. In other words, the focus is on the minimal number of functionalities that solve significant problems for users and deliver them a certain value. After the MVP is successfully delivered, then comes the extension of the product that builds its credibility even more.


What we in Q see as the biggest challenge that many clients are facing is the lack of experience and support when it comes to digitization in every sense of the word – process automatization, product design, product development, launching the product, etc.


Having an idea of an amazing product presents a first step in making a tangible product, but the real work comes afterward where most of the clients are struggling with the questions – how to do it and from whom to seek the help?


Regarding education, our main goal is to nurture a business and development mindset that will support the correct way of building the product from the start – step by step. By keeping the focus on the final product, very often in their idea, the clients easily skip a lot of important steps that come before the product reaches its final shape.


One of the toughest challenges that we have is to familiarize our clients with that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all other related platforms didn’t have the current set of functionalities in their MVP stages. Since the clients always come with the functionalities that present the latest trend that these platforms have. We are always trying to explain that these platforms have continuously improved their apps over time with user feedback and technology advancement.


That’s why our clients very often listen to our user research process and its benefits. Through these initial discussions, our clients are getting a glimpse of awareness about our industry, product design, what prerequisites are needed to start with the development, and why an intuitive feature (e.g., threaded comments) can sometimes take so much time to be developed.


Amateurs get frustrated with clients, professionals educate them


The level of client experience related to product design and development diers from client to client, which determines the eort and time we need to put into their education. The reason for that lies in the fact that some clients are very familiar with product digitization, where others have lots of unknowns and could be labeled as starters. However, the majority of clients fall into the group of starters, and guiding them through the discovery process clears out the ambiguities they come with.


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Before we even dig deeper into their product idea, our first touch with the clients presents the moment when we are trying to understand their incentive to materialize their product idea. In other words, we’re trying to clarify some of the following areas:



  • What is the story behind the idea?

  • What are the business goals (e.g. increase brand recognition) and how they will be measured?

  • Who is the target audience (e.g. already existing customers that will be part of the loyalty program)?

  • What should be the product focus?

  • What are the pain points the product must resolve?

  • What are the use cases we have to cover?


These are just some of the questions for which we are trying to get answers at the very beginning of our journey.


One of the most enlightening moments for the clients is the amount of information, answers, and knowledge they receive through these questions. It’s helping them to more thoroughly understand the core and high-level scope of their product and, in the end, to see whether their initial idea is still leading them in the right direction.


Gathering the answers to these questions is helping us to consult the clients about the next steps that would be the best fit for them in the process of making the product.

Our task is also to educate them on the product design and development phases, what tech stack would be the best fit for their solution, and why, etc.


Following that path, we emphasize explaining each phase of the discovery process that we will take. The most important thing that the client understands here is why he must go through a certain phase and what value he is getting from it. Additionally, what is the order of going through these phases? For example:



  • What is user research, why does he need it and what value does it bring to him?

  • Why is it important to define the focus of the product and shape the feature set according to it?

  • Why is it important to sketch the idea via user flows and wireframes?

  • Why does the application tone of voice matter and how to tailor it (brand strategy)?

  • Why does the MVP feature set have to be aligned with the business goals and how to do it?

  • Why would a mobile app be maybe a better solution than a web app?

  • etc.


The clients are usually surprised by the number of inputs they have to provide from their side during the product discovery process. Often, there is an initial opinion that it’s a one-sided job.


Secondly, what we encountered as the most often point of misunderstanding is – wording. Dierent terms for the same thing can easily lead to crucial issues, so the major thing is to have the same understanding of the terms used. For example, everyone is using the term agile, but at the same time, everyone has their definition of it.



User stories, acceptance criteria, high fidelity wireframes
, etc. – all these terms are usually not part of our clients’ daily vocabulary. Another important thing to explain is the roles that will participate in the project: Product Strategist, UX/UI Designer, Business Analyst, Solution Architect, etc., because it’s important that the client understands the purpose of each role and what value it brings to the project.


After the first week of the workshops, our clients have the biggest “aha” moment as they have witnessed that the product design process requires much more than just having an idea.


All these things are helping the client to get closer to the answers he needs to build a valuable product. The truth is that the right spot for one client will be detailed user research, whereas the other client will not need that at all, but brand strategy is something that they haven’t thought about at all, and they need it. That’s why the individual approach is inevitable because each client has its vision and set of ideas. Mutual work presents a key value of building a trusted relationship.


The essence of client education


In Q, the education presents the first non-oicial deliverable that we provide to our clients before we dig deeper into the product itself.


An interesting fact that has been adopted for a long time is that some businesses avoid educating their clients about their industry or, in general, because of the fear that a more educated and discerning client will be less loyal. They were convinced that the clients would be more likely to search elsewhere and choose a competitor.


Likewise, some companies even thought that providing the knowledge about their products and services would give the customer too much leverage. But, on the other hand, many businesses are convinced that keeping clients informed about their industry, processes, or service through marketing will be good.


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What we are trying to bring closer to our clients is the fact that our product discovery process is not tied not just to the business, but to the business’s goals we already mentioned. That’s where we are extracting the biggest value of the product before we even start with its definition. So our main interest here is to determine the client’s business’s highest priority (e.g., increasing the number of consumers or turning existing consumers into loyal consumers, etc.).


For example, if the client already has a loyal consumer base, he should try to appeal to those consumers and thus assume that they know something about their product and industry. We are trying to highlight that dierent business goals have a significant impact on the focus of the product and its purpose.


Collaboration is the second thing that comes with education, on which we are actively working to get things done on time. At the same time, the amount of clients involvement is overwhelming and motivating for them, but that’s the moment when their expertise comes to the fore. Since, together with our help, they are defining the business goals, success criteria for the product, doing a feature set prioritization – for the MVP and the later stages of the product, etc.

That mutual collaboration is the brightest moment for the clients because they gain so much knowledge and experience in such a short period of time.


After all, building the product brings value for both parties – consumers and the client itself. The most valuable confirmation that client education is leading us in the right direction is the genuine feedback we receive from them.


Following this path of investing in our client education, the benefits that the clients are able to reap out of it are:


Any discomfort that might be present at the beginning disappears very quickly. Mostly the clients know pretty high-level things about our industry, and that’s why they’re coming to us in the first place. And on the o-chance that they are familiar with it, they usually don’t know much about our process and business practices. So by giving them the information and educating them on these topics, it clears out any concerns they may have. Likewise, it allows them to feel comfortable asking the questions, which is crucial to client communication and a great working relationship.


Clients are getting real-time proof of our qualifications. Through client education, we strive to position ourselves as professionals. In that way, we allow them to see that we know what we’re talking about and have experience in our field. Likewise, our clients feel more comfortable taking our advice and trusting our judgment when they see us as the experts.


We build trust. Clients want to feel that they are in good hands, especially when they invest time and money in working with us. By explaining our decision-making, reasoning, business practices, and processes, we show that we are experienced and knowledgeable and confirm that we know what we are talking about. Open communication and education build trust and thus create strong client-agency relationships.


How do the clients feel when learning something new?


The lack of knowledge is the most fertile ground for discomfort and distrust.


The ins and outs of our business, the terminology we use, and the reason behind each of our processes; all of that becomes second nature to us as business owners since we’re always consumed and saturated in the industry. But from the client’s perspective, it has a completely dierent point of view since it’s really easy to forget that the processes in our industry are most likely foreign and unfamiliar to them. As a result, all these things can lead to disaection on both sides and prove harmful to building solid client relationships.


To prevent these situations from happening, the main emphasis is on the individual approach and full dedication to each client since we strive to establish a strong partnership with our clients in each step of our processes.


An interesting concept called Kort’s learning spiral model presents the necessary pattern of emotions that the learners are experiencing when they learn something new. The image below summarizes the path:


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Kort’s Learning Spiral Model

Looking from the client’s perspective, they start in Stage 1, where they feel great about the idea of learning a new concept. But when they’re confronted with confusing or challenging information, they head into Stage 2, where they start feeling confused and anxious. The new information is challenging and hard to understand.


In the meantime, as they start to fix up their old, outdated knowledge, they’ll enter into a state of frustration. They’ll be trying out new answers to diicult questions and realizing some of the things they used to think were true are, in fact, untrue. At that moment, they’re not feeling positive emotions at all. Nonetheless, it’s a necessary stage in cognitive development because learning new things sometimes has to challenge their old ways of thinking.


The last stage they enter is Stage 4. In this stage, they feel determination and hopefulness because they feel like they finally understand a new concept.

As we can see, learning usually leads to many dierent emotions. Sometimes negative emotions like confusion, annoyance, and frustration are necessary – they need to go through these states to come out the other side having learned something important.


In the end, by educating our clients, we also educate ourselves, and most importantly, we are all together in each step of that process.


As Zig Ziglar once said: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”


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ABOUT AUTHOR

Etjen Suljic

Senior Business Analyst

Etjen is a Senior Business Analyst at Q agency. He combines his business experience and strong analytical skills in helping the clients to materialize their ideas into tangible products. Besides his interests in technology, he’s in the process of education for the transactional analysis psychotherapist.