By Andrew Neitlich

It’s not just what you do…

By Andrew Neitlich

I started a new assignment Friday to provide marketing support, including web site development, to a healthcare firm.

Wanting to make a good impression, I sent a draft first deliverable out, of a marketing letter.

The client didn’t like it, which I can accept (it can take time and a few iterations to get on the same page). But then the client sponsor sent the letter to his other 5 partners, to get their ideas. That, of course, hurts me since everyone sees the unacceptable first deliverable.


So I lost control not only of the “what” but also of the “how.” Rookie error.

I should have set expectations up front about the most efficient way to work together. So first thing this morning I sent a new and improved draft along with a request that the client sponsor and I get satisfied with this deliverable first, then send it out to everyone else. That way, we can avoid wasting the other partners’ time with early drafts, and keep communications efficient.

So as you manage engagements be sure you focus on the what and the how. The how includes how you communicate, how you submit deliverables, the format of deliverables, setting expectations about drafts vs. finished work, etc.

There is also a third area of focus, which is a bit more abstract. This is the “context,” which is about who you are being, or where you are coming from when you do your work. Some designers and developers act like prima donnas, or entitled brats. To them, the project is all about them, not the client. It is much more effective to have your “context” be about serving the client, going the extra mile, and being the consummate profession.

The what, the how, and the who: The three corners of professional services.

  • busyboy

    Indeed. One situation I remember a couple years ago: I had started a project with a busy client who turned out to have a lot of turnover problems. My contact person kept shifting, his staffers were perpetually buried in work, and the project suffered.
    Though we didn’t formalize things too much, we had worked out the flow of things. I should’ve spoken up and suggested a new communication flow (or even left, since this continued for months) when I got the tag-team treatment–it was hurting their project.
    Whether you like it or not, project management is ultimately up to you. When I take this approach, clients appreciate my looking out for them.

  • Sojan80

    Good one Andrew. Thanks for that. As I am getting ready to start a new project I’ll try to keep those tips in mind.

  • Jason Batten

    Good work. Another kick up the bum we all need to hear from time to time :)

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