What to say when you’re asked about results of your work
Recently, a friend and I were talking about a website that his team had redesigned for a client. He’s interested in using that client project in a case study for his growing business.
The question we discussed is to how to talk about results in a case study when you don’t have metrics to show. In my friend’s case, he doesn’t have data from the client, but he has heard from the client that business has been better since the launch.
While numbers can tell a good story, they aren’t the only measure of success. Often there are less tangible results that you can highlight when you want to explain the value of your work.
If you’ve been asked by potential clients about results from previous projects, here are some ideas for how to talk about your results. Other web designers may find this helpful.
The problem with numbers
If you’re lucky, there may be instances in which you can directly correlate a change that you made to a result. For instance, moving a call-to-action from the bottom of a home page to the top resulted in 100 new emails for a client’s newsletter in the first week of launch.
That’s a great result to share. However, it may take more than one cause to produce a different result.
In my corporate career, I spent a lot of time analyzing web metrics—unique visitors, page views, bounce rates, and so on. Metrics are a game changer in companies that previously relied on best guesses and executive opinions because metrics give you insight into real user behavior.
The downside of metrics, however, is that they don’t tell a complete story on their own. When you see a sharp spike or decline in numbers, you need to know the underlying cause.
To help explain the numbers, you need to know history and circumstances—in other words you need to provide context.
There are many factors that influence metrics. Here are just a few examples:
- Your client’s business is seasonal. If that’s the case, then their metrics will show seasonal fluctuations with increases in some months and decreases in other months.
- Your client has done something—intentional or not—to influence her search rankings. Maybe after you redesigned the website, your client added new content or moved to a new web host to improve site performance. Both of these can affect search ranking.
- Your client began promoting her new site. Has the client promoted her site through social media, an email list, or paid placement that may drive more traffic? Conversely, has she stopped doing any promotion of her site?
If you have metrics to share with a potential client, those metrics may help tell a powerful story. But to tell a complete story, you’ll need to share some context for those numbers because a savvy client may ask about the numbers.
No metrics to share
What if your clients don’t want to share their metrics with you to help you win new clients? Some may be unwilling to divulge that information, knowing that it could become public. There’s not much you can do in this case.
Site is not updated
Another problem that you can encounter is a client for whom you design a custom site that he or she never updates. In cases like these, the lack of effort to keep the site up-to-date will likely show in metrics that stagnate or decline.
If your client doesn’t care for her site, then neither will her audience.
You can build your client a car, but you can’t make them drive it.
What to talk about other than numbers
Let’s assume that you have no numbers to share. What else could you tell a potential client to convince them that you can add value?
Show before and after
In my friend’s case, he’ll show side-by-side screenshots of his client’s previous site and the new site that his team designed and built.
If you didn’t take screenshots of a client’s older site before replacing it, try using the Wayback Machine. This site hosts an archive containing billions of web pages from years past.
Along with the before and after, the case study will focus on describing the target audience and how the redesigned site better attracts that audience than the previous one.
Because my friend and his team also provided new branding for the client, he can talk about how the new logo better aligns with both the brand personality and its audience.
Talking about audience and design changes that attract that audience or align with the brand personality are a couple of ways in which to explain your added value.
Describe features and benefits
You can also talk about features that you added and their benefits to your client. For example, if you made a site that wasn’t previously mobile friendly responsive, then you can mention that your client now appears in mobile search results.
Sometimes the changes that you create give a client’s site a fresher look that positions them to be more competitive. Maybe you added a blog, so the client can begin content marketing—something they hadn’t considered previously, but her competitors are doing.
Consider ways in which your work impacts your client’s experience, for example:
- You implement an email autoresponder to save your client time having to responding to each email that she receives.
- Your maintenance of a client’s website frees her to work on other areas to grow her business and acquire new customers.
- You integrated a client’s Instagram account into her website, and now the client has new content to feature on her home page regularly. Because the feed is dynamic, it’s low maintenance. Her home page updates take no time at all.
There are reasons why you made the design decisions that you did and chose the features that you chose. If you analyze those reasons, then you’ll find the benefits behind each one.
When a potential client asks about previous results, you can provide numbers to show return on investment. But don’t feel that you have nothing to show if you don’t have numbers.
Focus on the benefits that your previous clients and their audiences experienced as a result of your work. Your work has value that can be measured not just in numbers and money, but in time and peace of mind.