The Second Meeting, First

Sometimes, we miss the mark. It happens.

Unfortunately, we missed the mark with one of our clients this week. While I'm not intimately involved with the project or on calls, talking it through with the designer reminded me of a powerful lesson.

Let's take a look at the situation.

The Situation

Round 1

We present the designs via Zoom. We're super excited about what we've done. Luckily, the client loves the look and interactivity of the work. Check. The issue? They feel like we failed to capture the unique selling points of the product. They admit that they have some work to do in gathering the content, but at the same time, we know it's our job to guide them.

The client does not provide additional feedback. They say, "we provided all we have to say during the call."

We regroup and make revisions, focused on creating a page that clearly outlines what the product offers and why it's unique.

Round 2

We present the revised designs, once again via Zoom. Within minutes of the call, the client lets us know this is not what they're looking for; it's feeling very sales-y and off-brand. We finish walking through the designs and end the call.

The internal team does not feel great, and we assume the client does not either. The team sleeps on it (some lose sleep over it) then regroup the next day.

Round 3

In round 1, we nailed the visual but missed the why. In round 2, we nailed the why but missed the visual. In round 3, all we have to do is find the perfect combination of both. Right? We take a step back and revisit the structure with a wireframe. We send it to the client and ask for feedback.

As I write this note, we're still waiting to hear what they have to say before we take it back into design.

So, besides the client being unhappy, what's the issue here?

The Challenge

The client's feedback was reactive on our calls because that's what we asked of them. We did make room for follow-up but from their perspective, they said all they needed to say. Our process did not create space for the client to spend time with the work. Caught up in finding a way forward, we did not re-align with the client on exactly what they're hoping to see. Outcome? We're shooting in the dark.

As demonstrated in this situation, clients often see our work for the first time on calls. When they love it, this can work out fine. When they have feedback, which is inevitable, it's hard for them to give meaningful insights after spending just ~30 minutes with the work.

Many times, this means they regroup offline and send written feedback a couple of days later. In situations like this, we may not get anything more. From there, we have to jump on a second call to make sure we understand the feedback or share revised designs.

Have the Second Meeting, First

If we could do this all over again, I'd suggest we have the second meeting, first. A topic I wrote about in my newsletter in February.

Send the designs the day before the first call, outline the key ideas, and ask for initial thoughts. Give the client time to sit with it and gather their thoughts.

When they provide feedback, we may even have time to address it before the first call. Now we're that much further along. If the client is unhappy with the direction, we can cancel the meeting to revisit the work or get on a call to talk it through.

Either way, the meeting we'd typically have second is the one we have first. Not only do we save everyone's time, but we also invite more thoughtful feedback, and in the end, we're more likely to hit the mark by the first meeting.

I'm confident we'll get this project back on track. In the meantime, I'm excited to apply this thinking more actively across all current and upcoming projects.