image for post - FT 063: Building Better More Profitable Projects Through Needs Assessments with Ben Seigel

FT 063: Building Better More Profitable Projects Through Needs Assessments with Ben Seigel

A frequent and common mistake that freelancers tend to make when approaching a project is to price out a project based on the specifications that the client gave them. This approach places you as a commodity, yet another skilled professional offering some commodity technical skill at some price. This approach doesn't necessarily address what the client really needs, after all, the client isn't a technical expert, that's your job. Your expertise is finding a way to solve the client's problem.

Ben Seigel will share the process of how you can assess a client's needs and even get paid to do it. Ben is the author of Website Planning for Small Business and owner of Versa Studio, a web design agency.

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Ben shares with us:

  • Why you should run a needs assessment:
    • You can avoid giving away your time. Many designers and agencies already do some version of a needs assessment before writing the proposal and doing the work for free, with out telling the client that this is what you are doing and why it is valuable to them.
    • You can demonstrate your value to the client and position yourself as the expert. The assessment builds confidence in your abilities.
    • You can stand out from other agencies by showing that you care about getting the best results for the client, even if what you think the client should do isn't what they asked for.
    • You gain a good understanding of the client's business, marketing strategy, and growth strategy.
    • You can bow out gracefully if the client or project isn't a good fit, since you invested the time to truly understand and plan the project before diving in and realizing half way through that it is a gong show.
  • How to charge for a needs assessment before building out the project:
    • You have to sell the client on the idea that a needs assessment will add more value to the client than diving in on the project the client is asking for. You can say that this is best practices and projects run much more smoothly when you do a needs assessment than if you skip this step.
    • Explain what you have done for other clients with needs assessments and the projects that resulted from them: how the assessment changed the course of the project, how the assessment gave the project more value, etc.
    • Expect that 10-20% of the budget of the project should go into the needs assessment. That may mean that you have to have to ask about the client's budget, not to figure out how much money you can wring out of the client, but to figure out client expectations and to plan on how to spend the money wisely.
  • How to run a needs assessment:
    • Company analysis: What is the mission statement? Why was the company created and when? What is the company structure? How many employees? What is the size and skill of the marketing team or equivalent department in your technical area? How is the company perceived in the market? What makes the company's products and services different from competitors? What are the business goals for the next 6, 12, and 24 months? What is the biggest challenge facing the company?
    • Marketing analysis: What are all the different types of marketing currently used (print, digital, trade shows, direct mail, newspaper, cable, youtube, facebook)? What has worked and not worked in the past? How does the company measure return on investment (ROI)?
    • Brand analysis: Was the logo professionally designed? Is there a branding guide? Is it followed?
    • Customer analysis: Who are the customers? How do the customers interact with the brand on and off line? What are the customer stories? What is the customer persona (customer values, how customers get to work, how customers use technologies)?
    • Competitor analysis: How are competitors using technology? How are they engaging with customers?
    • SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Have 2-3 items for each category.
    • Technical review: What third party software is the website linked to? How is data stored? Who is responsible for maintenance, support, and updates?

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