One Idea is Better than Three

Note: There is now a followup to this post. Make sure to check it out. More on the One Idea Approach


While some people don’t need to worry too much about clients, the rest of still make a living helping others make the right decisions with their web presence. Maybe I’m just young and early on in my consulting career, or maybe I am too accustomed to constantly trying to please everyone, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that consulting is about guiding not offering.

If you present clients with multiple ideas and expect them to choose one, invariably, the end result is muted and diluted as the message of the different ideas gets blended together.

“Here’s 3 comps. Please choose one.”

If you present clients with multiple ideas and expect them to choose one, invariably, the end result is muted and diluted as the message of the different ideas gets blended together. This is what happens when you approach the situation with an offering.

Instead of spending time creating 3 differnt comps, ideas, or concepts, take aim at that one that’s great and make it amazing. Blow them out of the water. Leave them speachless. That’s guiding.

It’s really about taking them where you feel and know they need to go. You may be a little off course and that is to be expected. Believe it or not, your clients are looking to you for answers, and they want to help you find those answers. They are looking to you for guidance to the best solution.

Have confidence (and evidence).

Of course, this would never work if you just go to a meeting and say, “Here’s our idea. What do you think?” You have to go in believing that this idea is the one. If you can convince yourself, you can convince your client. Heck, you won’t even have to convince them, they will just see it.

Show them your process. Show them how you arrived at your idea. Show them some of your other ideas and brainstorming that helped your idea evolve.

How on Earth do you pull that off? Show them your process. Show them how you arrived at your idea. Show them some of your other ideas and brainstorming that helped your idea evolve. Be open and honest so they can see right through to your passion and thought process, and they will love you for it. More importantly, the communication will help them understand how you work and just how solid the foundation of your idea is.

Summary

Instead of offering up choices or asking open-ended questions, come up with ideas internally, then work those ideas until you can confidently choose one. Once that’s done, take that great idea and make it amazing. Show them what their site or application could be.

Now, all you have to do is stand back and let them drool. If they see your thought process and passion, they will not only appreciate your efforts, but they will be happier with the end product. Most importantly, you will be much happier with the work you’ve done.

Does it work?

The inspiration for this came from a recent series of meetings with one of our clients. The first two meetings were considerably painful as we presented several different options and opened it up for discussion. The meetings went in circles and the client stakeholders couldn’t decide on how to merge the different options and meet all of their business goals.

This was completely our fault, not their’s. We were presenting them with options. We were saying, “We don’t really know what we’re doing so we made some vague attempts and we want you to decide for us.” This isn’t guiding. This is offering, and it doesn’t work.

After the second meeting, we sat down and essentially threw away all of the previous concepts. We browsed around some other sites and thought about the conflicting goals and problems with the first concepts.

When we were done, we created one focused concept and made some very tough decisions that we assumed the client would never approve. When it was all said and done though, we believed in the new idea more than anything we had done yet.

The time came for the meeting, and we went through all of the previous problems and shortcomings, all the steps we took to find answers, and explained our decisions in detail.

After presenting the concept, every single stakeholder was in complete agreement. It was perfect. It was the shortest and smoothest meeting we’ve had yet, and it had the most productive results.

It works, and I’m never going back.