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New Data Center is Now Live and Accepting Customers

first_name130708467023435 last_name130708467023472 - Thursday, April 01, 2010

In an exciting development in Business Catalyst’s integration with Adobe, BC’s engineering team deployed a software upgrade this morning to enable our new Adobe datacenter for North America to start accepting new customers. When you choose the North America datacenter to host any sites you create from now on, it will be automatically hosted on the new Adobe datacenter in the United States.

Over the next 2 months, BC engineers will also bring online new Adobe data centers in Asia-Pacific and Europe to meet the needs of our fast expanding community in those regions.

Adobe is committed to ramping up Business Catalyst over the coming years and the new data center is just the first piece of a significant investment in our future. It will provide capacity for growth for our existing partners and room to accomodate new partners and their clients coming onboard.

Migration from Old Data Centers to New Data Centers

One of the most common questions being asked is how to migrate sites from the old data centers to the new data centers. Once all 3 new data centers are live, we will be sharing our plan for migrating all existing sites to the new data centers. This will be taking place using a staged approach until August/September 2010. Rest assured we will give you plenty of notice and communication. We are also currently building tools to automate the process as much as possible to facilitate a smooth migration for you and your clients. Keep in mind that we do not recommend you manually migrate any sites until our automation tools and plans are made available.

New Datacenter, a Sneak Peek of InContext Editing and an Update on BC

first_name130708467023435 last_name130708467023472 - Thursday, March 25, 2010

Looking back it's been some time between updates from the Product Management team at BC. In that time our team has been working overtime with some great features to unveil soon. We've also experienced some unexpected snags including our new North American data center which is delayed from our scheduled March release to the first week of April. So what's new at BC?

New Data Center is Coming Online

Last Monday Business Catalyst reached an important milestone! Our new Adobe North American data center went online and after another week and a half of testing we anticipate it will be open for business to accept new sites.

What this means for you is starting from 2nd week of April, all new sites created in North America will be hosted on the new data center giving even better performance to meet your and your clients' needs. We also have new European and Asia-Pacific data centers coming online within the next 2 months.

InContext Editing Sneak Peek

InContext Editing Screenshot

In other exciting news, we're giving you a sneak peek of a new feature called InContext Editing. InContext Editing will eventually replace Sitewalk as the tool for giving your clients an intuitive WYSIWYG content editing experience.

To access the *pre-production version of InContext editing on any of your sites just replace '/admin/frameset.aspx' with '/admin/editing.aspx' in the address bar when you are logged in to the Admin Console for that site.

Business Catalyst is planning to formally release InContext Editing into public beta in the first week of April. We hope you enjoy your first look at InContext Editing and we're looking forward to your feedback.

*One known issue in pre-production: Empty tags are not being closed correctly e.g <br>  is being published instead of  <br /> - this will be fixed next week. The current pre-production version is not supported and should not be used for editing and saving content - it is meant as a preview for new functionality only.

New Knowledgebase to replace the Online Business Wiki

Although the trusty Online Business Wiki has served our community well as a source information on all things BC, we will be replacing it in the first week of April with a brand new Knowledgebase. The Knowledgebase will come with much improved search functionality and navigation to help you find what you need. We've migrated all the Online Business Wiki articles across and added a slew of new ones as well.

As an added bonus the new Knowledgebase will be contained entirely within the Support Central window so Premium Partners won't have to worry about rebranding issue that arose when they directed their clients to the Online Business Wiki.

A Preview of What's Coming in April

Unfortunately a couple of features promised for March are running behind schedule because of issues uncovered during the last stages of testing. These will be released towards the end of April. I want to share with you what happened, both features were in their advanced stages of implementation as you can see by their screen shots.

  • DNS Management Tools has been delayed because we want to enhance the workflow for allowing users to redirect www domains to non-www domains before releasing to the public. The final version will allow you to add A, CNAME, MX and advanced DNS records as well as give you the ability to do domain redirects to domains hosted on BC.
  • Automated Client Billing System for Premium Partners has also been pushed to the end of April.

More Regular Communication from BC

Last but not least while it's been hard during these initial months to predict (and consequently promise) when features are going to be released to the public, I'm going to keep everyone updated on what is happening more regularly. My next post will be on the high-level focus areas for the BC development team over the next 6 months. We've had some exciting discussions here and I aim to share that with you. Thanks everyone for your continued understanding and patience as we continue through this transition period.

4 Quick Tips for Fine-Tuning Your Email Campaigns

- Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Here at BC, we make extensive use of email campaigns to keep in touch with our community.

From fortnightly and monthly newsletters through to on-going loyalty campaigns for new users, email newsletters help us keep our 1,000s of Partners in the loop and up to date with helpful hints and tips for building Online Businesses with BC.

Combined with a range of other mediums, email marketing remains a crucial element of BC's online strategy, with our Business Success newsletter sending to our wider community of over 10,000 web designers and developers each month.

In this article, we'll share some tips we've picked up over time that we hope will help you fine-tune your own email campaigns and better communicate with your customers.

Where do I subscribe?


Subscribe Box

Before you even get started:

How do your visitors sign up to receive your newsletter?

Having a healthy list of opted-in recipients is your first step to a successful email campaign, so make sure your subscribe box is easily found and takes no more than a few seconds to fill out.

Another great way to encourage subscriptions is to add the option to any web forms your visitors may be using. This includes "Contact Us" forms through to the checkout form if you run an online shop.

Frequency vs. Value


While it's always good to keep the flow of communication alive, it's also important that you endeavor to provide high value content to your readers.

By all means send a weekly email to your customers, but ensure that it doesn't cross the line into "spam" territory.

Spam Folder

The best way to test this is to ask yourself a simple question: "As a reader, why does this matter to me?" If you're stuck for an answer, then maybe you should go back to the drawing board and rethink your content strategy.

It's difficult to define "value", as it's all about your unique set of subscribers. If you're a web designer providing a weekly update to your clients however, this may include articles on effectively running an Online Business, guides to marketing through social media, or information on post-sales services you offer that will help them succeed online.

Penning a Potent Subject Line

Never underestimate the power of a killer subject line.

At the end of the day, without a clear understanding of what the email contains, it's unlikely that your readers will even open the campaign, let alone see your carefully crafted content.

Keep your subject line to-the-point and make sure that even on face value, it's easy to understand what your newsletter is all about.

If your campaign is part of a series, it's a good idea to include the series name and issue number in the subject line, so the reader has an idea of it's context.

Hint: If you have a customer database of a reasonable size, try your hand at A / B testing. Simply slice your list down the middle, then send each half the same campaign, but with different subject lines. Leave it a few days, then compare the open rates of the two subject lines to determine which was more effective.

Monitor, Review, Repeat


Subscribe Box

Your best friend in improving the effectiveness of your email campaigns is performance monitoring.

Figures to watch out for are your open rate, click rate, and if you're a BC user, your action rate.

If you're aiming for increased visits to a page on your website, but are seeing poor click-through rates, perhaps rethink the placing of your calls to action. Again, A / B testing is a great way to test what works and what doesn't.

The next time you go to send a newsletter, you'll have a better understanding of what attracts your reader's attention and what they're clicking on.

What's Next?

Crafting a successful email campaign is all about finding that unique formula that works for you and your business.

The best way to fine-tune your newsletters is to constantly try, test and revise your methods, taking in knowledge from the wealth of resources available online. Here are some of our favorites to get you started:

Valentine's Day Update

- Sunday, February 14, 2010
It's a long weekend here in the US and it's somewhat timely. My already busy schedule was maxed out during the last week as two of our remote engineering teams visited San Francisco. We talked, planned, and brainstormed everything Business Catalyst. It was exciting - I felt a new heightened vigor around the next chapter of Business Catalyst.

What I found really refreshing was the caliber of people that I now work with. These are not just the best of the best, but I'm surrounded by people with strong entrepreneurial traits that radiate urgency in what they do. In a competitive environment like today, that's the type of team we need to build the best online business platform for your customers.

We're nearing the 6-months mark of Adobe's acquisition of Business Catalyst. It's fair to say that these initial months have had their share of challenges. We could have handled some of the obstacles better, but looking back now, integrating one business into another is implicitly a difficult task. I do feel that we’re now settled at Adobe, not only personally, but I feel we’ve now integrated into the greater organization and starting to see the benefits roll in.

This week I also received some firm dates from Adobe IT on the go live date of our new Adobe North American data center. At this stage we’re planning to go live at the end of February. Adobe’s European data center should go live in March and Australia in April. The level of investment in these data centers for Business Catalyst is significant and will provide the foundation we need to remain successful as we ramp up our operations.

I’ll provide more updates on the new data centers shortly. I also can’t wait to share some of our plans on how we will evolve our vision of Online Businesses, Not Websites.

In the mean time Happy Valentine’s day!

Release 148 has Lift Off, I Repeat... (Release Notes)

first_name130708467023435 last_name130708467023472 - Thursday, February 11, 2010

The BC team is geared up for 2010 and we're ready to rock 'n' roll with our partner community! Starting with today's release (148) which went live at 11:30am PST, we're committing to a monthly release schedule over the coming year and beyond to deliver you exciting new features on a predictable and regular basis. So what's new in 148?

An Evolution in your Partner Portal

The most visible change you'll see from this release is your new Partner Portal user interface. Why the change you ask? With BC's focus now squarely pinpointed on Web Designers we needed a platform on which we could deliver the best tools for you to run your design business and that's the purpose of the new Partner Portal. We've streamlined the interface so that we'll have room for new features such as the ability for Premium Partners to automatically bill their clients using BC (coming next month) without cluttering the screen or creating an unwieldy work flow.

BC Extension for Dreamweaver Released

For all the Triangle users out there who are currently using Dreamweaver CS4 to design BC sites, we've rolled out a beta version of our next generation Business Catalyst Extension for Dreamweaver. You'll be able to access it from your Partner Portal by going to the 'Tools' tab and downloading the documentation and the .mxp file from the box on the right of the screen.

Unlike Triangle, the DW extension allows you to work natively in the Files panel in Dreamweaver. In Triangle, when you load a page, it is labeled untitled. Using the BC extension, Dreamweaver understands which file is open. You can use the Files panel in the same way you are used to working, to double-click files and creating files and folders to build out your site structure. But even better, you can now use the DWT files to build templates, just as with other sites. Choose File > New to create a new template, and then choose Insert > Template Objects > Business Catalyst editable region. After defining a region, you can choose File > New > Page from template and the new page will be linked to the template automatically.

This workflow is consistent with the normal Dreamweaver content management functionality, with the added bonus that the related files are all listed at the top of the document window, making it easy to update the CSS style sheets. Any pages linked from a template will display that information in the top right corner, and you can open the DWT files (located in the Templates folder) and edit them directly in Dreamweaver.

For more information on the new Extension please download and read the documentation from your Partner Portal. We will go through a 3 month period of beta testing where the improvements will be made to the Extension and your feedback submitted through a support request will be much appreciated.

FTP Access to BC Layouts and Templates

For partners who aren't using Dreamweaver to edit BC sites this has been a much asked-for feature. We've been testing this for the last 3 weeks now and today is the official launch for FTP access to Layouts and Templates. These are found in your site root directory in /Layouts and /Templates - these folders are now reserved for BC files. If your site previously had a folder called /Layouts or /Templates you will need to use the File Manager to change the names of these in order for the system versions to show up in FTP.

URL Redirection Manager

One wish-list item that's been asked for is to be able to view all URL redirects in one central location. Previously URL redirects were stored inside the webpage detailed view so it was difficult to find them. This functionality has been removed from webpages and is now been replaced by a URL redirect manager which you can access by going to Website > Web Pages > Manage URL Redirects. They now have their own interface where you can see the list of redirects on your site and easily create, edit and delete them.

"My Accounts" Page for Site Owners

If you're a standard partner who resells BC branded sites, your clients who are paying for hosting directly to BC will now be able to email invoices to themselves and update their credit card details automatically inside their admin console by going to their 'My Account' page. This feature will streamline customer service as you won't need to perform this task for your clients inside your Partner Portal anymore.

Coming soon in our March release (R149)

Next month you should be looking forward to three features -
  1. DNS Management Tools - we're giving you the tools to add your own DNS records to BC sites. You'll be able to create your own alias, hostname and mail exchanger records inside BC
  2. Sitewalk will be upgraded to InContext Editing - your clients will have a brand new editor for making changes to their site content as it would appear in their browser
  3. Premium Partner Billing Tools - this will enable you to set your pricing and automatically charge your clients monthly hosting costs
Following that, I haven't forgotten that we promised a number of wishlist items in December last year and you'll be seeing those delivered in subsequent releases. Stay tuned for more! 2010 is going to be one helluva year for BC product development!

We hear you, we really do... hang in there!

first_name130708467023435 last_name130708467023472 - Friday, December 11, 2009

Many of you have been speculating on the future of BC development in 2010. Folks have been discussing on the forums and sending in wishes. Sometimes we get wind of what you'd like to see in the system through your support requests as well.  BC wants you to know that none of this goes unnoticed and that there's been action behind the scenes so as your Product Manager, I'm going to outline our plans for the first half of 2010.

What's Happening With the Wishlist?

First off, let's cover the wishlist - by voting as a community you've shown what your priorities are and we're going to respect that. If you go to the wishlist now you'll see that out of the top 20 wishes, we have committed 10 to our short term roadmap. BC has monthly software release cycles and you should be seeing the following requests trickle out during January, February and March releases in 2010. The plan for the wishlist requests is as follows:

  1. Modules within Modules - we're going to allow one level of recursion with the first version of this
  2. Customizable Workflow Notifications - as BC partners you'll need the ability to edit the workflow emails and welcome emails you send to your clients
  3. Additional 'List Template' Layouts for Web-apps - we're first going to allow a dynamic number of layouts for Web-Apps and when this model is proven it will be applied to other modules and the Online Store as well
  4. Increase the modules per page limit - system uptime and service reliability come first so we will be doing a lot of testing before we raise the limit, expect an incremental increase here
  5. Web App URL Friendly - web apps will gain the same customizable URL system that blog posts currently have
  6. Dynamic Menus Active/Inactive - a 'enabled' checkbox will be added for dynamic menus just as there is for web pages
  7. Plain WYSIWYG Input - An comprehensive overhaul for Sitewalk will be released late in Q1 2010 and this will have provision for plain text input so your clients aren't able to inadvertently change the layout
  8. Products URL Friendly - products will gain the same customizable URL system that blog posts currently with the addition of a special character 'eraser'
  9. CRM Custom Fields updated via Webforms - this will allow your customers to update their own extended CRM details from the front-end.
  10. DNS Enhancements - these were detailed and promised in the last blog post in November

As you can see our engineers are going to be very busy working on these requests as well as the features promised in the last blog post including DNS tools, Data Center migration, a new Dreamweaver Extension and Partner Billing tools too!

The Longer Term Strategy...

As the old cliche goes, if Henry Ford had only asked his customers what they wanted he would've given them faster horses. We've also got our own development agenda running in parallel to wishlist requests. For the first half of 2010 there are 4 areas of the system BC wants to focus on and completely overhaul in priority order.

  1. ECommerce - both in the frontend and backend we are designing a much more cohesive and well integrated online shopping workflow especially with respect to the shopping cart, payment/shipping functionality and order fulfillment
  2. CRM - usability is key here, expect to see improved filter/search and edit functions for records and tighter integration with ECommerce and the CMS
  3. Blogs - we're going to finish what we started this year to bring our blogging platform up to industry standards
  4. Forums - are due for improvements like avatar profiles, private messaging, social features (e.g post voting) and improved discussion threading

Our plan is to sweep out all the corresponding wishlist requests for each component and consolidate as part of the requirements and specification for those components which is why you're seeing some high priority wishes without a set status. Expect to be seeing results in June/July as these are large engineering projects

Continuing Work on Other Components

Web Apps, Email Marketing and Reporting will need to follow in the 2nd half of 2010 and later. This doesn't mean work will stop on them completely, we will continue to make incremental improvements (as per wishlist requests) where possible but the complete overhaul will have to wait until after our top priorities have been implemented.

Hope that answers some of those burning questions you partners have bottled up. It's an extremely ambitious plan but we're confident with our expanded Adobe engineering team coming up to speed with the BC product and codebase that we'll be able to pull this off and keep BC at the forefront of the competition to give you the best Online Business platform for building solutions for your clients.

The BC Blog, A New Beginning...

first_name130708467023435 last_name130708467023472 - Saturday, November 14, 2009
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away...

Just kidding. It's been a bit over 2 months now since Business Catalyst became a part of Adobe and we're slowly starting to settle in and harvest the fruits of the acquisition. On that note, we felt it was a good time to take a new direction with this blog. In the past we helped you with tips on how to market yourselves and sell BC, whereas now we're going to be more product driven to help keep you up-to-date with new and planned product features and enhancements. And what better way to begin than with a look at our roadmap for the next 3 months.

Major Feature Releases over the next 3 months

Following the discontinuation of the GoodBarry brand we're now sharpening our focus on creative Web Professionals like yourselves and that means our short term feature roadmap out to March 2010 contains a number of tools to streamline Web Design on BC.

  • Dreamweaver Extension - The number 1 feature that excites me is the release of the next generation Business Catalyst Extension for Dreamweaver. A beta version will be available in January. What I can promise here is an extension that's much better integrated with Dreamweaver and a more intuitive interface that gives you improved access to edit the assets on your BC sites. As we test this internally I'll be releasing more details towards Christmas.
  • Billing Tools - Shortly following the release of the next-gen Dreamweaver Extension we're aiming to release Partner Consolidated billing. I know our Rebranded Partners have been hanging out for this one for a while now. If you're a full Partner, you're going to be able to set your own hosting prices inside your Partner Portal and this will automatically use the eCommerce system inside your Partner site to bill your clients. If your clients don't pay their bills, the system will automatically suspend their service so you're not out-of-pocket.
  • DNS Management Tools - to be added in February/March 2010 - although the DNS requests run in at slightly lower priority on the wishlist we believe it's important for you to be able to manage your own DNS records from within a BC site. This way you can use an external mail service, add multiple hostnames and aliases.
  • Data Center Migration - one 'behind-the-scenes' area that our engineers are working on is preparing our new Adobe data centers, with shiny new top-of-the-line equipment and even greater capacity for growth. We're also working on making the migration to these datacenters as seamless as possible. This is a big investment for Adobe and a big project that will be completed around February/March 2010. We will be keeping our partner community in close communication surrounding these developments.
The Slightly Longer Term View

So what happened to E-Commerce, Web-Apps, Modules, CRM and Blog improvements? I'm re-developing a more in depth plan for all of these aspects of the system, given we now have an expanded engineering team. I will be incorporating the feedback you've given us on our wishlist. However, rather than rushing things we want to make sure that:

  1. We first deliver on the 4 items I've listed above in the 3 month plan
  2. We complete a number of other back office and integration tasks
  3. We have a detailed and feasible plan that our expanded engineering team can implement in the timeframe communicated.
Once we’re on the road with the above, we will release further details of our product roadmap. I personally read and moderate all of your wishlist requests every day and I also monitor the voting to adjust the priorities. So I do feel that I have my fingers on the pulse of the partner community's sentiments in regard to the product. In that spirit, I want to make sure we construct our roadmap in the best way possible.

Stay Tuned For More!

To all of our Partners out there who use our product and promote BC to the small business community - thank you! We owe it to you to really ramp up product development in 2010 and beyond. With our new engineering resources and the backing of Adobe I have great confidence that we're really going to kick some goals next year for you and your clients. Stay tuned for more posts as we continue to tease out the details of the longer term roadmap.

Your Guide To Better Client Communication (Part 3)

- Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In the last two posts, we've taken you through some easy steps for establishing better client communications.

Today, we'll talk about how you can create a solid action plan and sow the seeds for a long-term relationship with your client.

Create An Action Plan

You've gained an understanding of your client's business, talked strategy, and set some business targets. By now, the client is probably asking "How are you going to pull this off?" and you're most likely wondering that too. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise by giving the client an understanding of the Online Business you're about to build for them and outline how it will achieve their goals.

Once you've explained the motivations and what the goals are, you need to provide a documented timeline of where it goes from here.

1. Short-term
Your clients most immediate need is for you to build a website to roll-out and go live. The goals tied to this are all structural:

  • You need to provide suggestions for what content is required (and a mini plan for your client to deliver that content)
  • You need to discuss with your client what features are going to be implemented e.g what questions they need to ask in their contact form to qualify their customers? Do they need an online shop? What about a blog or forum?
  • What about the navigational structure of their website?
  • Other features and widgets or integration with social media?

2. Medium-term
Talk about launch and post launch marketing activities. These might not be done by you, but you need to give them a plan so they know how to nurture and grow their Online Business. Remember that a failed website often boils down the website owner having a "set and forget" mentality to maintaining their site.

Maintaining your client's website is an on-going process - think about eCommerce updates, new revenue generation, Email Marketing, SEO, SEM, utilizing the CRM Database and Advertising.

3. Long-term - What's next?
This is all about looking to the future and achieving long term goals. Websites need to stay dynamic or they quickly appear static and fall behind. What are you going to do to help your client overcome this?

Provide them with a plan for yearly site redesigns and encourage fresh, new content. Sow the seeds for future promotional work, email marketing templates, or advertising creatives - all of which you can provide them with in the future.

What's Next?

After working with their Online Business for a while, your client will figure out what works and what doesn't and they'll be much more involved in the next iteration of their site.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert who will enable their business to succeed online, so in the future, they'll seek out you on-going assistance and require your services.

Your Guide To Better Client Communication (Part 2)

- Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Communication In the last post, we ran through the first two steps toward better client communications, beginning at your initial meeting. So far, you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of exactly what they want to acheive online.

Today, we're looking at how you can start talking strategy, and set business targets.

Talk Strategy

You need the business owner (your potential client) to see that what you're talking about is of strategic value to their business.

We've talked with them about what they want to achieve, so now we'll take a step back and paint a bigger picture. Show them that it's about more than a website, explain to them how they can use Twitter, comments on products, email marketing, or SEO to help achieve their goals.

At this point, we're aiming to make it clear - a simple website doesn't cut it anymore. A website is an integral part of their overall business strategy

As part of this strategy, their website requires a marketing plan. Websites need thought put into to how they will convert their visitors, meet business goals, capture leads, and make money. Expressing this truth to your client is what makes the difference between them seeing you as overpriced vs. them believing your services are worth every cent.

A business owner who treats a website launch just like they would treat the opening of a new office or branch is almost sure to be successful. Just like their brick and mortar store, their online store is a business that needs on-going attention, planning and strategy development.

The two goals here are to:

  1. Help the client perceive how important a website really is
  2. Make them to see you as an expert, offering a valuable, strategic service which will help them succeed.

Set Business Targets

On a piece of paper in the meeting, try and draft 3-5 basic and easy to understand business oriented goals for their Online Business.

Try for a short term, medium term and a long term goal. Here are some example of great goals that will excite clients:

  • 10 new customer leads from the web per week
  • $300 of online sales per week
  • Building a marketing database - 1000 subscribers by years end
  • 50 entries in their online competition
It's important here to avoid setting a goal for site traffic, as it's not meaningful. Always relate goals to something with meaning for their business - leads, revenue and costs.

You need to make sure the targets reflect what the client said they want to achieve, that they are buying into these goals and they don't feel like you're rushing through the process.

What's Next?

What is next? So you've opened your client's eyes to the need for stategic thinking in doing business online and set some solid business targets.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert in what you're offering and show the client where you can help take their business.

In doing so, you're building the trusting relationship needed for better client communications well into the future.

In the next post, we'll be capping off the series by looking at how you can create an action plan for acheiving the goals you've just set and stick to it in the long-term.

Your Guide To Better Client Communication (Part 1)

- Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Communication

You may be a professional web designer, but that doesn't mean you're also a mind reader - that's why it's crucial to have a process for communicating with your clients effectively.

This is the first post in a new three-part series, "Your Guide To Better Client Communication". Over the coming months, we'll be exploring how you can establish a better flow of communication with your clients, starting on day one of your business relationship.

Talk About Their Business

When meeting with a client, what's the first thing you talk about? For most successful Web Designers out there, the answer is unanimous: talk about the client's business.

It doesn't matter if they're a cold prospect or someone who's found and approached you - this is your chance to make your pitch about genuinely improving their business rather than focusing on technology or your own skills.

It's a matter of one simple question:

"So, before we get into it - tell me about your business"

Find out when they started, how business is going, what they sell and how they sell it. Show interest and ask questions - "that's an interesting sales process, how does it affect XYZ?" - you're fishing out information about the way they sell and run their business, so you can customize a solution for them.

Your goal is to set the agenda of the first meeting as being about your client's business and what you can do in your capacity as a web designer to help them improve. Everyone loves to talk about their own business, so this is also a nice way to break the ice.

Understand What They Want

Now that you have a firm grasp of how your potential client's business works, the next logical question is: "what are you hoping to achieve online?"

You've got to understand what their expectations are, their motivation and their desired results. Why are they going online? Why do they want to work with you?

Try and get them to express their goals in business oriented terms - I need to: "reach a wider audience", "generate online sales", "get old customers to come back" etc. Some clients are not going to have a clue and look to you for guidance. Others will think they know everything and promptly go about showing off how much they know.

Both the content of their answers and their attitude in answering gives you important information. You may need to alter their expectations, dialing down their enthusiasm to a more realistic level. On the other hand, you may need to significantly ramp it up, opening their eyes so they can see the possibilities they're missing out on.

The key here is to get inside the head of the client and understand how they work and exactly what they want, before proceeding with the project.

What's Next?

What's Next

So you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of what the'yre looking to achieve online - all from the very beginning of your designer / client relationship.

The open flow of communication and level of understanding you've established has set the stage for better results and a happier a client.

In the next post, we'll be continuing the series by looking at how you can start talking strategy and setting business targets with your clients.