Follow The Money: Easiest Way to Learn About Your Clients Business

How do they make their money?

Whatever client you are working on right now I want you to ask yourself “How do they make their money?” If you are working on someone’s website, especially a commercial venture, you better know how they (the business) makes their money.

I hope you are not out there organizing websites just because you like to have things organized.  Perhaps some people do this because they have a predilection to being obsessive compulsive, but it would be much better if we are getting paid for improving information architectures or bettering usability because of a need.

Far too often information architects have no idea of the answer to the money question. Yes, I will submit that money is a proxy for measuring success. But it is a easy business metric to gain client’s attention.  It is a good variable to pay attention to.  

It is a great variable to put into your “big picture” macro view.  If you can show how what you are doing or changing is going to affect the money that is a incredible thing.  That is a powerful thing.  If you can increase profits or decrease costs you will have all the C-level executives eating from your hand, and actually if this is true you probably should be a C-level executive.  

Now being able to have dollar “metrics” is the ideal that many people have written about.  The point of this article is not to go into that at all.  This article is about knowing your clients business! The said fact is that many people don’t even try to understand their clients’ business because they are thinking ahead to the difficultly of metrics and don’t want to go there.  In terms of knowing your clients’ business this is a cop-out.

In client conversations I love exploring what are some ways that they can make more money? Equally fascinating is what are ways they can save some money?

So, I ask you: How do they make their money?

Here are the basic elements of learning “How they make their money.”

  1. What do they obsessively count? Look in their annual reports, press releases, or even interviews with executives.  The numbers they tout. How do those relate to what is on the website.
  2. What is going to get them promoted, a big fat raise, or get them fired? Is their an easy way for them to measure or predict these from website metrics or traffic?
  3. What is the smallest unit they count?  What is the level of granularity they are looking at? Is it a single transaction or the lifetime value of a customer?  Is it sales or service and maintenance? Consider how the internet experience maps to these different granularities.
  4. If the website is focusing on increasing profits, consider savings.  If the website is focused on cutting costs also look at increasing revenue/profits.  Fiance is a combination of cost structure and revenue streams.

This concern about cost/revenue models isn’t going to transform you overnight into a financial consultant, and that is not the intent, but it is going to raise your appreciation of what the your clients’ world is like.  Knowing more about your client, their infrastructure and finances and what is important to them should be a first step of understanding the design challenge and will help you design a better solution that balances client needs and customer needs. This is true design thinking.

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© Dennis Schleicher Jr 2019.

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