Everybody loves Shark Tank. Watching young innovators pitch their creations to a group of investors makes for some very good television. However, in real life, most of us cringe at the idea of pitching our ideas in front of anyone. As UX/UI designers, most of us assume that good design should just sell itself. It should be obvious, right? Wrong! Good design also needs to be packaged and marketed well to the end client effectively. No matter who your client is, a few key learnings go a long way in understanding people, business, and how we can help them through design.
In this blog, we will explore how you can pitch designs to clients tactfully without compromising on the genuinity of your design.
Step 1: Understand the Client
Different types of businesses hire different kinds of managers to get the job done. Some are friendly and approachable while others may be more rigid in their mannerisms. Some will outline their requirements and let you fill in the blanks, while others will like to be in charge of the design process entirely. That being said, our job as designers is to handle each kind of client sportingly. Make sure you take the time to understand their business and their goals going ahead before you make any suggestions. Here are some themes to consider in your initial conversations:
- Are they the market leader in what they are making or are new movers trying to grab market share?
- Is the industry they are part of booming or is it going through a rough phase?
- Which business functions support the vertical you’re designing for?
- Who is the decision-maker for the company and what are their long-term plans for the company?
- What are the new developments in the industry as a whole?
Asking these questions in the initial stages of the design discussion will invoke many subtle nuances and key inferences that will help you plan your design strategy. These insightful early days are also instrumental in having many informal discussions with the client which go a long way in forging a good relationship, which trust us, is half the job done. Gaining your client’s trust is the single most important function of a good pitch.
Step 2: Understand why the client needs design
Design requirements vary with the need of the business. If a company is coming up with a new product, it will need a design strategy from scratch, while older players will need a design upgrade due to changing market conditions. Take the time to understand why the client needs design at this point and investigate in depth what they have in mind. At this stage, ask questions the following questions while you structure the overall design strategy:
- What are the company’s goals?
- Who are their users? Where are they located? What are their unique pain points?
- What are the timelines for execution?
- What is the budget allocated for the design work?
- Does a competitor have a similar product? How is it received in the market? What are the key points of differentiation?
- What is the focal agenda for design? Which features need to be prioritized? Which will come in at the second stage?
- How will the initial MVP be tested?
You can fine-tune your understanding of the design requirement at this stage by asking relevant questions and gauging the client’s reaction to these questions. You can tweak your design proposal to suit these preliminary criteria so that you have more flexibility to pitch something new.
Step 3: Understand Clients are not from design
Now that you’ve gathered all the information you need to make a great design experience, you also have to communicate the plan in your head to the person across the table. Remember, even though the design strategy may be crystal clear in your head, you must reconcile with the fact that your clients don’t speak design. People who understand experience design and clients who are commissioning the design project are poles apart. You need to speak their language in order to pitch design ideas to them.
Generally what helps bridge the gap is to find common ground. For example, let’s suppose your client likes cricket. You can demonstrate your design plan by drawing parallels with the user experience from their favorite gaming app. Explain why they like what they are so fond of and demonstrate how you are trying to incorporate similar fundamentals to delight the user through your design.
This is, of course, harder to do if you’re pitching design for a b2b product. In this case, you can always try to find what they like about software they are already using at work or inefficiencies they struggle with. If you can make your design idea more relatable, you have a higher chance of getting them to accept it.
Step 4: Make a stellar impact
The key to a successful pitch is presentation. While pitching a design concept, you need to make sure that you present your vision in the most palatable form possible. A crisp memorable design pitch must have the following ingredients:
Most clients will appreciate your creativity and uniqueness of thought that you bring to the table. However, they will be blown away if you back up your work with industry research. Don’t just talk about how your design works, show them why it is better than what’s out there. Talk about design trends, predominant industry-wide best practices, statistics and data about worldwide trends that are soon to affect your regional market, relatable case studies to drive the point home. Try to tell them what they don’t know and they will be impressed by your insight.
Talk about your design decision pointers backed by facts
If you find yourself in a scenario where you have to defend your design decision, make sure you back it up with facts. Give examples of popular digital products in use that have adopted similar design strategies and have succeeded to impress their user group. Make a pitch deck that demonstrates your capabilities in the form of a working mock-up that can bring your design ideas to life. Let your creative juices flow in the presentation and follow it up with a healthy discussion about the same soon after. Be ready to accept feedback wherever it seems justified.
Set realistic timelines
Most designers will agree that there is no upper limit to the amount of time a design assignment can take. There will always be iterations to make, new features to add and ad hoc changes to incorporate that nobody anticipated earlier. Hence, you must always set deadlines that are realistic. In fact, it’s advisable to take a little buffer and have the extra time for any last-minute improvisations. Always aim to under commit and over-deliver!
Do share your favorite tips to pitching designs to prospective clients. Feel free to ask us any questions, would love to hear back