Quantitative Proof: Better Clients Get Better Work

The Good Client

When I was a client I subscribed to the better clients get better work theory. Then while working at Saatchi Healthcare I saw first hand how the best clients got the best people. Well-regarded agency personnel could actually refuse to work on accounts with difficult clients. Talent is that important to an agency. But it was not until I worked with 99Designs that I got quantitative proof of how being a good client results in better work.

99Designs is an online graphic design marketplace of over 300k designers who participate in customer design contests to create basic design such as logos, websites and collateral.  Customers purchase design packages offering different levels of designers, quantities of design and support. The design package I purchased for logo development promised I would receive 60 designs.

I received an astounding 273 designs from 62 designers. And at least 90% were on brief and attractive. When I called the 99Designs customer service department I was told that the amount of designs I received was unusual, but explainable—I was a good client.

Being a good client is not rocket science. It the same whether working virtually or in person. I provided good direction and feedback. But what was different was 99Design’s ability to quantify how good a client you are. The automated briefing feature allowed 99Designs to see whether I took the trouble to attach samples of logos I liked. They could also see that I uploaded additional creative instructions.

Most importantly, 99Designs tracked the extent to which I took the trouble to provide feedback using their automated rating system. I rated 99% of the designs I received, often adding a sentence or two in addition to using the 5 star scale.

As free agents, potential designers often watch a contest for a while to see if it is worth entering. If no one is bothering to rate existing designs, then the designers don’t feel the client is serious. In addition, ratings provide designers with additional direction about what might result in the winning design. Remember, designers are in it to win it.

Certainly there are 99Design “haters” in the design community who feel that asking designers to submit spec work on the hopes they will get picked is abusive. But I also think there is something liberating for designers getting to decide if a client is worthy of their efforts.

What my 99Design experience showed me was it is worth the effort to put time into providing clear direction and feedback. It is also worth the effort to train marketers on how to provide useful input, something that is rarely done, at least in the pharmaceutical industry where I have spent the bulk of my career. And finally, it is worth the effort to try these new crowd-sourced businesses. You just might get more for less, something every marketer is looking to do, no matter what industry vertical you work in.