Unexpected Ways to Extract Extra Value from Your Projects

When project approval is won, the selling has just begun!

You may hope that now your Contextual Design project is approved, your sales effort is over. After all you’re a designer, not a salesperson. But there are a number of reasons why it’s important that you keep the lines of communication open.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

One challenge that comes with front-end design is that you invest a lot of upfront effort, but you don’t see tangible results, in the form of a shipping product, for a long time. By default there was some level of corporate buy in, or you wouldn’t have gotten the time and resources to collect the data. But those same managers who funded your current project need to know they made a good investment in this project and that they can expect to get their money’s worth for any future projects. And they may well need to show you project’s benefits to others.

Supporting sales

For example, a $400M company I worked with had to hang the models up in the same hall that prospective customers walked through – and these prospects were there for very large sales. The company was able to show their prospects the work they had done and how they really understood their customers. Prospective customers were impressed; they actually could find themselves in the models.

Future funding

The same idea worked for a pre-IPO that was able to turn a lack of space to their advantage. Like other startups, they had to make do with very limited space, in this case by posting their project models in the hallways. And like other startups, they were pitching directly to their customers and prospects, the Venture Capitalists they depended on for funding. They discovered by happy accident that when they led VC prospects to back offices to hear the sales pitch, the VCs would see the models hanging on the walls and ask about them. The models enabled the company to demonstrate their understanding of their target market, how they gained that understanding, and what they were doing with it. In this case, Contextual Design actually helped the company sell itself to future backers.

Selling to your extended team

Most likely, people beyond your design team will be involved in implementing your design. Whether they’re writing the code, creating the documentation or generating marketing materials from it, they are part of your extended team. The more that you can give them the feeling that this data makes sense, and the more they feel part of the project, the easier it will be to work with them down the line. They, too, need to understand your design, the data that drove it, and how it came into being. In one case, a team I worked with used a blow up of their flow model to sell their Contextual Design project to a senior executive. The executive decided to hang the enlarged model in his office. This became a powerful way to keep people thinking about their customers, who they are and what they do. In meetings, he could point to the model and use it to remind people to keep the customer at the center of decisions. If people from other parts of his organization were in his office talking about the market, he could turn to the flow model as a reference point.

Keeping customers at the center

Your company may not have gathered information from customers in the past. Or maybe they used only official marketing techniques, such as focus groups or traditional interviews. But what these examples show is that when people see the tangible data and how it came together right out in front of them, when it’s not buried in a report, it can be incredibly powerful.