We began working with our Make Your Marketing Matter contest winner, HydroComp, a few months ago. As part of the agreement we made with the company, all parties acknowledged that we could and should share the experience of a yearlong marketing campaign with a series of blog posts – including warts and all, as they say.
When starting out on the journey of a new business relationship, tiny bumps in the road are expected as we get to know our clients — and they get to know us. In the previous post, I talked about the Discovery process, what we consider the essential building block for success.
HydroComp learned a lot about Savoir Faire and vice versa, during an in depth, in-person meeting of the teams. We all went away with “homework” in early November.
HydroComp is an impressive software development company that creates naval architectural and marine engineering programs, and does consulting with existing and potential software customers. What they do day-to-day is not altogether in our wheelhouse — yet — so getting up-to-speed with how they spend their time, who their competition is, who their customers are, and more, is required knowledge for the Savoir Faire team to do our job.
As part of our homework, we assembled a Google Doc and a Google Sheet with questions, looking for elaborations and clarifications, to get a clearer picture of who HydroComp is, what they do and who they serve. The client sent some answers quickly. I replied with additional questions for clarification, and a couple weeks went by without response.
This lapse slowed down our process and shed light on a couple of those “tiny bumps.” The client wasn’t using the Google Sheet we set up, so I should have dug in to discover why the format wasn’t working for them. In turn, they should have communicated earlier that they were traveling for much of the time we were waiting for answers.
We’re a little more than two months into the program and the Discovery phase was scheduled to last three months. While we were still able to make progress on some of our homework, we were held up waiting for those answers.
That’s one of the biggest challenges I find working with my clients. Typically, I’m collaborating with a business owner or general manager for the company. And, in the Discovery Phase especially, the information my team requires to do our job has to come from the most experienced people in the company. So, setting reasonable expectations for communication timetables, and understanding that the project I’m focused on isn’t their only priority, are important things for me to remember.
There’s a fine line in how we can ease, extract or beg information from a company, especially considering that most of the clients we work with have handled things in-house from Day 1. Like all companies, HydroComp has their internal lingo and way of describing what they do. And, while they’ve come to that language over time, it may not always be the best language for moving forward — that’s where Savoir Faire comes in.
One of our challenges as the service provider is to be charming and facilitative — wearing kid gloves at times — while at same time setting expectations and potential consequences. Such as, “If we don’t get X information by date Y, it pushes us all back and here are the consequences…” In a normal engagement, we would simply extend timetables or incur budgetary ramifications to account for communication lapses like these. In this case, however, we are all working hard to stay on the project plan.
I also know, as a small business owner myself, that there are only so many hours in the day and many competing priorities before I’ve asked for attention, information and brainpower. Once I voiced my concern about not having what we needed to move forward, both HydroComp principals got back to me within the hour.
Keeping the lines of communication open is a balancing act, especially when working with a client who does a lot of business travel. With new information from HydroComp, my team was able to get at least 80% complete on our Discovery document, which is a lot further than we were a week ago. And, we have a meeting scheduled with HydroComp this week to get Discovery to the finish line.
The Discovery phase is almost complete. Next step, meeting in early January to explain what we discovered and lay out the plan for Building the Machine. Then, we’ll be building a new website based on what we learned in Discovery. Stay tuned.