What’s the best way to win over those clients who don’t quite understand?

You know, the client who thinks translating is just typing, except in another language.

The one who asks, “Why does it cost so much just to draw up a logo, write up some verbage* for the home page?”

The ones who want you to churn out the same dreck and drivel they have now. The ones who don’t see why good design even matters.

There were weeks when it seemed like everyone I talked to was clueless. “Can’t you just dash off something real quick? Use a template or something? Just slap in some buzzwords?”

For a long time, I fretted over people like that. (Geez, have I chosen a profession, a craft that no one cares about? Am I doomed?)

Or I’d get angry, arrogant. (Save me. I am an artisan selling to a world of dolts.)

Or I would expend all sorts of energy trying to make them see the light. To change their minds.

I larded up my web site with stuff about the value of good copywriting, befores and afters, stats, quotes from famous people. I tried detailing my ‘process’ just to show what went into ‘good’ work. I listed crap like, “Assess current positioning, research competing products/companies, devise messaging strategy, outline key points.”  

I was thinking, like a dope, that I could make clients touch finger to chin and think, “Ah, now I see. I will indeed pay.” (I remember there is still a silly self-justifying passage on my website right now. Gotta kill that.)

Once, I even experimented with exhaustively itemized invoices: “Stare at screen. Write four lousy headlines. Chew pencil. Pace sixteen laps. Delete four headlines, write six more. Bang head on wall. Write last paragraph. Edit last paragraph. . .” 

Nothing worked. They remained unconvinced, unpersuaded. Eternal philistines.

Then one morning I get it.

And it liberates me. It changes the way I do business.

I realize I am a client like that. Me.

(I’m guessing you are a client like that, too.)

Early one Wednesday, my water heater gives out. There is rust-colored water all over the basement. Upstairs three daughters are shrieking in ice-cold showers.

My plumber shows up. He wants me to install this ultra-green, internet-enabled, wireless capable, all-digital water-temperature-management ‘system’ with gold plated something and automated vacation sensors and high-def screen, all for a price that makes my eyes pop.

“Whoa,” I say. “Just give me one just like I had, only not leaking.”

He flips through a brochure with graphs and cutaway views of the platinum-enriched insulation. There are charts showing how I could save $14,000 in energy costs in 73 years.

“Nah,” I say, “just give me a plain one, like the one I had.”

I simply don’t care. No amount of fancy flip-charts or scolding about the tender earth, or blather about precision temperature management will sway me. I am not listening, don’t care. Never will care.

All I want is hot water, and the shrieking upstairs to stop.

My plumber, no doubt, goes online that night. “These homeowners just don’t get it. All they want is cheap ’50s technology that is inefficient and prone to failure. Shortsighted and wasteful. They are clueless. How do I convince them?”

I realize I have been that client to my auto mechanic, my insurance guy, and the gutter cleaner. There are some things, many things, I don’t care enough about.

But for that ceramic Victorinox chef’s knife, that brittle and fragile thing that can shave a roast thin enough to see through?  The one that costs $199? The one you have to wrap in fleece and store in a drawer away from all other cutlery? For that, I’m a customer.

So what’s the best way to win over those clients who don’t quite understand?

You don’t.

Let them go.

Don’t spend time trying to change minds. You will exhaust yourself. And you won’t change minds.

(If you can find a way to accommodate these non-customers now and then, in a slow week, just to make a few dollars, go ahead. But don’t frazzle yourself.)

I know this is scary. You’re thinking I have just narrowed down your universe from 25,000 potential customers to 2,500. Or 25.

But there is no mass-market model for what we do, anyway. You can build a career on ten true fans.

Save your energy, save your hunting time for the ones who get it. The pro buyers, those who depend on what you do.

The others?


* Actually, for the philistines out there, the real word is not verbage, but verbiage. And even then, the idea is wrong. As if text were simply scooped from a bin like birdseed. But that’s just the writer in me talking.