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Client Ideas
when client has a great idea and you know it sucks

 4:03 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)


I have been working for some time now with a client and so far the relationship has been healthy. Recently he had a "great idea" to implement a reverse phone lookup like service. I try to explain that it might turn out to be a waste of time and resources, but he didn't listen.

Is there a better way to proof an idea is a bad one?



 8:13 am on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm having a similar problem with a client, she is dead set on making every page title an exact match to the google keyword tool results.

I'm trying to convince her that's a bad idea, especially after google Mayday changes, but that's what she wants and absolutely refuses to budge.

A tip: be clear that you will "perform the request but not approve of it" and that you can continue to code changes but any results based performance requirements from your services are void . It's bound to happen that the customer blames you for the result of their decisions later.


 12:21 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'd be interested to know if your client went ahead with this project and if so what were the costs of entry?


 1:07 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's big money in the reverse phone sector if you have the right connections. I don't understand why this is a bad idea...

I was going to say something similar... There are many ways to make money and be successful that are not in phase with other folks ideals. Just because an idea has already been tried doesn’t one mean one won't succeed.

The assumption the op has taken that they are right and the client is wrong is interesting.

If the client is paying for the product - give them a good product.


 3:55 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Are you are a project manager working for his company or are you a developer hired by his company? If you are a developer then your job should be to scope the work and estimate it's cost and time frame, not to help him discover the viability of his idea.

I don't know the full nature of your relationship but if you were a building developer you wouldn't ask him the viability of his coffee shop business plan if he wanted to spend a million dollars designing and building it.

Unless this is part of spec creep, which is an entire different problem then just be fair and warn of him of large costs and upkeep requirements but scope the work and let him decide what is best for his business.


 3:58 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I used to supply a specialist physical product, electronics based. One of my clients used always to get into "design meetings" with me whenever I visited them. I was trying to get them to buy from us, so guess what, I let them design the special product they wanted and then THEY BOUGHT IT!


 5:50 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Take the money. Do the work. It's not your business, and unless the client has asked for your feedback, it's just another "buyer beware" situation.

In my experience, the margin available to my business from good ideas and bad ones is identical.


 6:43 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's bound to happen that the customer blames you for the result of their decisions later.

This is the problem and is why I never give this kind of advice anymore.

As soon as you start advising on the merits of ideas you becomes somewhat responsible for them if things go bad. If you once gave advice and then stop, but later something goes bad they will ask why you didn't say anything like you had in the past?

Don't tie yourself to your clients decision unless asked, and even then be careful. Give them a time frame and a cost, that is all they need from you if they have their business plans in order.

It's the same reason you never wave a pedestrian into the cross walk once you stopped for them, if they follow your prompt and a car goes around you and hits them who will they blame?


 8:39 pm on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

wyweb: By "opinion sites" I was referring to the sites where people report the phone number, caller ID text, and info about who they spoke to. I think you're referring to something more like a "review site", and the Caller ID sites are basically a specialized review site. I think they're simply making money from ads.

The other kind of site is one which at least starts from a directory which they load in from an external source, and then they provide access to it in various ways. Obviously this can be combined with other services, and many providers have done this, particularly with social sites and person-search sites.


 12:15 pm on Jun 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

The winner is creativity and truth. The creativity is in the perfection. The truth is in the copying. Do your client's aspirations match this.

LifeinAsia says what , why , when , how , who , which i think is a good start for questioning.

Where has the idea been seen before ( pure innovation doesn't exist -it is all out there in some shape or form , even if it is components ) - all you have to do is show how you will do it better. Ask the client where have they have seen it .

I think the Japanese invented the process in more recent history for the rest of Asia to indeed copy, although through the ages everyone's been doing it.

Look , immitate and perfect. Can you immitate and take it to the next step ? If not just say so.


 1:15 pm on Jun 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't like to tell clients they have bad ideas. I'm afraid doing so will have them looking at me like I didn't do everything I could to make it succeed and THAT is why it failed.

I would rather do everything I can, and have the IDEA be the problem, not me.


 3:53 pm on Jun 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't like to tell clients they have bad ideas. I'm afraid doing so will have them looking at me like I didn't do everything I could to make it succeed and THAT is why it failed.

I would rather do everything I can, and have the IDEA be the problem, not me.

That seems backwards to me. If you tell the client it's a good idea and then it doesn't work, then YOU look bad because it looks like YOU did a bad implementation of a good idea.

Personally (and professionally), I have little problem telling a client that something is a bad idea. I would much rather have them spend the money on a project that will give them a good return (and give them money for future projects) than go forward with something that's going to lose money and potentially have the fallout of driving a wedge into our professional relationship. I also feel that you have an ethical obligation to prevent your customer from wasting money on a project that won't work.

Numerous times we have told potential clients that what they want simply won't work. (Often it was because they wanted to build a site like Amazon for a few hundred dollars, but that's a different thread.) We had one long-term client who was dead set on adding a certain functionality to his site. We refused, saying that what he wanted to achieve was not possible with his limited investment. It looked like we were going to lose him over the issue. He went elsewhere for a second opinion. After he got a second opinion of what it would cost (and even then, still no guarantee that it would bring in more than a few dollars), he came back to us and thanked us for our honesty. Together, we instead invested the resources into other projects that are giving him a better ROI than the other project ever could have.

Sure, we are sometimes wrong about customers' ideas. That's why I don't come right out and tell them the idea is bad. I point out several flaws in their idea and ask how they will overcome them. In the end, they usually figure out on their own that the idea won't work. If the customer comes up with workarounds that I hadn't considered, then I can certainly be convinced to change my mind.


 3:58 pm on Jun 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

I just think it pays to be straight in business, your reputation is important and it stays with you.


 4:33 pm on Jun 16, 2010 (gmt 0)


I stand corrected.

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