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Irrational client behavior -- another example

The earlier thread ("Weird client behavior") inspired me to share my experiences.

In the past year, I've created two websites: one for an obstetrician, and one for a mom-and-pop sporting goods store.  In both cases, the clients are acting irrationally.

The obstetrician is very aggressive.  She advertises all the time; she tries to get stories planted in the local paper; she took out a huge billboard near the hospital, etc.  She told me she's happy with the website, but she never includes the URL in any of her advertisements.

The sporting goods store is the same.  They like the website.  They periodically send me updates to include on the site.  They pay their bills on time.  But they never include the web page address in any of their promotional materials.

I've talked to my clients several times about the need to include the URL whenever the street address and/or phone number are listed.  The clients agree in principle that this is a good idea, but they never act on it.  (Incidentally, all the clients are largely computer-illiterate, which may explain things.)

I tell you, it's enough to drive me bonkers.  My friends tell me that it doesn't matter, as long as I get paid.  But I just can't stand to see people acting so irrationally.  I sometimes want to grab them by the lapels, shake them, and scream, "What are you people thinking?!"

Jane Gallagher
Sunday, May 19, 2002

Jane:

It's not irrational behavior, simply, these people are not as well-versed in the power of the Web as you, me and most of the others here at this forum are.

We work full-time in the Web-dev field, so that it becomes a mundane occurence. Many clients of ours don't know HTML from XML, ASP from JSP. Yet in the same respect they don't expect you to know the science of obstetrics or Mizuno batting gloves.

In software development, the same feelings of frustration occur with programmers when ordinary people try unsuccessfully to use a new program, because the initial reaction of the programmer is to think the user is stupid. While that could be the case, the more likely reason is that the user does not understand this product as well as the one who created it.

Welcome to the world of computing.

Yoey
Sunday, May 19, 2002

This sounds like one of  those things where people are just different. They're not doing anything wrong in respect of their relationship with you; and you've done a good job. Just set it aside as something you can't control; have fun; learn more about what they do.

Hugh Wells
Sunday, May 19, 2002

They are thinking in categories. The web site is a different medium and those they attract on the net (they believe) are a totally separate set to those that drive past the billboard.  Though the idea that an obstetrician needs to advertise makes me feel queasy.

Equally, there are people that read newspapers and magazines that are irritated when they are directed to some web site for more information and there's no phone number.  What (they think), does a web site have to do with a newspaper?

Simon Lucy
Sunday, May 19, 2002

Just relax... it's like an architect - he may have a lot of great ideas and solutions, but he needs to build a house the way you want.

Wanderley Miyata
Sunday, May 19, 2002

And who said people have to act rationally any way?

Kenshi
Sunday, May 19, 2002

So, what are the URLs??

pb
Sunday, May 19, 2002

Why are clients irrational? Read Scott Adams's "Dilbert Principle":

"People are idiots. Including me. Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we're idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot."

And later:

"We're a planet of nearly six billion ninnies living in a civilization that was designed by a few thousand amazingly smart deviants."

Adams was making a joke (of course); but I find that, if I keep his words in mind, I can accept a lot of otherwise incomprehensible behavior... including my own.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Sunday, May 19, 2002

"Adams was making a joke (of course); but I find that, if I keep his words in mind, I can accept a lot of otherwise incomprehensible behavior... including my own. "

You heard the saying about how all the best jokes are based on a kernal of truth?

Rob Moir
Sunday, May 19, 2002

The irrational behaviour is not that they don't put the website on their stationary. The irrational behaviour is that either of these particular businesses have websites at all.

Charles Miller
Monday, May 20, 2002

Good point Charles. I'd love to know how many referrals they think they get from their websites, and how many they really get ;-).

I'd love to know if they've even thought about how they'd tell how many referrals they get. If you can't measure you can't manage.

Robert Moir
Monday, May 20, 2002

Charles Miller wrote:

"The irrational behaviour is not that they don't put the website on their stationary. The irrational behaviour is that either of these particular businesses have websites at all. "

I'm surprised that you think so.  There would have been a significant return on investment had my clients used the websites the way I recommended that those sites be used.

The sporting goods store runs sales about every two months.  They take out small newspaper advertisements, but they don't have enough space to list all the sale items.  If the store had included the website's URL, then interested newspaper readers could have visited the store's website to find out the prices, item-descriptions, etc.  A handful of major purchases would have paid for the site.  (I.e., a ski package can cost upwards of a thousand dollars.)

Similarly, the obstetrician makes so much money off her patients that it would only take about 2 or 3 referrals over the lifetime of the website before the investment paid for itself.  After all, it costs no additional money to include the site's URL at the bottom of newspaper ads or outdoor billboards.

I think that the dot-com meltdown has caused people to go to the other extreme -- to become overly and unjustifiably cynical about the value of a web presence.

Jane Gallagher
Monday, May 20, 2002

Robert Moir wrote:

"I'd love to know how many referrals they think they get from their websites, and how many they really get ;-)."

The clients don't think about it at all, but I do.  The volume / quality of e-mail correspondence suggests that a small but significant number of potential customers / patients are visiting the sites.  Analyzing the site logs also provides some useful measures.

I've recommended to my clients that they ask new customers / new patients (or at least some fraction of them) how they heard about the business / medical practice, but as far as I know, the clients haven't acted on my advice.

Jane Gallagher
Monday, May 20, 2002

<< I've recommended to my clients that they ask new customers / new patients (or at least some fraction of them) how they heard about the business / medical practice, but as far as I know, the clients haven't acted on my advice. >>

Any advertiser who doesn't follow exactly this advice has not a clue which advertising dollars are well-spent and which aren't. Different ad strategies appeal to different clientele, so they need to learn which strategies are attrracting their clientele and spen mor money and effort on those.

If they're not doing that, they don't comprehend advertising.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Monday, May 20, 2002

Maybe there is a fear of commitment from  your customers. 

If they do not make their site public they could yank it down at any time w/o feeling they lost anything .  If they  make it public then they are forced to  keep it for a longer amount of time. 

Good luck trying to convince them to publish the URL.

Paul B.
Monday, May 20, 2002

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