The Importance of Client Discovery

by Jonathan Goodman on June 12, 2014

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Hi everyone. This is Jonathan Goodman. Welcome to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. Today we are going to talk about the importance of client discovery. As many of you know, I took a little break for two weeks. I was doing some family stuff. It’s hard to continue to do a weekly podcast when a lot of stuff is going on in your life. I’m back now with a great list of work that I want to get out there on Fridays in podcasts. I’m eager to get back in front of the camera and doing all this. So I wanted to start off easy. I don’t know if this will be a full 45-minute segment, but I wanted to highlight the importance of client discovery. And I’ve got a slide show for you. We’ll go over and take a look at that now with Screen Share.

Slide 1: Discovery: A Little Introspection Can Go a Long Way

With discovery, little introspection can go a long way. It’s a great subtitle because the reason we’re talking about this and I certainly don’t like to call out my clients, but I do have a client that I have a very good relationship with so far. They’re a fairly new client. The way that my contracts work is that we move forward in different stages and different phases. And one of the phases that they seem to have gotten stuck on is this discovery thing. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon how you look at it, I’m paid regardless. I have a monthly retainer, so I’m paid regardless. You have to provide me the discovery phase. It could take a week. Hopefully, it doesn’t take a month. Unfortunately, in this case, it’s taken several months. And I really just want to talk to everybody, but specifically to that client and explain to them why this is a critical document that we can’t move forward without. And what the benefits to both your company and my company are. And hopefully that will engage them enough to go ahead and finish the document so we can then move on to the next phase of this project. So let’s explain why this is so important.

 Slide 2: What Is Discovery?

Discovery is a survey presented to the client. It is – and I’ll get into this a little later – a series of questions. Not extremely difficult questions. They are broken up into segments. We’ll get into what segments we provide in that survey. And it allows us to understand the objectives of your company. You know, Halyard Consulting is very fortunate. We don’t niche ourselves into one specific industry. We work with everything. And there are some that we’ve decided not to work with anymore. But we work with e-commerce. We work with service professionals. We work with lawyers. We work with industry. All different types of industry. And so we’re coming at this with our expertise in that we understand what we do. And now we need to understand what it is that you do.

It sounds really simple. You would think that, hey, I’m a lawyer and you should know what criminal law is about. But that’s not the case. You might specifically do a certain type of criminal law. You might only do white collar law. Or you might specifically do bankruptcy law. And we need to understand that. A lot of times we find that our clients get kind of embroiled in these few questions in that there’s introspection that they need to do. So they see these questions and it’s almost as though these questions have never been posed to them before. And they need to take a look outside of the day-to-day business that they’re running and actually answer these questions. That then hopefully allows them to capsulate what it is that they really want to do and what it is that they are currently doing and what they hopefully will get out of working with us. So it definitely allows us to understand the objectives of your company. But it also educates us (Halyard) on your company’s goals. And it asks important internal questions about your company.

I’m not going to bore you with a list of questions during this podcast, but think of it almost like a dating website questionnaire for businesses. I’ve never done one of those questionaires, but my mom, who recently remarried, met her new husband on one of those sites where she had to fill out a questionnaire with a ton of questions about herself. And she had to fill out a ton of questions about who she was looking for. And it’s not until you get those questions that you actually say, hmm, I wonder actually now later in my life is it different than when I was 20. Now I’m older. Now I have different views and different values and different goals. So that’s why it’s critically important when you’re talking about a business. If I were to do it, I would give you a survey every single year because goals and objectives change. But again, something that’s very important here is that this isn’t a requirements document.

There is something called the requirements document. A requirement is that this is the project we’re going to do. We’ve been working with you for a while. This is a new project and this is what we’re going to go on and these are the goals and objectives. This is not a requirements document. We are not specifically saying to you this is the project that we’re going to be working on. This is what we want to accomplish. We’re saying, hey, this is about you. We need to understand more about you as a company. And it seems to rattle a lot of clients, both small businesses and bigger businesses. Sometimes it’s actually harder to do in the big businesses because there are so many people who have so many different thoughts as to what the company actually is and what the goals are. And if it’s not being led by the president or the CEO of the company, sometimes vice presidents have differences of opinion as to what they’re trying to do and where they’re trying to go.

Slide 3: The 4 Segments of Discover

I don’t want to bore you with a list of questions, so those are totally excluded. These are not genius questions. This is stuff that if you did a search for questions that should be asked in a discovery document, that’s pretty much what you’re going to get. But we break them down into four segments of discovery and I want to go through that with you right now.

Slide 4: Business Information

The first segment is business information. It’s the who, what, where, how and why of your business. Who are you? What’s the name of your company? I mean, it’s as simple as that. What do you do? What industry are you in? What do you produce? Or what service do you provide? Where are you located? What is the address? What is the phone? What is the fax? What is the email for the contact person? How do you describe yourself? When we’re doing a lot of work, we need to understand the marketing that you do behind your company. How do you say who you are? We could do it. We’re going to get it wrong. You understand your business, so it’s important that the description that we’re asking you for about what your business does and who your business is is accurate and it comes from you. Andy why are you in business? How long have you been in business? Where any major sales or acquisitions that we need to understand? Did the business changes over time? So that is the business information section. Again, this isn’t rocket science. This isn’t genius ware. Now let’s go to the next segment.

Slide 5: Goals & Objectives

What are the problems? What are the issues and what are the challenges? Why have you hired Halyard? Something has changed. Maybe your competitors are online and getting more value out of the Internet than you are. Maybe they’re gaining in social media. Maybe you’ve changed direction. Maybe you’re looking to get a whole new audience. Maybe something went wrong with PR and you now have a bad rap and you need to change that. What are those problems? What are the issues that are critical to running your business? Are you a logistics company? What are issues that come up with logisitics that we need to be aware of? What is the terminology? Are there acronyms? Are there things like that. And believe me, we are not even really asking what are the acronyms of your industry. We’re asking you what are your pains? Why have you hired Halyard? What is going on that you need to work with us?

Now obviously, we do marketing. We approach companies. But no one is going to hire me or Halyard because they like me. I assure you they’re not going to hire me because they like me. All you have to do is watch a couple of these videos. What are the pains? What are the challenges? Is it that you want to build up your email marketing list? Is it that you want to reach out via social media? Are you looking to do more public relations and have the opportunity to talk the New York Times and Wall Street and people like that. Or are you looking for a local market? What are those goals and objectives? We’re not asking for the project goals and objectives, but we’re actually asking for your company’s goals and objectives. Are you looking to be number one in your industry? Are you looking to specially a competitor’s client list? Stuff like that.

What we do is we ask these open-ended questions. We’re not listing those questions. Those aren’t questions that we’re providing. But we’re saying basically, hey, what are the issues? And maybe that’s where there’s this hold up. Because maybe the question is too general. Maybe when we say what problems are you having within the company that the introspection then becomes such that there’s almost a freeze because one person thinks this is the problem, one person thinks that’s the problem and that then ensures a whole conversation about how to run in the business. In the meantime, they’ve left the survey on the desk somewhere. So that’s another major segment. Goals and objectives is really critical.

Slide 6: Message & Audience

Then we have Message & Audience. So who is your target market? Who are your competitors? What is happening in your industry? And what are your social media profiles currently? So let’s dive into this. When we ask what your target market is, you should know this already. If you’re a lawyer focused on bankruptcy criminal law, that’s pretty specific. That’s a pretty specific niche. You know who your target market is. If you’re running a service business in New Jersey, you’re not really interested in what’s going on in California. Your target market is homeowners or newlyweds or whatever it might be within your localized area. Understanding a target market is sometimes the hardest problem.

I’ll use us for an example. Hey, anybody knocking on our door, we’ll take their business, sure, when I first opened up. But now it’s more like okay, so is this the right fit? Are we going to work well together? Are we going to be able to work the goals and objectives on a project basis? Is our timeline conducive to your timeline? You can have it cheap, fast. There’s some phrase. If you can only chose two of those. Cheap, fast or quality? And you can only choose two. I don’t know how that works. I’m totally messing that up. But if you’re looking for a website to launch next week with 1,000 pages and all of the membership drive and PayPal integrations and aggregations and all this stuff, we’re not that company. If you’re looking to grow your business over an extended period of time gaining valuable customers via the website, then that’s who we are. That’s the clients we want to work with.

So understanding what our target is really helps to define the conversation when we’re talking to people who don’t really fit our target market. So as a client, you have to understand what your target market is. And you have to be really specific. Are you a Texas local-based company that is national or international? Is everybody in the world going to buy from you? Are you the Kim Kardashian of sweat pants? I don’t even know if that makes sense. But in other words, you know your target market before I know your target market.

Your competitors. So what’s interesting here is that you might think that ABC company is your competitor and we want to know that. We want to see what your list is. You show us your competitor list. Then we go back and in another segment, which is swat analysis. I’ll do another presentation, podcast, specifically on swat analysis. But you might think that these four competitors are your competitors because that was the old way of running it. Maybe they were doing newspapers. Maybe they were doing door-to-door marketing, maybe door-to-door flyers. So you saw them as your competitor. But who your competitor is online could be completely different. You know, if your competitor is in Texas selling a product in the international market, you might think your competitor is located in Oklahoma online. But that competitor could actually be in China. So we need your list to understand whether you’re right or not. So that helps.

Social industry. Again, this gets back to the idea of we don’t really know who you are in the industry that you work in, so maybe you need to provide that for us. I’ll go back to the example of the lawyer. Bankruptcy, white-collar criminal law. If that’s an industry, then are there organizations within that industry? Are there conferences within that industry? Is that something that you attend? Is there a specific word or term for the work that you do? Again, when we’re having this conversation with our clients, and I know this is going to come off sounding kind of weird, but we’re the 10-year-old in the room. You need to explain everything to us. Why is the sky blue in your world? And believe me, that quality and that level and degree of analysis in the survey is instrumental in the work that we’re going to do for you going forward. And it might just seem to you like, oh, there’s this survey on my desk and it’s been sitting there for a couple of months, but it’s so critically important to the life relationship that we’re going to have as client and company.

And social media profiles. Where are you today on the Internet? Where are you in Facebook and online, Linked In, Google Plus, Twitter. This is getting more specific. This isn’t a general thing. We really need to know where is your Facebook account? How many followers do you have? How many likes do you have? How many people are actually commenting, sharing? We need all of that. And then that kind of gets us into the next segment.

Slide 7: Design & Layout

In design, because I just wasn’t sure where to put this, is the analytics. If we signed a contract with you and it has a confidentiality agreement and everything like that, we need to see your analytics. I’ve dealt with some small businesses that simply didn’t know where it was, didn’t know how to provide it to us. They threw it in the trash, deleted the account. I mean, I don’t know what to say. But if you can provide us with the analytics up front so that we understand what the expectations are. If you have 10,000 visitors per month and we take over and you revamp the website and that makes it 30,000 visitors per month, that’s awesome. But at the same time, it makes it 2,000 visitors per month, we need to know that. We can’t start at zero because we’ll think that there were always 2,000 visitors and maybe we thought there was 1,000 visitors. And now you’ve got 2,000 visitors. Woo hoo, you’ve doubled your visitors. But we need to know all of your analytics and if it’s a client relationship, that’s confidential. And we need to look at all that data. How many people are visiting your site? Where are they coming from? If you’re an international company and you’re only getting U.S. traffic, we need to know that. If you’re a US-based company and you’re getting all traffic from Italy, we need to know that as well. That’s just common sense. And when we revamp, if we have to do the install of the analytics or a re-install of the analytics, you’re going to lose all of that data if we can’t get it first.

So let’s go back into this list. It’s simple stuff. It’s like what are your favorite colors? I know that is a ridiculous question to ask a client, but believe it or not, I’ve had the experience where I’ve done a website and followed the survey, and it was marked as our logo/company colors are blue and green and white. Those are colors we want you to use when designing and we built the entire site and approved the design. And then, no offense to anybody who is married, but your wife takes a look at it and she goes “I thought it was going to be purple and yellow.” Well, okay, we take out the survey and we take out the examples that we provided to you and the signoff and everything where you said you wanted it blue, green and white. And here’s why you wanted it blue, green and white. We’re not going to make it yellow and purple now. That’s just common sense.

Again, when you’re talking about favorites, yeah, sure, it gets complicated because who’s favorites are we really talking about? Are we talking about the vice president’s, the marketing director’s favorites and are we talking about the CEO’s favorites. So yeah, the survey does have to go up the line of command or you have to take responsibility for the fact that you wanted it one color and your CEO really wanted it a different color. But of course in the design process, there are stop holds, so we do a design, we present it to you, hopefully you show it to everybody who is required to see it. We have a contract where your name is on it and you specified you as the person who is the major contact. If it then goes up the chain of command and we’re about to launch and somebody says I didn’t want that color, that’s where overage fees come. So that’s a really tricky thing and we dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ to make sure that we’re going to do this and use the right colors. You chose the favorite colors and you liked the design, and now somebody in the third hour and isn’t going to come in and say oh, I want to totally redesign it. So we’re trying to save you from a lot of issues internally. It’s better to deal with them now in the survey and then in the design that it is to go forward and all of a sudden when you launch, the CEO finally takes a look at it and says this isn’t want I wanted.

Key elements. Again, this kind of goes back to objectives. What are you trying to do? Do you want, and this kind of plays into visitor action too. So the key elements news, maybe a stock ticker if you’re a financial company, maybe images if you’re photovisual. All this different type of stuff is critical to putting a layout together. If you’re a carpenter and you’re building out bookshelves and roofs and things like that and you want those up on the home page, then we need to know that before we start doing the design. Because that’s a major design element that’s going to be incorporated into the design. That’s a key element, right? If you are looking for email signoffs, if your visitor action is to call your company or to download a brochure or fill out a form or go subscribe to a newsletter, this is all critical information that we need to know. Now of course, that does lends itself into a requirements document. And so I don’t want to get into too much detail. I don’t want to list those questions, but they are simpler than those specific requirement questions. When we get down into it and we start really designing and laying out, depending on the size of the project and how many people are involved, yeah, it becomes like a requirement document where we take information that we did from the survey and say, okay, well based upon your answers, we’re going to put in a slider of images. Or we’re going to do this or that. It just helps to move things forward quicker.

Slide 8: Don’t Overwhelm

We really, really try not to overwhelm. If any competitors are watching this or any startups or just designers or developers, don’t overwhelm. You know, we’re asking 25 succinct questions. I’ve seen surveys that have gone to 50 questions, 100 questions. Yeah, that really gets very, very complicated very, very quickly. 25 is very difficult. So I can only imagine. Maybe for the Fortune 500 companies. We don’t tend to work with them. We work with the small businesses, small-to-medium sized businesses, but if we could ask less than 25 questions, we would like to. It would make our life easier. We know it would make our client’s life easier. And that would be a great thing. So that’s my presentation on this subject.

Slide 9: Contact Us

Again, here’s our contact information. Thank you for listening to the World of Internet Marketing. We have a couple of really exciting podcasts coming up. I’m slowing down in terms of family issues going on and all that. So we’re going to really provide you some quality content over the next couple of weeks and months. We’ve got a lot of great stuff lined up. And I hope to see you soon.

Again, this is Jonathan Goodman and this is the World of Internet Marketing. You can follow me @HalyardConsult on Twitter. New episodes of the World of Internet Marketing can be heard every Friday. You can access the archives of my previous shows on Spreaker.com – user name Jonathan Goodman. The podcast is also available with transcription at halyardconsulting.com and geekcast.fm one week after the episode airs. Thank you all for listening to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. Don’t forget to pick up my book The World of Internet Marketing on Amazon, and if you like this podcast please share it with your network of friends and family. Have a great week.

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