9 key insight categories in the client discovery process

Using different insights tools to build understanding of the opportunities for an agency to create value for a client

In a previous article, I defined and explained the need for marketing agencies and consultants to develop a robust Discovery process when they start working with new clients or on new market pitches or projects.

In the second part of the article, I’ve broken them down the discovery process into nine distinct activities covering different insights sources, focusing on those needed for a digital or multichannel marketing project. Exactly who undertakes these will depend on your agency or team size, individual experience and skillsets. You will need to make a call on both the depth and breadth of discovery undertaken depending on the size of the opportunity/potential impact on the client business in the long run as mentioned in the previous article.

Agency pitching presentation templates

Once you have developed your discovery and insight processes to understand the opportunities a client presents, you need to pitch your ideas to them effectively so they buy into the work you propose. Use our pitching templates to create memorable presentations that will help you land your next big project!

Access the Agency pitching presentation templates

But you aren’t the only one who should be discovering. You create value for your clients by helping them discover things too. Anthony Iannarino notes that another benefit of discovery is that the client clarifies their brand’s position in the marketplace too. He says:

“… you aren’t the only one who should be discovering. You create value for your clients by helping them discover things too. You also help your client discover what they really need. In a lot of cases, we believe our dream clients already know what they need, but in more cases, you can create value for them through the sales process by helping them discover new possibilities, new ways to get bigger and better outcomes, and new opportunities. You can help them do things in a new way”.

Here are the nine areas of insight I recommend for a discovery project.

1. Define client goals and objectives

Here you look to understand the client business or brand’s specific objectives and KPIs? You should also check on any wider strategic business goals and initiatives plus commercial considerations with which the marketing activity should align (e.g. is the client looking at geographic expansion). Check also for general challenges within the business and potential barriers to implementation of the project.

If the client has put a budget or timescale forward, review whether it is realistic when cross-checked with the objectives and KPIs? Experience is a great guide and now is the time to shout before committing to something you know will be unachievable.

2. Review market characteristics and trends

You should gather and assess internal data (e.g. brand / organizational) and external data (e.g. 3rd party surveys, white papers, reports) data on consumer or business trends, markets, stakeholders, competitors etc.

This is potentially a time-consuming area of discovery so set definitive timescales for completion and use people in the team who have shown aptitude as ‘hunter-gatherers’ in any previous desk research exercise.

You can also check-off relevant information or wider issues using a marketplace summary – see our discovery template for more information.

There won’t be one definitive source of research data here, it will vary by market or industry sector but a good source of research information can be trade associations who often publish reports. And of course, Google is a good starting point!

3. Digital analytics data including site analytics

Undertake a site analytics review and look at any existing transactional data, either via client management reports or using the raw, source data to look for your own insights. Check whether previous analyses have been created or if custom dashboards are available. You should look to review the effectiveness and efficiency of different desktop and mobile sites in communicating across the entire RACE touchpoints, identifying any weaknesses.

See the Smart Insights Google Analytics audit for details if you’re using GA.

See the Smart Insights Ecommerce site analytics review for how to structure such a review across the RACE framework for a transactional site.

4. Content audit

Assess all available data sources including any existing social media profiles/accounts set up by the client. You’ll look at a more detailed content audit, if required, when the project starts but for now consider:

Content audits within a wider content marketing framework detailed in the content marketing toolkit which also includes a guide to ROI Evaluation for content marketing.

5. Competitor audit

Ask the client for their primary competitors and note how their online behaviour differs including:

The Smart Insights competitor benchmarking template will help you with this.

6. Customer / Stakeholder audit

Here we are looking at our customer wants or needs and where they go online to meet those: undertake an audiences review (via client data or 3rd party sources/tools):

7. Influencers in the market

8. Specific media and link audits

9. Additional research

If there are still gaps in our understanding after the stages above, you may need to ‘commission’ research (via external or internal support). This may be researched via polls (e.g. Polldaddy) or surveys (e.g. SurveyMonkey or Toluna surveys) or could mean buying into industry-specific white papers or in-depth research. Discuss this with the client first with regards to budget investment from them.

What next?

The end-point for the discovery stage is a set of insights that build into a strategy development document or outline proposal for the client. The document typically covers:

The agency will then seek feedback from the client, which is then incorporated into detailed briefs (as appropriate) for creative development, content marketing, website UX and functionality, etc.

So, that’s how I see it. I’m interested to hear of how you vary the discovery process or insight sources compared to this audit?

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