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9 key insight categories in the client discovery process

Author's avatar By Mark Kelly 22 Jun, 2020
Essential Essential topic

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

customer-insight-discoveryIn 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.

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 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:

  • Catalog the content on the client website via a site map and also note any other content repositories e.g. pdfs, offline/ print materials, video assets, etc.
  • Where is the client/brand content available? (Paid, Owned or Earned media)
  • In what formats?
  • What has worked well, or indeed poorly, to date? (request any results data the client may already have)
  • Detail which elements appear to be on-brand and which not
  • Identify different forms of Content marketing at different points in the marketing funnel – see the managing content marketing guide by James Carson which includes a section on completing a content marketing audit for how to review different content types. The Smart Insights Content Marketing audit matrix gives another way of reviewing content.
  • Do the messages on both the website and in social media appear to meet the objectives that have been initially stated above?

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 behavior differs including:

  • How they use their websites to vary the marketing mix
  • Which social networks do they utilize and how (e.g. do they appear to be actively engaging others), note the volume and frequency of updates and what metrics (e.g. numbers of fans/likes, etc.) are available
  • Use of other communications to explain their proposition e.g. AdWords, Display ads
  • How do they use content (content types/ formats/were placed)

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):

  • Market research / TGI / focus group / poll or survey info as appropriate e.g. Demographics/technographics
  • Keyword research analysis using tools such as the Google Keyword Planner
  • Review of social mentions/sentiment and product/service reviews if available. See the Smart Insights guide to Social media Listening
  • Offline / exit-surveys, any video or audio, vox pops, etc.
  • Interviews with the client organization senior management, sales and / or customer service teams: what insight do they have on opportunities, barriers, etc. for the client brand in the marketplace?
  • Assess/review any existing Personas

7. Influencers in the market

  • What do we know of the key Bloggers and/or Twitter users in this sector? How does the client segment influencers
  • How can we reach and engage influencers? For example, does the client have intelligence built up via tools such as Followerwonk, Traackr, or Blogdash? If not then think about running a social listening exercise yourselves at this stage to identify what these influencers are talking about and sharing and in what formats.

8. Specific media and link audits

  • A PPC audit or social media advertising audit if within the scope of the brief/project.
  • A backlink audit using tools such as Moz Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO
  • A technical on-page audit

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.

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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:

  • A summary of what the discovery phase told us (e.g. X % of existing customers think this, the key personas are W and Y, recommended search term are A, B, and C, etc.).
  • The key insight/s, written in plain English, that set the direction of the subsequent specialist briefs (e.g. content, UX, functionality.
  • An initial assessment of agency resources/time and therefore costs that will be required to facilitate the strategy see a guide to cost planning for client digital projects I authored.

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?

Author's avatar

By Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly is a digital marketing and agency growth consultant working with agencies and their client brands. He can be found at Mark Kelly Consultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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