5 Questions To Ask Your Client During Kickoff

Today I deviate from titling my blog posts with song names to something more SEO friendly (with a subtle nod to football season since we started in earnest last week).  It ties in to some work I was doing in preparation for a client engagement.  I wanted to get the key information I needed during our window of time, but also make sure that they felt the time was valuable for them.  Asking good questions in a proactive way makes your client feel like you've thought about their business before you walked in the door as much as it guides the meeting towards your needs.

I ask a lot more than five questions - like we all do - but these are the core ones that should be a part of every client kickoff meeting:

1.  "What are your top priorities for your business during this fiscal year and how does marketing fit with those priorities?" - as marketers we need to make sure that what we are doing for our clients ties in to business goals.  If they don't then either our budgets or projects go away when there is a shift in focus or lose signal when clients gets distracted running their business.

2.  "What does marketing success look like for you?" - this can be a hard question for clients to answer but it's a thought provoking question that will help you determine the size and scale of your client's vision and ultimately determine if it matches their budgets and resources.  A disconnect there may lead to harder conversations down the line if results don't meet expectations.  If you're client wants everyone to know their name and only has $100 to spend, it's better to know that on the front end.

3.  "Can you walk me through your sales process?  How do you find customers and how do customers find you?  Why do they buy from you?" - OK, that's 3 questions.  However they are relate to what clients want - more sales and more customers.  If marketers don't understand how their client makes money the rest of it is all window dressing.

4.  "What metrics do you use or will use to evaluation marketing success?" - another tough question if your client isn't overly sophisticated with their marketing efforts, but it's a great question so you can begin to understand what numbers a client would use to determine if something is working.  Even better is the opportunity to frame the conversation and help your client create metrics that will be guideposts for marketing decisions.

5.  "Who are your competitors and what do they do better and why?" - clients can sometime get myopic about their business and just look at competitors through a negative lens.  Asking your clients what their competition does well gives you a chance to leverage marketing to counterpoint or highlight key areas that are either strengths or areas of opportunity.  I'm a big fan of some level of competitive analysis at the incept of any client interaction.  If you don't know what you're up against then you are limiting the effectiveness marketing can have.

One of my favorite quotes is from Lewis Carroll - "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get your there."  These kinds of questions will help you make sure you don't end up down the rabbit hole.