“If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, a truth so many agency owners have had to come to terms with. You’ve spent years creating a service, fine-tuning it to perfection, and know that it serves as an answer to an existing demand. You’ve built it—and built it well. Now, when exactly do the customers flock in?
Sitting back and waiting is the passive approach. Sure, you will get a few customers here and there, but that’s not really the method to go for if you want to propel your business forward. Instead, and especially to get ahead of the competition, you need to take an active approach. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Find them yourself.
How? This is where client discovery comes in. A standard practice in so many startups, tech companies, and product management teams, client discovery has become a universal practice all companies—and mainly agencies, need to incorporate into their plans for client acquisition. If you haven’t yet implemented the client discovery process in your business, it’s definitely the time to. But don’t worry; we will be breaking down the entire process down for you, and include some insider tips, so you can have an action plan ready to go.
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What exactly is client discovery?
Client discovery is a four-step approach to learn as much as possible about your target audience. It includes research, creating a hypothesis, testing out that hypothesis in real-time through a discovery meeting, and adjusting it as required. It is extremely important to spend the necessary time and effort on customer discovery, as the results should shape your agency’s entire marketing approach. When the client discovery process is done properly, your agency should know everything there is to know about your existing and potential clients. And that makes attracting them simply a matter of science.
What is the goal of client discovery for agencies?
While client discovery includes four concrete steps that we’ll get into detail in just a moment, the work does not end there. Once your agency learns everything there is to know about your current and potential customer base, this research then needs to become the driving force behind all marketing campaigns—and on a more universal level, it should become the backbone of your agency’s overall marketing plan. Once you know who your customers are exactly through a thorough client discovery process, you can then use this information to increase conversion rates, and to acquire more clients for your agency.
During the content creation process—whether that be in the form of social media posts, blogs, or ads, the information learned through client discovery should always be referenced and applied, to ensure it is effectively being put to use to attract new clients. The results from the client discovery process should build a cohesive results-oriented strategy for your entire agency and marketing materials, so that you attract more of what you want: your target audience.
Who should be responsible for client discoveries?
Now that you know a little more about what client discovery is and the importance of it, you may be wondering, who should be put in charge of this task? While certain tasks within the client discovery process can certainly be delegated, the overall process should be assigned to a person who not only understands your business on a deeper level, but who would also be in charge of utilizing the information learned to benefit your business. A digital marketing director, for example, would be a great candidate to lead this important role. They will not only understand the importance of the thorough research needed in client discovery in the first place to lead to results, but also can apply the information gathered into a strategy—and oversee that it is being communicated in all forms and levels of marketing.
Step-by-step guide to client discovery
For the most accurate and effective outcome in the customer discovery process, it is best to follow a step-by-step approach, and conduct each one thoroughly. Don’t forget; the research from the client discovery process will become an integral part of your agency’s marketing strategy, so it’s best to do it properly from the get-go. Let’s have a look at the checklist, and tackle each of the steps one-by-one:
- Step 1: Research your potential clients online
- Step 2: Create your ideal customer persona
- Step 3: Conduct discovery interviews with existing and potential clients
- Step 4: Adjust customer persona accordingly
Research your potential clients online
The first step is to research your customer persona online, which is especially important for newer agencies. The more people you research, the more concrete and accurate the results will be. For that reason, we suggest making it a goal to research 50 personas online. If your target audience are mostly small business owners, then the 50 people should fit that description. You can get as specific as needed depending on your agency’s goals. If your target audience, for example, are small business owners of local bakeries, simply filter your research to emphasize that. The goal in client discovery is to gather as much professional and personal information as possible from all 50 people, in order to find similarities, patterns, and common ground.
And don’t worry, researching customer personas is a form of “legal stalking” as you are simply taking note of publicly available information. Think of it as a “content audit” of a potential customer across all available platforms—no private investigator needed!
Create your ideal customer persona
Now that you’ve researched and gathered thorough information based on 50 members of your target audience, it’s time to create a hypothesis. This will be put to the test later, so don’t worry if you’re not completely sure on some aspects.
When using this information to create your agency’s ideal customer persona, the more personalized it is, the better. We all connect more to people rather than to theories or data, and you’ll want your entire marketing team to see it that way as well. So open up a spreadsheet, and begin with the following five sections:
- Demographic attributes: This section outlines all of the basic information about your target audience, made especially accessible thanks to social media. This includes age, gender, location, employment status/type, marital status, annual income, and education. As we are working on finding commonalities, average out the answers you researched to fill out this section as accurately as possible.
- Firmographic attributes: Firmographics are descriptive data focused on the operations of a given business or organization. Here, you can really understand how much easier social media platforms like LinkedIn make the client discovery process! In this section, you can include basic information such as industry type, number of employees, and annual revenue, and couple that with more detailed information. This includes what they specifically sell, what growth stage the company is in, if they are selling directly to consumers, who makes the decisions, the level of expertise of the decision-makers, and how often (if at all) their service or product undergoes changes or updates.
- Behavioral attributes: Now you can move on to understanding your target audience on a deeper level, which we already know the importance of in marketing. Behavioral attributes include a client’s user status or level when it comes to your service, how decisions to incorporate services like yours are made—what is needed, the complexity behind the decision making process well as the barriers or hesitations associated with it, the benefits/perks that will appeal to them in your service, the frequency of usage of your service or product, and what is needed to establish loyalty. As you can see, the more research you do and time you spend on the first step, the more important information you will have for these crucial questions and points.
- Interest attributes: Interest attributes should focus on your client’s professional life, but can also include interests that connect to their personal life as well. Take note of what kind of business topics they pay attention to—whether that be in the form of liked posts, books and podcast episodes they refer to or recommend, and news they reshare on topics that are important to them. On a personal level, also make sure to pay attention to how they prefer to consume media, what social media platforms they frequent the most, and what kinds of shows, movies, etc., they enjoy and how they share that information with others.
- Psychographic attributes: And finally, we get to the deepest level of connection. In this section, we focus on values. This will include both professional and personal values as both matter. Here you can note what impact they want their business to have in the world, and what type of character they want to reflect as a business owner. Also take note of personal values they have, whether that be creating a work-life balance, spending time with family, volunteering, donating, raising awareness of social causes, etc. Psychographics remind us to follow through with customer-centric marketing, which must be a values-based approach.
Once you compile and categorize all of this information you’ve gathered from the client discovery process together, take it to the next level by really personalizing it. We suggest coming up with a name (first and last!) that best represents your agency’s target audience. Choose a stock photo of what your potential client looks like, and include this in your spreadsheet. If your client persona’s name becomes Jennifer Anderson, when creating marketing materials, you can always make it a habit to ask yourself and your team, what would Jenny think (WWJT)? Afterall, the goal of all this data and research is to create a personalized profile to connect with and understand. In this case, that’s Jenny.
Conduct discovery interviews with existing and potential clients
Now comes the time to put your hypothesis to the test by actually speaking with your existing and potential customers. Remember, what people say about themselves online and what they actually think or do are often two completely different things. Our beloved Jenny may claim she spends her evenings plugged off and reading a good book, but a conversation may prove otherwise—she may be mindlessly scrolling through Instagram well into the late hours of the night just like the rest of us!
The main goal of these discovery meetings is to find out if your customer persona meets the reality, and of course, find more information and commonalities about your target audience. Discovery calls are different from the dreaded cold calls, because both parties (you and your potential Jennys) know it is taking place, and have a general idea of the type of topics that will be discussed. You aren’t chatting to sell something, but rather making an effort to deep-dive into understanding who exactly your potential client really is.
How exactly do you get this process started? Reach out to existing or potential clients through your network, newsletter, LinkedIn, etc., to participate. You can also offer them an incentive to do so. Make sure it’s appealing so you get lots of leads and people actually want to participate. For example, you can provide a free website audit, or a percentage off a selected service. Be clear from the get-go about the time commitment needed, and aim to organize your questions as efficiently as possible so you stick to that timeframe out of respect for your client. Don’t schedule the calls back-to-back or just before an important meeting in case they want to linger on and chat more—always a good thing! Once you set up your calls, organize your talking points, personalize them so your client (existing and potential) knows you care, and prepare the questions you want the answers to.
The questions asked will of course depend on your agency type and customer persona, but some examples based on the categories above include:
- What are your company’s average sales?
- What is the required amount of revenue you need to operate your business?
- What sets your product or service apart from the competition?
- How would a target customer find out about your business?
- What does your marketing strategy focus on?
- How do you price your services or products competitively?
- What values does your business represent?
- Is reputation important to you?
- How would your customers describe you as a business owner? How about your employees?
- What promotional campaign are you particularly proud of? What kind of tangible success did it lead to?
- What steps do you take to garner positive reviews for your business?
- How would a customer describe your business?
- How would a competitor describe your business?
- What do you want to improve on in the next year? The next 5 years?
- Why would a person make the decision to buy from a competitor instead of you?
- Do you alter your product or service based on feedback?
- Is decision making in your business a collaborative process?
- If you could outsource one thing, what would it be?
- What’s your personal motto when it comes to facing challenges?
While this is primarily a fact-finding mission to find out if your customer persona meets the reality, don’t be afraid to have some fun with it and turn it into a great conversation!
Adjust customer persona accordingly
Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned, and adjust your customer persona accordingly. Don’t be discouraged if a lot needs to be updated—that’s an expected part of the process, and further demonstrates the importance of a personal approach. Remember, people can present themselves and their values in stark contrast to what they actually are. This method essentially ensures you’ve moved past the “keeping up appearances” phase, into a deeper level of knowledge and understanding not many get to experience. As you adjust your customer persona, make sure to note and include new commonalities you’ve discovered as well.
Now that you’ve tested your hypothesis, and made the necessary adjustments, you should really know who your customer persona is, and apply it to all spheres of your marketing plan. Share it with your entire team, print it out and stick it on your office walls if need be. The information can be referenced in all forms and stages of content creation: from the brainstorming phase to editing the final copy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a social media post, a blog, or an ad, Jenny should always remain at the forefront, and all content should be created with her needs, values, and goals in mind. When your social media specialist is about to create a post about the benefits one of your services provide, they can refer back to this document, and apply those insights to make an effective post that targets even more Jennys to your agency.
Client discovery is an effective method of active marketing that combines the best of all worlds: data, research, and a much-needed personal touch. When properly implemented, it should lead to a research-driven and goal-oriented marketing plan that has the power to propel your agency forward—all thanks to our friend Jenny!