Before working with a new client, it is more important than anything to understand a prospective client's business as good, if not better, than your own. Being very thorough in your discovery will pay dividends because it is just as important for the client to be a fit for you as it is for you to be a fit for your client.
While I am sure you would love to work with every single client that asks about your services, you must be cognizant of the fact that not every client is going to be a great fit for your own business. A client might not be a great fit for a few reasons: timing, project requirements/scope, and budget. Being able to recognize this is not only fair to yourself, but also to your prospect as well.
For this article, I have supplied you with the questions that our company asks a prospective client before we start working with them (this comes after the initial introductory call and digital marketing review has been completed). By asking some, or all, of the questions below, you will surely have a much better understanding of the prospective client’s business, where the business is at in its life cycle, and what the business actually needs. With this information you will be able to craft a very specific proposal that blows your prospect away, solves their key issues, and allows you to price your services out accordingly and get what you are actually worth.
Through my own experience, I have found that participating in this exercise dramatically improves close rates because I am able to create extremely fine-tuned proposals that identify a client’s needs and goals and I am also able to give the prospective client a glimpse at the value I can provide for their business. In some instances, I have even been able to charge for this discovery service.
Of note, this article comes from the perspective of a digital marketing agency, but many of these questions can be applied across all industries and services that are helping other businesses. Or, you could even perform this exercise on your own business. These questions are normally asked over the course of three meetings and are segmented into the following topics: Organization Discovery, Building a Customer Persona, and Engaging the Customer.
So, let's get to it. Here are the 41 Questions Marketing Consultants Should Ask Potential Clients.
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This first group of questions helps us to identify information about the prospect’s organization, their product/service, and their overall business environment. This group of questions will help you determine the key messages of your prospective client's product or service.
1. Tell me about your organization in 30 seconds or less? How would you describe it to someone that knows nothing about you?
It is important to know what the prospective client is all about. They should be able to describe their elevator pitch in a concise and straightforward manner. This question will help you as a marketer understand the prospect’s core practices and what their organization truly stands on from a product or service standpoint.
2. Can you describe your business in eight (8) words or less? And if so, what are they?
With this question, you are getting the prospect to think even more critically about themselves. They are beginning to tighten up their message and identify core descriptors that will really help you to understand what it is they do and what they are good at. The more concise you can get them to make their message the more concise understanding you will have of them.
3. What value proposition do you offer to your customers? What makes things so much better for your customers when they decide to work with you?
In this question you are identifying the prospect’s primary value specifically for their customers. Sometimes prospect’s may realize that they actually lack value, which in turn will help them to tidy up their own vision and value props or get back to the drawing board. At the end of the day you are a consultant and sometimes the value for our prospective clients is found outside of your own services and more in your expert advice.
4. What are the weaknesses in your business or business model? Do you think these weaknesses are holding you back from success?
You want to identify weaknesses as soon as possible. In doing so you kill two birds with one stone because you identify weaknesses while also identifying potential ways that you can help the prospect improve.
5. Are there any other opportunities that exist in your marketplace and do you think they are ones you could take advantage of?
Prospects will more than likely always know of opportunities that exist (or at least they should). But most of the time they just don't know how to capitalize on the opportunities or they are missing even better and more valuable opportunities. Here you will be able to provide solutions to take advantage of opportunities and also identify new sources for success.
6. Are there any obstacles that stand in your way? How can we avoid these obstacles or what needs to be done to navigate them?
Understanding obstacles that a prospective client faces will not only help you address the obstacle but it will also help you navigate it as you begin working with the prospect. As the expert in your specific field, you want to help settle a prospect’s nerves or alleviate their frustrations about how to get around things that seem like a mountain between their success.
7. What does your business do that no one else can? What makes you different from everyone else?
Here, continue to search for more value. You want to find what differentiates your prospective client from competitors and how you can leverage that differentiation in the future.
8. What can you use to make you stand out? Words, stories, images, videos, interviews, or presentations?
Once you have identified what is it that makes your prospect unique, you need to identify how to portray that message. Identifying content is crucial for any success no matter what the client does. You will now know whether you need to focus on content creation like SEO friendly blog writing or whether their content is sufficient for what you are trying to accomplish.
9. Who is your ideal customer and why do you enjoy doing business with them?
Identifying the prospect’s ideal customer is SO important. I cannot stress this enough.
Once you know who the prospect’s customer is, you can go out and find many more like them and put the product or service in front of the right people. Showing a client the demographic or audience you will target during the pay-per-click advertising campaign can go a long way.
I will talk more about building a customer persona later in this blog article, but this question gets your prospect thinking about who they want to work with and why.
10. Who do you want to take action on your website and describe why they do business with you in the first place?
At this point you not only have an understanding of the prospect’s ideal and favorite customer, but you have also identified their ideal web customer. Knowing why a customer does business with your prospect will help you to craft your unique and specific messaging.
11. Do these specific people have emotions when trying to buy or decide on your services?
Many people take action or make decisions based off of emotions. If you can tap into the emotions of your prospect’s future customer when they are looking for a product or service, then you have a much better shot at converting and catering to the right people, in the right way through highly optimized conversion rate optimization.
12. How are you making your customer's life easier and what problems are you solving for them?
If our prospect can make their customer’s life easier then it will be easy to identify their vision and mission as an organization. Every business must be in the business of solving a problem no matter what they are doing otherwise there is little to no value in that business.
13. Do you think your customer is even aware that they have a problem before they need your services?
Sometimes a prospect's customer might not even know that they have an issue or a problem that needs solved. If this is the case, you must educate the future customers about the issues they do not even know they have instead of telling them to buy something. This will help determine the strategy or services you might include in a proposal.
14. Have you tried any marketing solutions in the past and, if so, how did they work out?
Don’t make the same mistakes that were made in the past. Asking this question allows you to know whether social media marketing worked in the past and why it may have failed. From there you can either make the proper fixes/adjustments or provide another potential solution for the prospect.
15. If someone had a bumper sticker on their car for your business, what would it say?
This one is fun. Your prospect will be forced to think critically, creatively, and identify what it is that people actually care about in regards to their business. This will tell you A LOT!
16. What if?
Get your client dreaming. What if is a great open-ended question that allows the prospect to guide you to where they really want to go with their business! Now it is your job to get them there.
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Building a Customer Persona
17. What is the profile of your customer like?
The customer profile is a description of the prospect’s ideal customer. Some profiles are very general while others can be extremely complex.
18. What is your customer’s name?
Yes, you want to name the prospect’s customer. The more specific you can get, the better.
19. What is your customer’s gender and how old are they?
You need to know whether you are marketing to males or females and how old they are. This is crucial for determining how to craft a message and what tools to use. Younger demographics may use different platforms than an older demographic.
20. What is your customer's occupation? What does the person do that buys from you?
Knowing the answer to this question allows you to identify pain points that the prospect’s customer might have when determining whether to use their product or service. This question also allows you to identify how you want to address the specific customer whether it be via a specific device or time of day.
If the prospect’s customer is a stay-at-home mom then you might want to try and gain the customers attention when times are not as hectic, like possibly later at night when the kids are asleep after a long day.
21. What level of education has your customer completed?
Again, you want to be able to identify how to speak to the prospect’s customer and this question will help determine how you can better relate to them and the types of things they might be interested in.
22. How much money does your customer make?
Understanding financials will help determine a few things: price point, recommended budget, and estimated time of return, among others.
23. Is your customer married? Do they have kids?
If a prospect’s customer is both married and has kids, you might consider that time is of the essence. Getting your message across quickly may be crucial.
24. Where is your customer located?
If the customers are concentrated in a specific spot, location-based ads would be much more appropriate vs. generalized splatters of advertisements that are delivered via the Facebook boost button. We’re starting to understand the specific solutions we can provide with this in-depth information.
25. Tell me about your customer's character? What traits do they have? What are they passionate about?
Understanding a prospect’s customer and what they are passionate about can help you craft specific messages that speak directly to them. If you are able to tap into passion or a specific trait your message will resonate much better and drive better results.
26. What type of lifestyle does your customer lead? What do they like to do for fun? What are their spending habits like and what brands do they associate with?
Lifestyle is important to understand because it will determine the approach you want to take when addressing the prospective client’s customer. Understanding what other likes they have will only help you cater your product or service even more towards the specific customer.
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Engaging the Customer
The last section of this blog article will look at questions to ask your prospective client about how they engage with their customer. So far you have discovered what the message should be and who the message should be for. Now you will learn about what tools might be best for your prospect to engage their customers.
27. What issues or problems do you have at work? What are your pain points?
You want to know every single pain point your prospective client has to give yourself every opportunity to help solve that problem. By identifying a pain point you open up the possibility of addressing that pain point with your own product or service.
28. What question are you getting asked all of the time?
Normally, the answer to this question is very obvious for the prospect and knowing the answer to this question will make sure that you answer it in every possible way on every possible platform when engaging with the prospect’s customer.
29. What does your ideal customer need to know about you?
Sometimes lack of action is bred from unfamiliarity. If you can get customers to understand your prospect better than there is more likelihood that someone will interact with them.
30. If you wanted your ideal customer to ask you one question, what would it be?
This forces your prospective client to think about their customers in the way the customers think about them. Questions are always extremely engaging so if you can wrap the ideal customer’s question into a message, even better.
31. When your customer is identifying their problem that addresses their need for the product or service, what language are they using?
If the prospect’s customer is angry about the problem they have then you need to be ready to engage this anger correctly and, on the flip side, if the customer is subdued or passive about the problem then you may need to ramp up the message.
32. What is stopping your customer from using your product or services?
Understanding barriers that exist for your prospect’s customer will help you to alleviate those barriers and develop a solution to get through those barriers and onto engagement with the product or service.
33. Considering engagement, what is the best way to engage your customer?
There are many different forms of engagement that you must consider (social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing). Identifying the best source of engagement will make sure that any efforts are fine-tuned for conversion. Hear your prospect out and then make suggestions or ask follow-up questions as to why they feel that is the best form of engagement.
34. What possible social media platforms is your customer a part of?
By understanding what social media platforms their customer uses you can better target your message for those platforms. Having a defined social media strategy will increase engagement and relevance with the customer.
35. Do your customers find a specific expert knowledgeable or do they listen to advice from specific people?
This question is a great one because you will be able to research those that the prospect’s customer sees as an expert in the industry. Use the expert’s terminology or reference their works in your own.
36. Can you please provide the website links to your three (3) direct and indirect competitors?
When a prospect provides competitors’ websites it is a great opportunity to see where they stand. Most often than not they are not the worst, but they are also not the best. Learn how to run a digital marketing audit on their website and their competitors to show them where they stand. Researching competitors will help you craft a perfect plan for your potential client and give them confidence that they can be the best once they use your services.
37. Where is your business currently finding its customers?
This question will identify current sales channels and also open the possibility of tapping into new ones. Old channels are normally stale and the possibility of new opportunities are always intriguing. However, if an old channel is performing, don’t get rid of it. See how you can add even more value to it!
38. What does your current business sales funnel look like?
Sometimes a company's sales funnel is non-existent or it needs just a small tweak. Vetting the existing funnel will identify gaps and instant ways to help improve this process for your prospect.
39. Which touch points with your future customer does your company have at its disposal?
The more times you can get your prospect in front of their customers the more opportunities for success they will have. Digital marketing and advertising is a true test of consistency and relentlessness. Understanding where they stand currently will allow you to see gaps and areas for growth.
40. How do you see your website fitting in to this system?
Notice that this is the first time we have even discussed the actual product or service you might provide. Website could also be replaced with search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, or any other service you might offer. The last 39 questions have strictly been about the prospect and understanding how you can serve them better by understanding them more. Their goals are more important than your product/service.
41. What are you goals and expectations for this project?
With this question, you are understanding where the prospect stands with their expectations. This can be a great opportunity to level the field and make sure the prospect knows what they can expect and what might be realistic or unrealistic.
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Robb Fahrion is a Co-Founder and Partner of Flying V Group. He is passionate about helping businesses grow using the power of the internet. Robb graduated from Chapman University in Orange, CA and currently resides in Costa Mesa, CA. Robb enjoys writing about digital marketing, helping his clients turn their dreams into reality, and he is a HUGE Mike Trout fan.
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