Before setting out on a website project of significant complexity, it is important to ensure that you’re not going in blind. For complex projects, extracting as much information as possible from the client will help you make the most informed decisions during the planning and research phases. Hosting a practical workshop with the client before the project begins is good practice.
Practical workshops are not only productive from a customer onboarding perspective, but they also help agencies to immerse themselves in the business of the client. This aids the understanding of the target market, what engages them and what drives buying decisions in their niche. Getting a full understanding of the client landscape – as well as goals for the project – is the best way to kick-off a project, and gives it the best chance of short and long-term success.
A common misconception is that a project is a single event, but savvy marketers and business owners know that this is not the case. A website should be considered as a living, breathing entity that requires regular updates and timely improvements to stay ahead of the game in competitive spaces. Considering that Starbucks’ average customer lifetime value is over £20,000 per customer compared to the ~£5 initial outlay of their first purchase, it is easy to see why it’s worthwhile for agencies to position themselves as a long-term partner rather than a temporary website provider.
The best way to gain the insights for a successful project is with a relaxed and practical workshop session with interactive elements. Here we lay out the foundations for a workshop that ensures the correct information is extracted in order to make planning decisions as well as interacting with the client on a personal level.
Who Should Attend?
At a workshop, you want to ensure that the only people that attend are the people driving the business and project decisions:
Client side: key decision maker(s), client-side account manager, client-side project manager and a member from the branding and / or marketing team. Agency side: project manager, account manager, marketing lead and potentially somebody with technical and design knowledge. In order to ensure that the workshop is productive, it’s important that you only invite key stakeholders and decision makers. There are going to be a lot of discussions about what the best approach would be and how to achieve it. From the agency side, you must have representatives who are going to be involved in the production of the site. Regarding the client-side attendees, only key decision makers should attend. This is the best way to ensure that conversations stay focused rather than digressing into discussions that are not relevant.
Having a technical head in the room from the agency side would be advantageous in case the client asks about technical requirements. For example, if the client has a central IT system that feeds a number of eCommerce stores as well as this potential new one then it may need to be built differently. The technical team member should be able to offer recommendations to working within that particular infrastructure.
Learn about the Client’s Business
The client has approached you to help them with their project, so before jumping in and showing them your portfolio, it is best to sit back and absorb as much information about the client as possible so that you can come back with constructive responses.
How their business works, what industry it operates in and a little bit of history about it; What sets their business apart from the competition; Who the competitors are. Get practical:
Take a look at their competitors’ websites during the workshop, asking them to identify what they like/dislike about them. Do some basic competitor analysis to understand what they are doing well/poorly and identify some quick wins. Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer are good tools for this if you have the time. If not, a quick search of the URL in Hubspot Marketing Grader could suffice.
About The Brand
Before diving into designs, it is important to understand what current branding the business has and how flexible this is to change. Larger organisations are much less inclined to change their brand, even if it is very dated.
Whether or not they are tied into any branding such as logos/brand guidelines that the site would need to adhere to. Remember that signage, advertising etc. may already be out in the market and would be out-of-date if they were to rebrand, so they need to evaluate whether or not it is a worthwhile investment to change the brand in any way. If they would be open to bringing the brand up to modern standards if a rebrand is out of the question. Mention the potential benefits that this can bring vs sticking with the dated look. Get practical:
Show them examples of companies who are killing it with their branding. Show them examples of how not to do branding. Show them examples of branding work you have done for other companies and explain the results and your reasoning for making certain brand decisions.
About the Target Market
Understanding the client’s target market is arguably the most important part of any workshop session. The demographics of the target market will influence marketing decisions and, if done correctly, will save the client money in the long-term through efficiencies such as lower cost per acquisition in relation to ad spend.
Who the target demographic is What piques their interest? Where do they hang out online/offline? What keywords/phrases would the client use to search for their own products or services online? What keywords/phrases would a consumer use to search for their products or services online? There is often more of a difference than you might think between what a client thinks people search online, and what consumers actually search for. Get practical:
Show them some real-life frameworks of how you might (as the agency) get in front of the client’s target market. Maybe a quick demo of some effective lead generation tactics e.g. ebook creation > FB ad for ebook > ebook landing page > email capture > Mailchimp (or similar) > email drip campaign > A/B testing
About the Website
Clients come in all shapes and sizes, and from experience, their involvement in the project can vary greatly from one client to the next: some clients like to be heavily involved at every stage of the project, whereas others prefer to step back and follow your lead. This becomes evident when discussing the actual scope of the website, which is why it is important to ensure that only key decision makers from the client side attend the workshop – otherwise you might find yourself spending the majority of the session time dealing with individuals who aren’t key to the decision making processes.
It is important as the lead agency to take ownership of this session; so if conversations begin to sway from the agenda, rein them back in.
What would they want visitors to do on their website? What technology/functionality is needed in their new site? Will they be selling ad space on the website? Are any social media integrations required? Will they be blogging? Do they have in-house content teams or would the agency be tasked with writing the copy? Do they have a library of image assets or would the agency need to source some tasteful stock imagery/create custom graphics? Get practical:
Review their existing website/analytics and identify what works well and what does not. Show them examples of competitors who are doing their marketing to a high standard. Show them examples of competitors with well-designed sites and explain modern web trends. Get the client to show you some examples of sites that they like. Get them to explain their reasoning. Try to build a rough site structure, pages, hierarchy etc.
About the Project
Getting a feel for the client’s budget and expectations is a critical part of the workshop. If the client is a new client, this is the stage where you will discover whether or not they are the right client for you, and equally, whether you are a good fit for them. It is no coincidence that the most successful projects happen when trust and respect are reciprocated.
What is their budget range for the project? What are their expectations for that budget? What are the short/mid/long-term goals? When do they want to launch the project (ideal launch and latest launch)? What is the value of delivering on that date? Is there more value in delivering sooner?
Before the Workshop
Some of the topics above may put the client on the spot which could result in a rushed response. If somebody asked you to list three websites that you liked, would you be able to do it on the spot without doing any research? If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t expect the client to be able to do the same. For these types of questions, it is important to give the client some time prior to the workshop to go through them and provide well-informed responses. You could ask questions such as “What are three websites that you like the look and feel of?” or “Who are your main competitors?”
There is a great tool called Typeform that we use for gathering answers to questions before a workshop. It is free, well-designed, and allows the client to get the answers together in their own time leading up to the workshop. Once they submit the form you will receive an automated email containing their answers which will give you time to review their responses before the workshop.
Immersing yourself in the client’s business through a practical workshop is the best way to extract the right information from them.
To keep the workshop fun, it is good practice to not only extract the information through verbal communication, but it is important to get practical at the same time. This is the best way to ensure that the information you extract is absorbed and made productive.
Following the steps above, or creating your own spin off using the above framework will put you in the best possible position to pitch a proposal. Delivered correctly and with confidence, the exercise should be an enjoyable experience for the client. This should leave them with a good feeling about your agency which as ever is half the battle.
Tweet us and let us know if this guide has been useful @FastWebMedia, and feel free to share your tips for hosting a successful workshop.