On every pitch I make one of the initial points I bring up is, "Before we can start building your strategy, we'll first begin our discovery." Not once has a potential client asked me, "What's involved with your discovery?"
I don't think it's that they just don't care. No, I think it's that it just sounds like they understand it. Let me do discovery insinuates a bit of a "we got this, don't worry about it" tone. The truth is something that often gets ignored is vital to helping me understand just what our client needs. It's the cornerstone piece of every relationship I'm engaged it. The discovery portion, if not done right, can be the difference between a $2,000 a month client and a $10,000 a month client. Too often I've seen companies lose their asses on clients when the proper discovery session wasn't conducted.
I don't believe my methods for discovery are absolutely correct, but it at least gives me an idea of just how much work needs to be done and what our chances of success are.
Step 1. Your Client's Website.
The first place you want to begin discovery is on your client's website. This is where you want to check for content, how much is there, how well is it written, is there a content strategy, is there an interlinking strategy?
Once you have this established, it's time to look at the technical health of the website. Check for canonical URLs, run a site crawl and look at the structure of the code.
Step 2. Back Links.
This could be a continuation of Step 1, but let's go ahead and separate it out. Depending on what you find while looking at the back links, this could be the difference between a normal client and a needle in the haystack client. If your client has shady back links you could find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get these cleaned up. Before you engage with a client, you need to know that this could be on your horizon.
Step 3. SEMRush Data.
SEMRush is my favorite tool to use for keyword discovery. Unless you're able to get access to your potential client's Webmaster Tools, Analytics, and AdWords it's the best place to go to get an idea of the keywords your client is ranked on.
Step 4. Social Media Knowledge.
Is your potential client participating in social media? How many followers? How often are they posting? Is it getting any engagement? Do the posts make sense for what your client is doing? How often are the posting? What could be done improve? Ask yourself these questions as you look through their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc.
Step 5. Analytics Code.
Is their analytics code set up correctly? Check to make sure, because if it's not you need to fix it and prepare to spend the next year reminding them why your numbers look so much worse than their last agency (because they were lying!!).
Step 6. Rinse and Repeat for Their Competitors.
Now that you have an idea about where your potential client is, do the same thing for their top 3 competitors. Once you have this information, you'll be able to know how quickly you can dominate.