Best Practices

How to Run a Discovery Session: Get to Know Your Clients Quickly

11 May, 2017
5 min read
Aaron Gray

5-minute read

As a marketer at a digital agency, you may have already noticed that the services you offer aren’t suitable for everyone who enquires about them. The challenge lies in avoiding wasting time on email conversations and meetings that lead to no buy-in.

Without a structured approach, it takes longer to talk through your client’s requirements and goals, all while you could potentially be the wrong fit for each other. This is where a discovery session comes in to save your time and resources.


What is a discovery session?

The goal of a discovery session is to ask questions and listen to what your potential client has to say. It will tell you what struggles they have and give you an insight into what they want to achieve. By conducting this meeting you can find out:

  • Your potential client’s current challenges
  • What they’ve tried, and what has or hasn’t worked
  • Their overall goals and what they aspire to achieve (and why)

This way, you’ll know if your services and means can improve their marketing, and whether you want to and/or can work with them, before putting a price tag on it.

And if you find that you’re a good fit and get them on board, you can then proceed with creating a content marketing strategy, social media strategy or influencer campaign - depending on the services you provide.


What to include in discovery sessions to get to know your new agency clients quickly

You’ll need to evaluate the state of your prospective client’s marketing activities before heading into the meeting room. Part one, are the essentials, ask them:

  • Which agency services are you interested in?
  • What’s your main marketing challenge?
  • When would you like us to start if we’re the right fit?

Part two is doing the homework and researching your new prospective clients. Look at their company profile, mission statement, website, main services, competitors, social media activity and following. If you specialize in paid advertising, it’s useful to try to trigger their ads online to evaluate the quality of the copy and relevance based on keywords.

Once done and it sounds promising, set a time for the discovery session where you’ll need to determine their target audience, marketing activities, the level of your involvement and their strongest sides as a business.


1. Work out who their main target audience is

One of the first steps in finding out the requirements of any business is by working out who their target audience is. This can be done through audience segmentation - “a process of dividing people into homogeneous subgroups based on defined criterion”. By using this technique, you can narrow down your client’s audience to the ideal client, similar to creating buyer personas.

There are various methods for segmenting audiences, but we’ve found the following most useful. First, we break down the audience into four categories:

  • Socio-Demographic
  • Geographic
  • Psychographic
  • Behavioral patterns

When we’ve prepared the categories, we can then work on the different traits that our client’s customers fall under. These traits are featured in the table below:

Socio-Demographic Geographic Psychographic Behavioral patterns
Marital status
Family size
Opinions and attitudes
Benefits sought
Stages of change
Consistency of behavior
Frequency of behavior
Readiness to change
Duration of behavior
Relevant behaviour

After we’ve determined the relevant traits, we can then work on narrowing down the target customer. Here we use the research we’ve done beforehand, and ask questions about their existing customers, or the ones they wish to target.

By working out your client’s target customer, like we did for a car manufacturer, you’ll have a better baseline as to which marketing channels and solutions will bring the best results. As in the example below, the target persona would appreciate insightful blogs about tuning their own cars and engaging short videos about car racing on social media.

Socio-Demographic Geographic Psychographic Behavioral patterns
20-30 years old
Working in the office
Car enthusiast
Wants to own a $50,000 car
Willing to spend a lot of money on car detailing, upgrades
Collects model cars and anything related to the car brand they like
Confident and outgoing
Loves to watch the car races on the weekend
Enjoys working on their car after work
Reads car magazines and car related media/content
Follows favorite car manufacturers on social media


2. Analyze current and past marketing efforts

Next, you need to find out what kind of marketing activities they’re running currently and what has been done in the past. Consider asking five to seven questions to quickly evaluate the state of their marketing, planning and spend. Let’s base this on the car client we built the target audience for:

  • How many appointments (leads) and sales (conversions) has your company acquired from your marketing channels, e.g. website, blog, social media, PPC?
  • Which channels have deemed to be most successful and not so successful? (Check what they see as success)
  • Tell us about this in more detail, please give an example of your best and worst campaign.
  • How much money is being spent on each channel, and how frequently are the results reviewed?
  • What is the next campaign that you want to work on?

This will give you an overview of what your potential client has done in the past so you can get a sense of what will best work in the future, within the client’s budget.

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3. Determine the level of your involvement and budget

The next thing you need to consider is scope and budget. The budget will determine whether or not you can execute a marketing strategy that meets what’s desired by the client. The level of your involvement is also key to a successful execution. Your client may only want you to work on a particular campaign, or to single-handedly manage all their marketing activities instead. When discussing their budget, don’t forget to:

  • Work out what they’re currently spending on their marketing solutions, including tools and time spent on creating content.
  • How long they plan to run certain marketing campaigns for (past and future).
  • What other types of areas need fixing and the costs involved (e.g. new website design or upcoming mobile app).

Not all strategies need high budgets, that’s why it’s important to know what your client wants to achieve and link it to what has and hasn’t worked in the past.


4. Step back and look at their business as a whole

Last but not least, you need to look at your client’s business as a whole to work out their strengths and weaknesses to develop a strong marketing plan. This is to avoid creating a strategy that is based on the brand’s weaker sides.

Let’s use the car manufacturer client example from before. We could set up a big marketing campaign that promotes the client’s customer service with an aim to increase brand awareness.

Yet, we would later come to realize that their team can’t deal with customer requests and questions fast enough due to work overload, and it would jeopardize our marketing campaign. This wastes money, valuable time and the client’s trust in your digital agency. So ask questions, as simple as these:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What areas of the business are performing strongly (product quality, customer service, website)?
  • What areas of the business are underperforming?
  • Who is your main competition?



After you’ve collected all this information at the discovery session, you should now have a good idea of which key areas need the most focus. Whether it’s a new social media strategy, website design, PPC campaign, or a full marketing overhaul - all this information will help drive you in the direction needed to help your client succeed.

Discovery sessions can be a powerful way to help match both you and your client for a more efficient working relationship. It also helps you gain a better understanding of the client to ensure you have the skillset and services required to help them achieve their goals. So, are you ready to incorporate a discovery session into your social media agency processes?