At Distilled, there’s a saying that ‘communication solves all problems’. And the first project meeting is the best time to get communication flowing.
The following guidelines for kick-off meetings are given from an agency/consultancy perspective, but should be applicable to in-house projects too.
The first thing to realise, as the consultant, is…
The kick-off meeting is not about providing answers, but asking questions
The client may reasonably expect you to know the answers to some of the questions you’re going to ask, but it’s always best to get it from the horse’s mouth and avoid anything falling between the cracks. That said, you should frame it in such a way, so they don’t think you haven’t done your homework (you should have done your homework btw – this is not your get out of jail card for a lack of preparation).
Once you’ve exchanged pleasantries, and framed the purpose of your questions, below are a list of questions you can work through. You might want to add to them (in fact feel free to suggest some more in the comments below).
Questions To Ask Your Client at Your First Meeting
To kick things off, why don’t you tell me a bit about the business, your role and how that fits into the company structure? (Make sure you get a good grasp of their core business offering)
What are the short and long term goals of the company?
What’s different about what you offer to your competitors?
What are the goals of your website?
Who is your website targeted at? What identifies them as your ideal customer?
Are you targeting a particular demographic?
Which country is your website aimed at?
Previous Experience of SEO
What knowledge of SEO exists within the company, and what’s the general feeling towards it?
How many people are involved in SEO in your company?
What have you done previously with regards to SEO?
Have you worked with an external agency before?
What did you find worked well? What was it about that you found so helpful?
What frustrations did you have? What problems did that cause?
How will you know if this project has been successful?
Client Resources to Leverage
What development resource do you have?
What resource do you have for creating content? Do you have access to writers or designers?
What other forms of marketing are you doing? PPC, Email, Display Ads, Affiliates, TV, Print
Are you doing any online or offline PR?
Are you doing any social media?
Would we be able to speak to your PR/Social Media department/agency?
Do you have any idea of the main limitations of your website at present? Is there anything you particularly want us to focus on?
What business relationships / strategic partnerships do you have?
What other sites does the business own?
Do you have anything you could give away?
What data do you have access to?
What content do you have that could be re-purposed? (Both online and offline content)
Tell Them What to Expect
Once you’ve gathered all these questions, you should let them know how you plan to work. What activities will you do in what order. How you will prioritise activities in future months. How you will stay in contact and how often.
Included in this, you should state that you prefer to be in contact at least once a week by phone, even if it’s just for a quick catch up. This is vital to the success of the project, particularly the perceived success of the project. It’s amazing how uncorrelated the effort you put into a project, the results you get, and the relationship with the client can be. You need to keep your eye on all three.
You should also explain what you’ll be reporting on and in what format. You should then ask if they have any questions for you at this stage.
If you haven’t already, ask for access to Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics (or whatever else they might be using). Depending on the way you work, you may want to ask for access to the back end of their site too.
To close the call or meeting, summarise the actions you both need to do. Mention that you will type up and send across your notes. Finish with the first thing you’re going to do and when you’ll be back in contact.
You might also wish to mention that you’re looking forward to working on the project if you haven’t already (!)
Following Up & Next Steps…
As soon as you’re out the meeting, type up your notes and send them across. It’s amazing how much longer it can take to type up notes when you come back to them after a day, rather than doing them straight away.
As well as the first activity you promised to do for the client, you might also want to do a quick ranking report to benchmark where the project started, and get the project logged into whatever systems you use to track clients and projects.
So now it’s your turn. Any questions you like to ask at the beginning of a new project? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below…
Mark Johnstone SEO Consultant