Before tying the knot with a new content client, you need to get a feel for their company, staff and industry. It takes two seconds to Google a company’s products and history, but there are some questions that take a little more digging to answer. Make sure you have a clear picture about the client and company before you take them on with these 12 questions.
1. Why do you do what you do?
Open the lid on the company and learn why the client is passionate. What drives them to grow and do better instead of just liquidating the assets? Motivation and passion will bring out their excitement about their products and make you excited as well.
2. What do you want your company to look like in a year? In five years?
This is more specific than asking about a company’s vision. In fact, the client probably has a description of their vision on their website. This question gives you a window into the client’s goals and dreams. Are the goals realistic? Do they have a five-year plan? The answers to these questions will help you truly see where the company is going, and maybe even the potential to grow with them.
3. How are you currently perceived by your target market compared to how you would like to be perceived?
This is specifically an open-ended question. They could talk about their position in the market share and how they want to grow, their public reputation from scandals, or the dissonance between how they look versus how they want to look. Do they want to be considered an authority figure or do they want to be a family brand? This question will give your team insight into the tone of the content and help keep it on-brand.
4. Who are your main competitors? What is your relationship with them?
The first part of this question gives you somewhere to look when researching the content for their industry. What is the competition doing? Also, who do they consider their main competitors and who is in their peripheral vision?
The second part of this question can give insight into how they treat others in business. As much as your future client wants to crush their competition, it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with them. They might be involved in the community or professional associations together. Get a feel for how cutthroat the market is.
5. What crises have hit in the past?
When getting to know a potential new client, you don’t need to hear the glowing company history they post on their website, you can Google that on your own time. It’s important to learn about what keeps the CEO up at night, what the seedy underbelly of the industry looks like, and what potential landmines are out in the market. For content creators, these landmines are often called trolls.
This question also gives your team an idea about how well the company handles crises. Did they have a plan ready to go and handled problems with grace and a level head? Or did their company combust and almost collapse.
6. What hurdles have you crossed over the past year?
Don’t worry, this isn’t 12 questions to use when interrogating potential clients. Use this question to let them brag about themselves and get a feel for what their victories are. What do they call a success? What challenges have they overcome? You will learn how they measure success and what qualifies as a major or minor win.
7. What keywords and buzzwords best describe your company?
No, we’re not looking for “Successful, profitable, and strong.” We’re looking for the main words that describe what the company does and what industry it’s in. These keywords will be the starting point as your content team starts researching the industry.
What is the difference between asking about keywords and buzzwords? The buzzwords are campaign specific. You can find keywords for a company all over their website, but they may want a specific word or phrase thrown into the content you create. Knowing these words ahead of time can save at least one rewrite.
8. Are there any topics, themes, or words to avoid?
At the bare minimum, this question might save your team a little time if they don’t have to go back to the drawing board because of a taboo theme. This question will also gives you an idea of transparency in both the company and the industry. The company might have strict guidelines for certain phrases and words to position their business practices in a positive light, or it could be an industry-wide practice that your team didn’t previously know about.
9. What is the main purpose of the content we’re creating for you?
The main question isn’t what content they want you to create, but why they want you to create it. Will the content build up their reputation or do damage control? Are they looking for more sales, better SEO or just increased brand awareness? This question will help you figure out how to create the content and which KPIs to emphasize over others. Let the future client tell you how they measure a successful campaign so you can give them the results they want.
10. What is the approval process for content?
How many people will the content have to go through before it can get published or posted? Some companies need signatures from legal departments and VPs of multiple departments before anything can go online. This question is a polite way of learning how many times a piece of content will get sent back to you for changes or how much it will change as each barrier tweaks it.
11. What work do you really like? What work do you dislike?
This question gives you an idea for the tastes of the client. It can be two-part, what content do you like in general and what content do you like that’s specific to the industry. These questions should be followed immediately with a ‘Why.’ You will learn not only about the tastes and preferences of your point person, but also how tuned-in they are to content and their competition.
12. What has your previous experience been with agencies?
The point isn’t to gossip about your competition or backhand other agencies, it’s to get a feel for the client’s previous relationships. Like asking a girlfriend or boyfriend how long their last relationship lasted and why they broke up, learning about a future client’s past will help you see what kind of client they will be in the future.
This question can also have multiple parts. What did they do that you liked? What did they do that you didn’t like? If they were tainted by an agency that never gave updates or checked-in, your company has an opportunity to leave a positive impression by following-up regularly. This can also raise a red flag if they hate certain business practices that are common with your company.
Bonus: Is there anything else you want us to know?
If any stone has been left unturned, it can be uncovered here. This is the opportunity for the client to talk about important issues to them, potential challenges ahead, personal preferences, and really anything they haven’t been able to get off of their chest. The questions above are great to start a discussion when beginning a relationship with a new client, but sometimes you have to come out and ask them directly what you need to know.