Grow Your Business by Asking the Right Questions

Business / Resources

Grow Your Business by Asking the Right Questions

By Jackie Goldstein

Last year I had a call from someone who was referred to me by a past client (a typical scenario for me.) She said that she wanted to meet with me because she needed a new logo.

So after we set up the meeting I went online and checked out her website. It was a hot mess: everything about it was wrong. From the confusing layout, the disorganized content, the graphic elements, and the copy. Yep, basically everything.

So, how would you handle the initial meeting? Think about it. Really.

Time’s up. I did what I always do. Whenever I am in an initial introductory meeting I use the same discovery process, and ask the same basic, but provocative questions. Which, maybe surprisingly, have nothing to do with design. I never ask “What colors do you like? What fonts appeal to you?, etc. I ask questions that expand their understanding of their brand and the value of the project. I ask questions that have to do with their business strategy, their biggest business challenges, their goals, what a successful project means to them and their company, etc. I really get them thinking, not about the logo, but assessing their real needs and appreciating what they would really like to accomplish. By doing this, I also get them seeing me as a “business partner” – an unexpected, valuable resource.

I don’t ask design questions because, to me, that trivializes what I do. It makes color selection, font selection, any design decision appear to be made on a whim, or simply because of taste. It undermines the thought that goes into those decisions which are carefully made once I really understand the company. It certainly is not where I want to start a discussion. I’ve actually had clients who have shown me reports from design firms who make clients fill out forms stating what type faces they like and don’t like, what colors they like and don’t like as a prerequisite to an initial meeting. That’s insane! First, they’re asking the client to do their job, second, they’re suggesting that these decisions are based on “likes” and not on firm business and brand strategies, and third, it limits the conversation to the most basic elements of the job and doesn’t allow the client to expose any significant information that will help you (and them) understand their business and brand better.

In the middle of this particular Q&A session the prospect said, “Have you seen my website?”. I replied that I had. “And what did you think of it?” Instead of giving my opinion, I suggested that we look at it together on line. We opened up the site and I said to her, “So, based on the way you’ve answered my questions just now, how do YOU think your website communicates your company’s brand?”. She had to admit that the company’s website was not successful at communicating her brand: the design would not appeal to her target market, the story was confusing and it lacked any personality of the brand, the critical information was buried. She admitted that they were very successful in getting people to visit her site (they had good search engine results) but once people were there they left immediately. No wonder. There was a huge disconnect between what her company was all about and what you saw when her site came up on the screen.

I couldn’t have told her that. It was much more dramatic and powerful to hear her say it herself based on the brief conversation we had just had. Within a very short time she had learned something about design and good visual communication. Not because I told her, but because I focused on her business which translated to, and revealed the significance of, thoughtful, strategic creative. I loved that she had realized on her own the potential impact it could have on her brand, her business and her bottom line.

When we returned to the conference table, she said, “Well, I can see that this is much more than a new logo project.”

10 Things to think about for that first meeting….

1. Do your homework – research the company before the meeting (website, ads, stock prices, try the product, etc.)
2. Talk to the economic buyer
3. Have a strategy for how you want the meeting to go (what questions to ask, etc.)
4. Feel confident in your skills and knowledge
5. Have examples prepared of how you have garnered results for other clients
6. Ask questions about client’s business, brand, market (More about this in my webinar)
7. Make client think about RESULTS, not tasks, not design issues.
8. Concentrate on what a successful project could mean to them and their business
9. Treat them as a partner (so they’ll think of you that way too)
10. Let them draw their own conclusions (but be prepared to draw them if they don’t)

About the author

With over 30 years as a director of creative strategy, Jackie Goldstein brings her signature explosive energy and a wealth of experience in marketing, advertising, branding and corporate communications.Jackie was Art Director of Turner Broadcasting where she was responsible for print advertising and promotion of all Turner properties: networks (CNN, TBS, etc), teams and other holdings. In 1990, Jackie co-founded Galileo, a premier interactive marketing and advertising agency, where she developed a digital and online presence for such clients as Apple Computers, IBM, MCI, and Holiday Inn WorldWide.

Since selling Galileo in 1998, she has been a creative alchemist, assisting Fortune 50 to start up companies, from initial assessments to developing brands from the inside out.

One Comment

  1. Excellent article!