Why are agencies responding to your RFP with a “Discovery Phase”?

Developing a relationship with a new agency is like dating. There is always a period of time – sometimes shorter, sometimes longer – in which both parties are feeling the other out to see if they want to continue the relationship.

In the marketing world, we equate this to a discovery phase. A discovery phase (workshop, planning process, sessions, etc.) is an intense look into everything that makes a brand tick. Ideally, whenever we begin a new client relationship, we take time upfront to do this.

It gives the agency the opportunity to learn everything they can about the client. And in return, the client has the opportunity to feel out the agency to make sure it’s a good fit before getting too deeply involved. It also gives the client time to truly reflect on their brand, business objectives, and needs.

What is the objective of the discovery process?

The objective of a discovery phase is for the agency to learn as much as they possibly can about your business prior to planning and executing specific projects.

Secondly, we come away with a concise understanding of the brand’s strategic position and messaging platform. Depending on the scope of the discovery, this can be in the form of a strategic messaging planner, a full-blown rebrand with thorough brand guidelines, or somewhere in between.

Third, we work together to establish specific objectives and goals for marketing efforts that support overarching business objectives. We determine the key performance indicators for every step of the buyer’s journey. So that we have measurable markers along the way.

Lastly, we conclude the discovery process with detailed recommendations on messaging schedules, timing, media channels, budget allocations, roles, and responsibilities.

What are the benefits of the discovery process?

The benefit of going through a discovery process is that the agency better understands your products/services, your target audience, their motivations behind purchasing, what the buyer’s journey looks like, and the opportunities in the market place. It allows us to provide informed recommendations right out of the gate.

Next, the deliverables that come out of the discovery process are the result of in-depth collaboration between InQuest Marketing and the client team. This makes implementation easier, because all parties have been involved through the process and know their part in obtaining success.

Another benefit of the discovery process is that it provides a common language for all team members involved. Each person clearly knows the objectives, goals, and strategies for the brand moving forward. This consistency allows for more efficient and productive implementation and communication.

What we need for a successful discovery process?

In a word  honesty. The absolute best thing a client can bring to a discovery workshop is an open mind and give honest input.

But beyond that, we recommend bringing a team of key stakeholders from your organization. We recommend having multiple disciplines represented such as marketing, sales, customer service, product specialists, and company leadership. We’ll balance that with a team from InQuest that represents relevant marketing disciplines as well.

Lastly, give your agency time to do this right. You only get one chance to do this upfront. Timing will vary based on the scope of work to come out of the discovery process, but it can take anywhere from four to six weeks, up to 12-14 weeks to complete the process.

Why is there a cost?

We bring this up because it’s a question we often get. While some may view a discovery phase as an expected added value from an agency, there is so much more that goes into that than simply doing some homework to get up to speed.

Tangible resources are always produced. These discovery workshops always end with documentation of the brand strategy and messaging platform. As the client, you walk away with actionable plans and a roadmap of how to obtain your objectives.

Another cost may include primary research. As we get into the process, we may agree that surveys or focus groups are needed. Those take additional time and often come with hard costs depending on the type of research.

Lastly, these workshops take a lot of man hours! But we know that the client is putting a lot of skin in the game upfront with this approach. So we promise that we always go above and beyond in terms of time spent on our end diving into your brand, the challenges you face, and the opportunities for growth.

Jessica Crozier

Author Jessica Crozier

Jessica is the Director of PR and Social Media at InQuest Marketing. Her team is responsible for clients' social media, public relations and content marketing needs. Her favorite memory of her time at InQuest is working on the launch of a new retail brand and watching it grow from initial concept to thriving business. Outside of the office Jessica enjoys playing the cello and hiking with her dog.

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