Working with a new client? Here are the five crucial questions you need to ask

Starting a project with a new client can be such an exciting time. You have this shiny, new clean slate where anything is possible—and you might be eager to hit the ground running. But without having the right expectations in place from the beginning, you could run yourself right into a brick wall.

Here are some key questions you should ask to start your project off on the right foot.

What are the objectives and goals of this campaign?

Does the client want to generate some new leads? Or maybe they want to assert themselves as a thought leader in a new industry? In order to get to the finish line, you have to know where it is. Also, make sure and get specifics about goals. If the project is meant to gain leads, how many? For thought leadership, how many people are they hoping this gets in front of and in which industries? No matter what the objectives and goals are, you also might want to ask for some insights into who the audience is to help you better position the project to achieve the intended outcome.

What is the single compelling idea that you want to communicate?

Not only can this question help you understand what you need to deliver, it can also help the client focus in on what it is that THEY want you to deliver. They might wish their offering could be everything to everybody, but that probably isn’t a realistic expectation from a single project. And while they might have given a lot of thought to the big picture, having them boil it down into the one compelling idea can help you to really ensure that idea is what stands out. Let’s take something that many people have: a refrigerator. You could say that it makes the best crushed ice, it has a large capacity, it is energy efficient or it is set up for better organization, among other things. But let’s say your audience for this project is a very cost-conscious one. Then you might want to focus in on the energy efficiency as being most compelling for them.

How is this idea supported by the offering?

Just as important as knowing that single compelling idea, is knowing how your client’s offering supports that one idea. This information can help you ensure that you’re getting the right messaging across, so that it aligns with the client’s offering and possibly some other existing messaging. In the refrigerator example above, facts that would support that your product is energy efficient would be an ENERGY STAR rating or that the refrigerator uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb.

What is the tone of the campaign?

Your client has likely worked hard to establish a tone for all of their messaging. The tone of your project should match that, or you might isolate the audience that has gotten used to being communicated to in a certain way by the brand.

Do you have any pre-existing ideas for inspiration you would like to share?

This is a great one for getting a conversation flowing. Ask your client what they like about the ideas, and if there is anything that they think falls flat. You might even be able to get a little brainstorming in on how that concept can be applied to what the client is trying to achieve with your project.

And now for some bonus questions …

If the conversation is going well, and you’d like to get a little more detail on project expectations, here are a few more questions that can lead to some great discussions:

  • Have you done anything similar to this in the past that has or hasn’t worked? This can help keep you from treading down a path that has already been tried and didn’t work, or it can lead to some inspiration from something that did work. Ask them their thoughts on why those particular concepts might have succeeded or failed, and keep those thoughts in mind as you embark on your project.
  • When would be a good checkpoint in the project to make sure I am on the right track? Most projects are iterative in nature, and it’s never a good idea to keep working blindly until the project’s due date without getting interim feedback. Those checkpoints can also help reassure the client that you’re working on their project continually throughout the allotted timeframe.
  • Is there anything else you think I should know to deliver on this? This stems from an old journalist’s trick. “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” leads to the best bit of information you’ll get from an interview probably nine times out of 10. The answers to this question tied to a project might just surprise you, especially when you think you’ve already hashed out all of the details. Sure, the client can let you know things later on down the line, but asking them this question makes them stop to think about what else you might need to know BEFORE you start.

As you start your project with your new client, remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint. And by communicating early and often instead of just heading quickly (and blindly) toward the finish line, you’re more likely to have a project that you will both be proud of.

To help you ask some of the questions outlined in this blog, download a copy of our sample creative brief form, which you can fill out with the client. Note: There are a few other handy tools in this Hightail Space that you can use too: a customer journey template, a marketing brief and a design studio template.

Hightail is a purpose-built solution that can help you share large files and collaborate on creative content. For more about how Hightail helps you go from concept to completion, please sign up for our 14-day Business trial.


About the author

Linda Zid is a product marketing manager at OpenText Hightail, who enjoys writing about creative collaborations and the solutions that make them great (and she has been both a freelancer and someone who hires freelancers).

OpenText Hightail is the essential collaboration software for freelancers sharing creative content for review and approval. With one place to share large multimedia files, collect precise feedback and approve content, Hightail streamlines the creative review process and helps keep projects on schedule. From now through July 31st, 2020, save 30% on a Hightail Teams plan, which allows you to share files up to 50GB with unlimited storage and access Hightail’s creative collaboration features including precise comments, version control, side-by-side version compare and real-time discussions.

You’ll also have access to custom branding and Hightail’s unique Uplink feature, which allows you to collect files from guests, without asking them to sign up.

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OpenText Hightail

OpenText Hightail

OpenText Hightail is the essential collaboration software for freelancers sharing creative content for review and approval. With one place to share large multimedia files, collect precise feedback and approve content, Hightail streamlines the creative review process and helps keep projects on schedule.