6 Key Components to Starting a Project

While each client is different, any new work requires both the clients and the agency to reach a transparent, mutual understanding about the detailed scope of the project as well as the client’s enterprise-wide goals.

Many firms can make ”pretty pictures,” but the dedicated role of a team of designers is to solve their clients’ problems while still preserving the business’ intended messages. Developing an understanding of these six key components for new projects will provide the context and direction needed to deliver marketing success for any client.

Background Summary

Who are you? What is your business?  What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). What are your differentiators over your competition? Can you provide any research and reports that help us understand your current situation?  Are there past efforts that you have tried that simply don’t work anymore?

Why is this important?

Background information on a client is absolutely crucial, especially if the client is new to the firm. Two businesses in the exact same industry usually have completely different approaches and tactics for handling business. The design firm must understand the client’s approach to solving their own customers’ needs to ensure that the proposed design, tactics, and marketing approach coincide with the business’ goals and message. Now, that’s not to say a firm won’t present an entirely new and unpredictable approach, but this information helps the firm avoid presenting things that will definitely not fly.

Project Overview

What is the project? What are we creating? Why do you need this project? What is your goal for this project? What features of your product or service are the differentiators from the competition? What action steps are you expecting your audience to take? What are your key business challenges/pain points? Are there any emerging ideas and trends within your industry to consider or avoid? Are there past efforts that you have tried that simply don’t work anymore?

Why is this important?

Again, we aren’t here to just create pretty pictures. A clearly defined project scope ensures the quickest pathway to success. Chances are, you’ve contacted a creative agency to develop a solution to a problem that you aren’t able to solve on your own, or that is beyond your core business capabilities. Wouldn’t you rather focus on what you do best as a business and partner with a firm that can offer a solution to your marketing frustrations? A design firm must know what the clients’ needs are so they can develop solutions with measurable results.

Intended Audience

Who are we talking to? What do they think of you? What will make you more appealing to them? Why should they care about this brand/product/service? What inspires, motivates, interests and amuses them? What causes buzz in your clients world? What competes for their attention?

Why is this important?

Knowing who is being marketed to helps a design firm set the tone for marketing endeavors. Key demographics such as age, race, gender, marital status, income, education and occupation should always be considered. Knowing your audience will make the process of reaching them a whole lot easier. For example, sending direct mail to your key client base that does most of its discovery about new products and services via web search can be a huge waste of your marketing dollars.

Top Competitors

Who is the competition? What differentiates them from them you? Where are they doing better than you? What are they saying to the audience that you should be saying? What communication platforms are they using? Are they working?

Why is this important?

Knowing your competitors and the strategies they employ helps set the stage for how your audience is (or isn’t) engaged. Are your competitors offering additional services or products that you should be? Can you afford to take the risk to add those products or services? If you can, they need to be marketed to your ideal client base. A “build it and they will come” model simply doesn’t work. If your competitor has an active following on social media or through their blog, they are obviously engaging a willing audience and providing useful information.

Budget Limitations

Is there a defined budget for this project? If so, has marketing money been set aside as well? If not, should marketing of this project be considered into the budget as well?

Why is this important?

Budgets keep us from designing a Jaguar when all you really could afford, or needed, was a Ford Fiesta. The same project with two different budgets will get handled in two (or more) different ways. Big budgets are always nice, but they aren’t always necessary to create effective results nor are they always available. Some of the best work we have done has come on a shoestring budget. But a firm can’t develop effective results if we don’t know what we have to work with. Coming up with over the top creative that gets met with “there’s no way we will be able to afford that” results in a waste of time and money. A good design firm should be able take a look at your project and your budget and determine if an effective solution can be developed.

An additional consideration with product budget is marketing. Is project budget and marketing budget all-in-one? Or will there be a separate budget for marketing? Building a product or service and hoping people will find it will take much longer than actually targeting marketing efforts to the people who want and need what you are offering.

Key Project Dates

When are you needing initial drafts and final deliverables?

Why is this important?

Your design firm will most likely be juggling multiple projects for different clients at one time. A good design firm will be able to set a schedule of deliverables, or hopefully be able to work within the deadlines you have already established, if they are realistic, in order to avoid last minute fire drills which many times could end up costing you money. If you continually drop last minute requests on your firm, be ready to pay rush fees.

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