Discovery for consulting and agency client projects

An agency discovery checklist for digital marketing projects

Discovery is a term often used by agencies and consultants to describe the process of knowledge transfer when starting to work with a new client, either before an initial pitch for business or a more detailed ‘onboarding’ at the start of the project when the business is won.
Here I have grouped typical questions I ask and requests for typical insights. Smart Insights members can access our full agency client discovery checklist, which is a spreadsheet created by agency process specialist Mark Kelly who has written many of the resources in our agency toolkit.
The discovery is broken down into three areas.

A. Project purpose, scope and timelines

  • What is the reason behind the project?
  • Who is the sponsor?
  • What are main goals of project? Challenges and opportunities to be addressed?
  • What is success?
  • Timescales – when do recommendations need to be completed?
  • Who will be involved in the final workshop – for training or recommendations?
  • Who will be involved in the discovery

B. Audience and marketplace

  • Summary of target breakdown vs actual breakdown target and demographics. E.G across age/gender/ethnicity/religion/geography
  • Any relevant market research about audience demographics or motivators?
  • Audience – share personas you have?
  • Brand – about the company offering and Go To Market plans. For strategic projects, more detail will be required on this – see the Smart Insights brand and marketplace analysis audit.
  • Competitors – Who do you see as direct/indirect competitors in your main target market we can learn from, need to compete against. If benchmarking is a key part of the project, a more detailed competitor benchmarking grid and other tools are useful.
  • Partner marketing – who are local and national partners you work with.
  • Influencer marketing – Summarize use of influencer marketing, e.g. with publishers/event organizers or individuals, e.g. National and local Media, Journalists, Bloggers or YouTubers

C. Key 5 investment areas

These cover a review of current marketing activities to achieve goals, through from the planning and management process to use of different media, content and website.

1. Planning and governance

  • Marketing resources and team structure
  • Do you have an org chart for marketing and wider teams?
  • Share business / marketing / brand plans and priorities
  • Send annual/quarterly/campaign plans that summarize main organization priorities that digital marketing must align with?
  • Branding summary, tone-of-voice/mission
Google Analytics access – Share access to Google data (Read-only)
  • Aim: to understand channels referring visits to the site – volume, quality, value
  • Aim: to understand your goal set-up
Google Ads – Share access to Google data (Read-only)
  • Aim: Review campaign types across search and display network for targeting against investment response
Google Search Console 
  • Aim: To check you have this insight for a keyword gap analysis

Other insight tools – for example SEMRush or AHRefs for search marketing

  • Covers both operational tools to manage customer interaction
  • Use a tool like Wappalyze Chrome extension, Similar Tech or Built With to review technology
  • Content management system, e.g. WordPress
  • Marketing automation / Cloud platform e.g. HubSpot
  • Separate Email marketing system
  • Search insights tools, e.g. Ahrefs, SEMRush or Moz

2. Media

  • Recent media or campaign plan for offline/offline media? Forecast and actual results
  • Summaries of Google, Social Ad, programmatic campaign performance
  • Target keyword list for search marketing – if relevant – ideally, this should be a structured keyword list with a gap analysis as defined in the Smart Insights gap analysis template this should be structured by:
    • Different consumer behaviours
    • Different products or services
If you don’t have this, provide a shortlist of 3-5 keywords for each product to seed keyword analysis.

3. Digital experience

  • Main domain:
  • Other domains or sub-domains
  • Any other domains active, perhaps created in past?
  • Key site outcomes pages (macro and micro-conversion pages):

4. Content marketing

Provide a content marketing plan, editorial or social plans if you have one?
URLs showing examples of content hub or blog?

5. Messaging

  • Summary of activity of Email and SMS marketing, e.g. list size, importance, challenges
  • Access to email platform if possible to review performance, targeting and creative


Welcome to my personal site where I blog about the latest developments in digital business to help students, professionals or lecturers using my books in their studies or careers.

Visit my main Smart Insights Digital Marketing Strategy site to download planning templates, strategy guides and daily updates on the latest developments.

I also write about assistive technology to help others teaching the visually impaired as part of my volunteering work for charity AbilityNet.

My latest books

Full details on Amazon:

Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice
8th edition

Digital Marketing Excellence
6th edition

About Smart Insights

Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

Free members can download our free templates and benchmark their digital capabilities.