Last year, around this time, I wrote one of my first posts for the Dinkum Interactive blog entitled “Dissecting the Project Kickoff Call.” It was my take on the important things to accomplish when holding an initial phone call with a new client and is a good example of how our company has evolved throughout the past year. To refresh your memory, the key goals I outlined for a kickoff call were:
- To form personal relationships with the client team members
- To articulate the process that would drive the project
- To set a firm date for the next communication
Looking back at the 15-20 project kickoff calls I’ve led for Dinkum since that post, I feel confident that those three elements are still valid; focusing on them has been an important driver of Dinkum’s success. However, I think my blog post missed the forrest for the trees. While process is hugely important, it’s not the end all, especially in our line of work (marketing). In fact, it’s far from it! Allow me to explain:
Process – What Have You Done for Me Lately?
At the time of my last post on this topic (May 2010), I was diving into the Dinkum business as a new partner, having led a web design and consulting firm (Whiteboard Media) for 8 years. My biggest challenge (and our biggest opportunity) at the time was to re-energize and retool our core processes to be more efficient and effective. We added a formal kickoff call, a clearer intake form, weekly team reviews on each project, and quarterly client brainstorming sessions. As you can see in my post about the kickoff call, I was really focused on process and confident that it would help to drive a successful project.
Since that time, we’ve ironed out most of our process goals and overall our team is performing at an incredibly high level. However, after trying a very rigid setup for a few months, we’ve settled back into a process for starting, nurturing and assessing projects that is far less formal than we anticipated or planned for. While I believe that having a better sense of process has dramatically improved our business, it’s only a small part of the winning formula.
Okay, What Are the Goals Then?
With this perspective in mind, if I were to write out the three goals for a kick off meeting today, they would look more like this:
- To understand the client’s business more fully, and get a sense for what makes them unique in the marketplace.
- To establish a trusting relationship, in which we can take a leadership role.
- To identify each client’s specific needs for communication/process, and to show our ability to adapt to those needs.
While these points are far more “touchy feely” than the three starkly strategic goals I outlined last May, I think they’re also far more critical to the long-term success of a project – and thus should be the focal point of a first team interaction. Even the best process can add up to a failed marketing campaign without the hard-to-nail-down elements of trust, understanding, confidence, leadership, and creativity.
Where the Magic Is Really At
Dinkum is a very results-driven company. A quick look at our case studies from the past few months will show you how much ROI and assessment mean to us. As much as I’d love to say our results are due to a bullet proof process for onboarding clients and leading them through highly disciplined campaigns – it’s simply not true. While we do have a great process and a rigorously executed strategy for each client, what really drives our success is our values. Those values (a commitment to building a strong foundation, about working for long-term goals, about partnering with clients, etc) are dependent on our team. To put it another way, our key to success is:
- The intuition and the informed creativity of our internet marketing team, led by in-house guru Paul Fleming
- The consistently creative designs that Felix Widjaja produces each day
- The laser-sharp words and PR instinct of our content ‘queen’ Jennifer Fleming
- The steady, resilient, and humorous presence of our Project Coordinator Regina Sillitti.
- The passionate and elegantly coded websites, mobile themes, and marketing widgets that Emiliano, Ronggur, Pupung, and Mario craft.
- The coordination and “always available” communication that Rick, Meg, and I help deliver to our clients.
So, yes, it’s about the people and the unique skills that they bring to each project. Seen through this lens, starting a project right means jazzing up the team (and the client) about the potential to create fantastic results and building the trust, respect, and understanding that fuel productive relationships. It’s these elements (in concert with a good process) that will almost certainly guarantee a successful campaign and should be the focus at the beginning of a project.