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Think about your most recent first day of work. You probably spent time the night before laying out your clothes, asking a friend or two for advice, and thinking of ways you could excel in this new position. Then you showed up the next day as prepared as you could be and ready to make a good first impression on your bosses and colleagues that would essentially be the foundation for your time in this position.
This is exactly the mindset you should take when you are going into a project kickoff meeting with a brand new client. This client has agreed to a partnership of some sort with your agency, and now it is time for you to make sure that their decision was well made. Let’s discuss the essentials of running a successful project kickoff meeting, from preparation to expectation setting to follow-up.
What Is a Project Kickoff Meeting?
A project kickoff meeting is the first real interaction the project manager and respective team will have with a client after the sales process has wrapped up. This meeting is a time to discuss with the client in more detail what their priorities, goals, and objectives are for the project. I like to set this meeting up as a somewhat structured dialogue between the client and our team to make sure we set expectations for timelines and execution and just take some time to get to know the client on both a professional and personal level.
In order to have these important conversations with any client, you must first make sure that you and your team are prepared. Below we will discuss the steps to take in preparing for a project kickoff meeting.
1. Preparing for a Project Kickoff Meeting
Conduct an Internal Project Kickoff Meeting
The first (and maybe the most important) step in preparing for a project kickoff meeting is setting up internal meetings to gather as much information as you can about the client before the actual project kickoff call. At Go Fish Digital, the project manager will set up a few different internal meetings to start, depending on what the client’s scope of work is.
The first internal meeting is always between the project manager and whoever walked through the sales process with the client. This meeting ensures that the project manager is up to speed on any background information that the sales team member might have collected, as well as any goals or objectives that the client has already shared. It is also a time to begin discussing which team members would be best fit to work on the client’s project.
The next meeting we set up is what we call a discovery meeting. During this meeting, the decided strategist and analysts from each vertical within the client’s scope of work will come together to compile a bit of research. For example, if the client has SEO as part of their project scope, we may look into things like visibility, backlinks, and site speed. We may also conduct a short site crawl to make sure there are no red flags. This time helps the team begin to understand the client’s site andcall out anything we might want to bring up with a client during the project kickoff call.
The final internal meeting will be set up the day before the project kickoff call with all team members from each vertical within the client’s specific scope of work. This meeting is set to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with their talking points laid out in the project kickoff presentation and agenda (which we will discuss below) and that no one has any lingering questions or concerns.
Create a Project Kickoff Meeting Presentation and Agenda
Creating the project kickoff meeting presentation and agenda is something that the project manager will work on the week leading up to the call. The agenda helps the internal teams feel prepared and know exactly what points they are going to be talking to, and the presentation deck helps the client follow along and visualize some of the expectations we will be set throughout the meeting.
It is important to make sure that your agency has templates for both the agenda and the presentation deck so that there is consistency and efficiency in the execution of these meetings.
2. Executing the Project Kickoff Meeting
Introduce the Team
The first part of any project kickoff meeting should be introducing the team. Not everyone on the team will be client-facing, so it is helpful to put faces to names that the client may be interacting with through a project management tool or digital communication channel throughout the project. I always encourage our team to join these meetings with their cameras on, even if the client has their camera off, to help the client get to know our team a bit more.
Ask Background Questions
The next step in a successful project kickoff meeting is to give the client a chance to introduce themselves and their team. This is also a good time to ask any questions you may have based on what you learned from the sales handoff or from research done prior to the meeting.
In my opinion, this is the most important part of the kickoff call. This will set the groundwork for the client relationship for months or years to come. Prior to the kickoff call, you should spend time going through the client’s website, combing through your notes from the sales handoff call, and doing any additional research on the client to compile a list of questions to ask the client during the call. I also make it a point to ask the client to send over access to all of their Google properties that will be helpful within their scope. I have included a list below of a few questions that I tend to ask during a project kickoff call.
- What goals do you have for our work together on this project?
- What are your priority keywords?
- Who are your primary competitors?
- Who is your primary audience?
- What are your primary products/services?
- Can you tell us about your brand?
- Have you had any issues or problems with digital marketing presence in the past that we should know about?
- Which CMS do you use? Can you give our team access to your CMS?
- What is the best way to communicate with your team? (We use a project management tool called ClickUp to communicate with our clients, but I always make sure that this works and/or if they would like to also communicate via another channel like email or Slack.)
You also want to make sure to leave time to let the client ask any questions they may have prepared or that may come up while presenting the project kickoff presentation. Some of the questions they ask might need further research or be answered down the line, but it is always beneficial to help the client feel heard on this initial call.
Set Expectations and Next Steps
Once you have gotten sufficient client background to start creating a strategy, have each vertical strategist within the client’s scope of work paint a clear picture of what the client should expect in the weeks to come. We think it is very helpful to use visual timelines. For example, with digital PR campaigns, the first few weeks are for researching, gathering data, and creating assets. Then we are able to start pitching this campaign to journalists to hopefully receive backlinks. This is something that is important to let a client know during the project kickoff meeting so that they know when to expect updates and results.
3. Follow-Up and Next Steps
Once a project kickoff meeting is over, the real work begins. You have already done a great job preparing, researching, and setting expectations. But, what is most important now is making sure you follow through on what was talked about during this call. Be diligent about going back through the notes you took in your project kickoff meeting agenda and following up with the client on anything they inquired about. Also, talk with the client about the cadence of their follow-up status calls and which tasks you will be working on moving forward so they have a clear roadmap for the upcoming weeks.
Project kickoff meetings are crucial in laying a great foundation for a long-lasting client relationship. Don’t expect every meeting to go perfectly, but if you follow the steps guidelines above, you will be able to take the first step in supporting your team in running an efficient and effective project kickoff meeting.
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