Key questions to open the doors of creativity and create content for websites faster and better
Lucas Sene Oste
Website Briefing – Key questions to open the doors of creativity and create content for websites faster and better © Copyright 2021 Lucas Sene Oste
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To my beloved wife Keiko, my partner in life and business, and above all, the reason why I get up happy and strong to fight each day.
Table of Contents:
Creating content can be a challenge. Be it creative blocks, lack or excess of information, or delay in organizing and making this information in the advertising text used on the site. For this reason and for my own need to serve my clients, I went deeper into the subject. I organized a set of questions to help obtain information and save your time and that of the client you are serving (or only yours if you are making a website for yourself or your business).
But why would this be necessary?
Well, if you ask an intelligent kid what it’s like to make a website, he’ll probably say something like:
“Sounds simple! You need to put in some friendly text, lovely images, flashy buttons, and make half a dozen pages. (and isn’t it true?).”
If someone asked each of us the same thing when we were going to make our first website, we would most likely say the same thing. And we would keep answering until we get to the second or fifth customer site and suddenly realize that that information we forgot to ask the customer was missing or, worse, you struggle to think of that incredibly killer and creative phrase, and the only thing that comes to your mind is flying cats fighting space ninjas, which could turn into a crazy comic book. Although, for your current objective, it means a complete blank, a tremendous creative standoff, a nightmare!
I’ve been there, so maybe you too. So I’m going to share with you the questions, some obvious, some intentionally unusual, that I used to do an initial client briefing, and some thoughts on each of them.
With this book, you’ll have the basis to create your own briefing, choosing between the questions shown here, those that you believe make sense, or at least those that you’re not ashamed to ask because, without a doubt, the unusual questions bring the best answers!
With these questions, you will be able to improve your process with the customer, and you will likely be able to improve your delivery or reduce the time to deliver the same quality work as always.
Come with me for this reading, which I hope will be pleasant and, above all, will help you to assemble your key questions that will open the doors to creativity!
What to expect from this book?
This book is about steps.
Yes, yes, sorry, but it is.
I promise not to number them all, but the first step, in a book about steps, is to talk about their importance.
But if you’re the type who prefers to skip this sort of thing and go straight to what matters, which is the questions, feel free to skip to the “key questions” chapter on page XX. There you will find the questions. I’ll see you there!
Are you still here? Excellent!
Nobody likes to follow orders, and steps are more or less like orders, which no one will follow unless they are first convinced. So in the first few chapters, I’m going to tell you about the problem this book seeks to solve, why the briefing would be the solution I found, and the benefits of using it.
There’s an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, that I like a lot:
“Alice asked: “Cheshire Cat… can you tell me which way I should go?”
“That depends a lot on where you want to go.” – said the cat.
“I don’t know where to go!” – Alice said.
“If you don’t know where to go, any path will do.”. Answer the cat.”
For me, this passage says that no matter which way, you will get somewhere. And when you make a website, you’ll be able to finish it and bring it to a good or bad place. This book aims to be a great way to increase your chances of getting to a good place and help you or your customers bring your unique ideas, products, and services to the world. And understanding the motivations for the questions is like putting on boots that will make you go better along the way.
And after sharing my path here, what destination I seek, and you can also come to pursue, the key questions will indeed come. With these inquiries, you will assemble your briefing or use the same briefing I use.
I hope you enjoy the journey, and the destination is good. Let’s go together?
Hello World. Hello, strange.
About me and why this book came about.
Pleasure, my name is Lucas Sene Oste, and my first “Hello world” (first experience with programming) happened at the end of 2019. In mid-2020, it became a marketing agency in Brazil, where I planned to do all the things I learned over a few years in marketing as a freelancer. Still, I ended up walking only to the path of making websites because that’s where I found myself more productive and with greater chances of earning more in the medium and long term.
And it’s been working. Here’s our website: https://ondatamarketing.com/. I am writing this ebook in October 2021 and am still in the first version made at the end of 2019 because I’m always busy with projects from new clients. So much so that my wife Keiko, who previously worked with other things in the marketing area, also joined me to make websites only.
Since then, we have been serving the clients of our agency and other partner agencies. But the path was not easy, and if the first sites there in the mid-2020s flowed easily, soon the next ones started to present problems in the process. So this book resulted from solving a pain that we had, to improve our methodology and become as productive as we wanted, maintaining or even improving the quality of delivery of our websites.
And given the belief that many other entrepreneurs may be experiencing the same problems right now, I decided to give my first “Hello, stranger!” (by writing a book for people I don’t know).
What problems are we solving?
There are four main problems we are trying to solve:
Creative block: everyone, someday, will come across a blank sheet or canvas that says: – Hey, aren’t you writing anything!? And then you’ll just think: “Not yet. Oh my God! Not yet!”
Even if you are someone super creative, you will encounter an issue that you can get stuck on one day. For example, when the subject is a customer’s company who does not know how to talk much about his own company. You will probably be in trouble.
Lack of information: most of the time, you will be dealing with people not from the communication area. And as much as these people are experts and competent in their respective fields, they cannot always describe what they do or why they stand out from other people or companies in the same niche.
Too much information: while lack of information can be harmful, too much information can turn out to be bad too. For those who have not yet had the experience of having a customer who arrived with an extensive study of more than 100 pages to summarize everything they want, you may find it strange to hear that so much information is not such a good thing.
Still, the truth is that no matter how great are the dozens of pages of content that a hardworking and enthusiastic customer can bring, it will undoubtedly be an arduous task to read, evaluate and decide what will be helpful information or not. And a good briefing can replace or help to light a path in this process.
Lack of time: This problem is the inevitable consequence of all the above issues, and it is undoubtedly the most serious.
The creative block will make you spend time directly by spending time without producing until you get into gear, and worse, it can cause you anxiety and stress that will persist in the other steps of the project.
Lack of information will also slow down a process that may be underway and possibly lead to further revisions.
And the excess of information can become the most costly of time, both to analyze a large volume of data and decide what to use.
But mainly because it usually follows a hefty dose of indecision on the customer, whose blossoming creativity will generate great difficulty in letting go for one or another path.
And how does the briefing help?
The answer is 42—the meaning for life, the universe, and everything else.
Did not understand? Well, in an excerpt from the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, there is an anecdote in which a lot of effort and many years are spent in a great endeavor to arrive at that answer, the number 42, which is the meaning for life, the universe and everything else. And then, they realize that they do not have the question, and when asked about the question, they receive the answer that they will have to make a lot more effort and wait a lot more years in a new venture to build another machine, which would be planet earth, and then they can get the question.
This snippet can be a sarcastic joke for some and a great philosophical motto for others. For me, it’s a little bit of both, and it means that sometimes we care a lot about generating answers, or content, without worrying if we’re asking the right questions. And mainly, without knowing which answers, or content, would answer essential questions and which answers reply questions that don’t even matter.
Sound crazy? Imagine that a customer tells you that in his process, he uses a specific material. He could be just explaining to you how the process is, talking about a material that everyone in his field uses, or he could be telling you about what his significant difference is, the material he managed to adapt in the production of his product, and that no other competitor has been able to do or is even prevented from doing because of a patent held by their client.
So a simple piece of information, such as the material the product is made from, can be something irrelevant or it can be something vital, that the website produced would be failing to sell the product by not talking about or, at the very least, will give you more work to include in the design after having already done a first version in which you couldn’t even imagine including a section about the material.
And this information would probably be given by your client through the content of any briefing produced by him or any meeting they held. Still, it would be given information that could or may not is accompanied by its due importance. That is, it would be an answer without question.
So what we do in building good questions for a briefing is make the process and content less random. Bringing key questions to a structured approach and focused on the information that usually appears on a website.
The excess of information will be summed up if the client agrees to answer your briefing questions, which can end up being difficult to convince as he will likely have spent a lot of effort and time to generate the mountain of content he sent you. Still, the briefing exercise will surely help you know what is essential and perhaps even help the client understand what is most important in the midst of so many things he has to say to his client.
After all, everything can be important, but we will hardly have anyone’s attention for a long time, so it is also an opportunity for your client to exercise assertiveness by answering briefing questions and achieving a site that focuses on crucial information.
And all these time savings will also influence how profitable your service will be. After all, the more hours you spend on it, the less you earn in the end, because you are not working on other projects or, even if you don’t have another client at the same time, you will be at least spending time in which you could be performing actions to get new customers.
In the end, this book has the primary objective of helping you make more money by spending less time producing a website without, however, performing lesser quality service. Instead, looking to help you extract the most helpful information and organize it in a process that will help shape your content and even your way of thinking when building sites.
Benefits of using a briefing
Better delivery: You will have more information and know what matters most by using key briefing questions instead of conversations guided solely by what the client remembers to say in the company presentation. Then help you to make a better delivery of the final product.
Better process: If you want to be productive, it’s usually best to follow a process. I know we won’t be on a car production line where the process is essential for manufacturing to move forward. And that it may even seem strange that a process best guides something that is ultimately creative. But the truth is that structured steps to follow will be better.
There will still be parts of the process where you can and will need to be creative. But starting with a more structured approach in gathering information with the client will give you more material when it comes to being creative. Over time, you will probably remove one or two questions and add others, shaping the briefing to your process and way of work.
Greater credibility: From experience, you will be better seen having a structured process. Both because you will sometimes have the chance to comment on your method at the time of sale, and with that, until you close more deals. Also, for closed customers who start the process with you. It will happen because you will reduce the time for the first delivery and spend less of your customer’s time.
Better understanding and acceptance: Using a process where you start by listening and asking your customer, asking them what they think is essential, what colors they like, shapes, and everything else, you will have a much smaller chance of not being accepted. Of course, the creative professional needs to create with the information they receive, but receiving the information already tailored to the customer’s taste is the best initial step you can take.
And if the first job is not accepted, at the very least, it will help the client to see that what he wants, specific colors, for example, may not be the best way. The client will also understand that the content created was prepared according to the guidelines and importance that he gave you. And even if some things still change along the way, and they always change a little bit, he will know where the information came from and, if necessary, what new information he should give you to correct some path.
Finally, acceptance will also increase. By bringing the client into a guided inquiry process rather than introducing the company at random, get the client into the creative process and ensure that the work is based on accepted content. After all, it will be the customer himself who has supplied such a base.
scheduling with the client
In addition to the time and day that might happen, you need to think about three things: how, for how long, and who will participate.
Live or online?
Of course, many customers will prefer in live, and even some professionals may prefer, but I see several advantages in choosing to schedule this process online:
- You will have to take note. When doing the process online, you will have the guarantee that you will have a keyboard at hand and will be able to write what the customer says while the same speaks to you. Yes, it can be challenging to do on the keyboard, but it will be more complicated with pen and paper.
- You’ll spend less time commuting, and you’ll also be less stressed. In many cases, the time to go and back can end up being longer than the time spent on the briefing itself. Not to mention the stress you can go through, no matter whether you go to the client by bus, bicycle or car, in any of these ways you will have to spend time and subject yourself to the possibility of the bus being late, the traffic not being kind to you on your bicycle or get a traffic jam. Then you have to go calm and smiling to your client and focus on important information that you will then use to be creative.
- There will be fewer interruptions. Your customer will be chatting with you simultaneously but will likely be much less interrupted online. An old customer may arrive live who wants to be seen by the owner or employee who is doing the briefing with you; an employee may appear with a question to ask and many other possibilities that, for some reason, people would interrupt less or simply leave for there if they saw that same person in a call or video call, either on their cell phone or on their computer.
For these reasons, I advise you always to prefer online meetings.
How long does a briefing last?
For an online meeting, 30 to 60 minutes is an excellent time to set aside a good briefing where only one person will respond. A briefing in which more than one person will respond, as in the case of partners, should have set aside a little longer, between 45 and 90 minutes because in cases where more than one person has answers to the questions, the tendency is that they take extra time to decide between one answer or another to some questions. And there will be cases where there will even be more than one partner or collaborator at the meeting, but only one will end up answering most of the questions, making the briefing time flow as if only one person was answering.
For a live meeting, usually, it will take 1-2 hours. It is expected that in the live meeting, you end up taking a mini-tour of the space, the client ends up offering something like coffee or tea, and the atmosphere becomes much more like a conversation than a briefing meeting. So it will be standard for more interruptions to happen, for you to end up needing more time to take notes, which tends to be through paper and pen in this face-to-face meeting. So the whole process ends up taking longer.
Try to ask whoever will approve the site to participate in the process.
Many companies may end up designating an employee who will later not be the person who will approve the work done. And while this employee may even know more about the company and give better answers to the briefing, whenever possible, try to ask the person who will approve the site, which could be another employee or one of the company’s owners, to also participate in the process. And more than participating, try to confirm the answers with this person and confirm whether they also think that the company’s differential is what the other person who doesn’t take the decision willingly answers.
If it’s not possible for the person who will approve the final work to participate in the project, provide the briefing done so that you can forward it to that person, and they have a chance to say if they didn’t like something or if they had something more to add. Having this validation of the information that will be the basis for the site can save a lot of revisions that will later have to be done on the site itself during the production process.
Make it clear what the briefing is for
It serves to ask questions that help create better content, much better than if you were just searching on the internet, and above all to align expectations between what the customer wants and what you will do. Of course, every professional who makes websites has an idea of what would be best for the client, and it is also clear that during the briefing, you will have the opportunity to propose ways and explain the pros and cons. Still, in the end, we will do that what the customer wants.
- Prefer online meetings. (Unless you prefer the live way).
- For online meetings with one person: 30 to 60 minutes.
- For online meetings of two or more: 45 to 90 minutes.
- For live meetings: from 60 to 120 minutes.
- Whenever possible, ask whoever is going to approve the project to participate in the meeting.
If you have a lot of appointments or even if making websites is extra work you do, you can also use a meeting scheduling app to make it easy for your client to schedule the meeting at a time that the two of you can.
If possible, prepare a text to have ready to write or speak when scheduling briefing meetings. You can also base in this one:
“Hello, how are you? I’d like to set up a __ to __ minute meeting to do the briefing that will serve as the basis for making the website. We can hold this meeting by video call or even by phone call. Still, it would be important that those who will approve the site participate in this stage of the process, as this briefing will provide an important direction for our work.”
starting the meeting
Before you even begin, remember these important things:
Have in mind:
- Now it’s time to listen. Always let the customer talk.
- Pay attention, including not asking questions he may have already mentioned in the answers to other questions. If that happens, say something like: – Hey, this question you’ve already commented on this or that, but would you have something else to complement it?
- If necessary, give quick examples.
- If the customer gets too stuck in a question that you think is important, try to answer for him, but ask for confirmation whether the answer would be suitable for his company or not.
- Always remember: the site belongs to the customer. It is always good to suggest technical ways and possibilities to show the site to the customer. Still, the more you can listen and turn what your customer wants into something incredible, the better the result tends to be, and above all, the acceptance.
Just as I have spent some time here in this book explaining the importance of the briefing, you should do it too. But, of course, this will be done only in a short one-minute speech at the beginning of the briefing, in which you need to say the following things:
- Please state here how long the meeting will last and how many questions will be asked. What will help your customer get an idea of how brief each response needs to be.
- There are no correct answers.
- If you don’t have an answer, don’t is a problem.
- Not everyone responds 100% to the briefing, but every response will help us with the site-building process.
Saying these premises is essential to make the client comfortable with having or not having the answers, thus reducing the tension that an interview usually generates. But it also aims to make the process more fluid and focused on the things your customer knows best about their own business.
“Hello, how are you? Today we will do the briefing that will serve as the basis for the website. These are __ questions that will last between __ and __ minutes. Something important to say is that there are no right answers and that not everyone answers 100% of the briefing, but every answer that comes will be useful to give us a direction and content for the creation of the site.”
Now the questions!
If you came here straight from the introduction, where I gave a tip to those more eager to know the questions or to the most desperate who bought the book to use the questions with a client in half an hour. I would like to emphasize that the previous chapters are essential for a better understanding of the importance of the briefing and even better use of it. So, I advise you to come back later and read the book from the beginning. I guarantee that this will make you get better results!
Free gift: read to use template!
You can get a copy of a Google Drive file with the briefing ready to use.
Just go to www.ondatamarketing.com/website-briefing-template, leave your email, confirm your subscription and then immediately receive the link to the template that you can copy to Google Drive and start using it right away!
If you later wish to no longer continue in the list, just click on the footer of the received email in the option to unsubscribe. If you continue, whenever I develop an add-on for this ebook you bought or some new content, I’ll let you know by the email you left!
With this template printed in your hands or on the screen of your favorite device, you can already follow the questions and adapt them to your local context, adding, for example, the most used messaging app locally in your country or adding specific questions from each culture.
Below, you will see the highlighted questions, comments, and sometimes examples of how to use the query.
My goal is to not only give you the questions in a ready-made template like I just did above but also explain each one to you.
Because even if the answer comes from the customer and there are no wrong answers, it is always good for you to know what to expect from each answer and, if necessary, ask again, but guiding the customer’s reply a little to an answer that will have helpful information for the creation of the website.
Preparing the questions
Now that you know what problems we are trying to solve, how the brief helps, and the benefits of using it, let’s get started with the practical part! What are the questions?
The questions are separated into a few blocks:
- Registration questions.
- Products, services, and blogs.
- Purpose and positioning
And they are in that order for two reasons: The first is that in the Contacts question block, you will also cover your customer’s customer journey. And knowing in advance about the products and services your customer offers and the customer they serve will always make this part of the process easier. The second reason is that the most challenging and sometimes creative questions will be in the last block of purpose and positioning, and getting to it with your customer warmed up by the other questions will always yield better results. Suppose he gets tangled up in a question that is important to a specific case. In that case, you will already be more familiarized with the client’s company so that, if necessary, you can suggest an answer and check whether the client agrees or not.
These first questions, as the name implies, are questions to fill out a brief customer record. In some cases, you may already have for other purposes, such as having closed the sale or the information you will be using in the collection. But they also have the purpose of identifying the person responsible in cases where there are two or more people.
Identifying this person is important because they should be responsible for validating your work, so they will be the most important person to be heard. Of course, you should listen to everyone. Still, if more than one person answers the same question or even if the answers to different questions conflict at some point, you should give more importance to the person responsible, who, after all, will be the person who will approve your project.
Of course, you will already know the company’s name, but it is always good to confirm and even let it be spelled out if necessary. Many companies may use more than one name, and you must know which one will be adopted on the site. There may also be special characters that didn’t go to the site’s domain, such as an &. So, it doesn’t hurt to confirm.
Ask who would be responsible for later approving the project, and try to get their direct contact.
the email of the person responsible, which will not necessarily be the email to be displayed on the website.
Responsible phone number (with code)
again, here would be the phone, WhatsApp, Telegram, or any other messenger for you to contact the person in charge directly. And that will not necessarily be the telephone number or other form of contact to be displayed on the site.
Products, services, and blog
Here, we’ll get to know the client’s company through what it offers or will offer. A few questions can also help you scale the project scope if this site has yet to be budgeted or check whether the scope passed to the budget now matches reality.
In these questions, it is essential that you also take advantage of and solve any doubts that arise. Be curious and make sure you understand 100% about the products or services your customer offers.
What are the company’s products or services?
Of course, the products will be many in some cases, and the customer will have to send you a list or be connected to an ERP. But in other cases where there are few products, try to list them all with the customer at this stage. When they are services, also try to hear about each of them that are offered.
In the case of products, how many will they be, and which would be the categories?
Even if the customer is responsible for registering the products, you must know their quantity, especially the categories. That way, you can think better about the layout of the site. If it’s convenient to have banners for four primary categories, or if the store is so general that it pays to have a more general design. And even think about organizing products into categories, grouping categories when convenient.
For example: imagine a computer store that will sell mice, keyboards, and peripherals in general. It is something that, at first glance, makes sense to separate each type of item into a category. Still, if, in practice, it is a store with small stocks and would have three types of mice, three types of keyboards, and only a few peripherals, then the site user would see few items in each category if they are shown split. While if mice, keyboards, and peripherals are all in the peripherals category, the end-user will see a category with a more significant number of products and will not have the impression that they are buying from a store without a great variety of stock, or at least not you will see a 70% white screen because the store only has three products in each category.
In the case of original services or products, is there any part of the process, materials used, brands, or way to do a service different or better than the competitors?
Here we are looking for the differentiators. Anything goes to help your customer and the website you are making, to have information that differentiates the company from its competitors.
Do you need any customer’s specific information to deliver the service or deliver the product?
The information from this answer may be based on possible forms or evidence of the need for customization of fields on the products or even at checkout.
Will there be a blog with articles on the site? If yes, which categories will it have?
Everyone who makes websites knows the importance of having a blog. Here is a time to emphasize it to the customer. Even those who do not see the significance, one day, will see searching the internet.
We usually make the blog template ready for any customer on our sites, and when the customer uses it, we activate the blog page in the menu and the latest posts somewhere on the site.
Does the company have relevant partners to show?
For example, brands that they work it, partner NGOs, partner companies that provide an auxiliary service to your existence, or any other type of relevant partner.
Sometimes brands or partners can be a great source of authority for a particular company. Be it a pizzeria that uses a famous brand of some ingredient, a company that has a partnership with an NGO in its production process, or even a renowned delivery application that delivers the customer’s products. Everything convenient to disclose about partnerships should be included in this answer.
Who are your customers? Are they general customers, niche customers, segmented by-products, or by-services?
This answer is broad and will be different for each case, but in general, you will have to question at least the social classes, if they are niched or not, if there are segmentations between customers for each line or even each product. Another possible classification would also be the gains the customer expects or the customer pain that is resolved.
It is one of the most important questions, as it will give you, which will create the texts on the site, a more accurate idea of who you will be talking to, or at least what most interests the customer with whom you are talking.
Of course, every website will be online and available to anyone who comes to it, but it is just as crucial that your client’s ideal customer knows that that company is for them. It is also essential that the non-ideal customer knows that that company is not for him.
In this way, it will not prevent inattentive people from contacting the company. Still, it will undoubtedly reduce the number of people who will contact the company, spend time from the company that owns the site, and not buy any product or service because it is simply not that class, niche, or segment.
How do you generate revenue?
Sale, by service, by project, monthly maintenance, usage fee, subscription, or another?
Try to know the ways here (which will often also guide the functions and navigation of the site) but also ask if the customer knows, even more, or less, what percentage each service or each category usually generates in sales for him and sometimes it may also be relevant to know which of these services or products it has the highest margin.
Then try to consider with the customer what would be the best focus on the site, what would be highlighted to generate the best financial results for the same (which will not always be the product with the highest margin, which may have an irrelevant demand compared to the lower margin but best-selling product).
What customer problems do you solve?
We usually buy products or services to solve something, whether it’s solving your hunger at a quick lunch on the street or satisfying your appetite at a dinner out. Whether performing a specific task for which we often don’t even know what kind of company would provide, how it would call such service, or what the tools and materials we would have to buy to perform such a task would be.
For these reasons, asking how the company solves the client’s problems is a powerful way to generate good content for the page and even subjects for articles to be written on the site. And usually, the customer will have a good answer and even a few cases to tell how he solved this or that problem, or say that people look for this or that reason that they did not find in a competitor.
What benefits do you generate for your customer?
Problems and benefits are two sides of the same coin. If you do an exercise to get all the answers from the previous question, you will see that it is easy to change the phrase and talk about some benefit generated that is the antonym of the solved problem. But it is another way of asking questions that create a different way of thinking and answering in those who respond. That’s why it’s another big question to create content and generate positive counterpoints for the solved problems. You can even tap into and encourage the customer to talk more about some of the points from the previous question that seem more like benefits than solved problems.
How do you solve these problems?
Asking how the company solves problems will help you have more specifications and details about the use and processes of products and services, in more detail and bringing up questions that the company’s customers would certainly like to know if they talked with the company. It then would have been addressed on the website.
How do you generate these benefits?
Another question that is similar to the previous one, but about benefits. Here, if possible and consistent with the company’s niche, try to get accurate numbers or percentages, as well as social (when the user feels better in the eyes of others when using a product or service) or emotional effects (when the user feels better in your vision). A product can, for example, generate a specific saving value, and beauty treatment can raise self-esteem and make the person feel better about themselves and socially. And all these things are worth saying.
What are your competitors?
The most relevant. Since the most appropriate will usually be regional, it can also be a large company that operates in the same niche. The purpose of this question is to generate a framework for further research. We try to differentiate ourselves, especially in terms of visual identity and complement important information that a competitor has remembered to mention and your customer has forgotten. We can then check if it would not be something important to say on your customer’s website.
What makes you different from them?
This answer will help you differentiate from the competitors you just asked in the previous question. It is essential to know the differences between the good and the bad to focus on the good part of the company that we will make the site. For example, a large company might offer a specific service for the best price, while a smaller company might offer the same service with the best service.
What makes you better than them?
This answer may appear in the previous question, but it is positive to ensure that the customer has said what makes them different and better. And if you have said many things about the differences, may you focus more on what makes you best.
Channels: what ways do you interact or want to start interacting with your customer
You’ll probably already have some of this data coming from your customer interaction, but here’s a chance to confirm whether the contacts are similar or have others specific to sales. This part of the briefing also usually differs depending on the country or region and may have other applications or other ways of service.
Phone (with code):
Forms: no or yes? If yes, what questions?:
Which of the channels do you use in each step?
(if any step does not apply to the company, leave it blank)
You wrote down the service channels in the previous answer, but when these ways of contact and knowledge are used is as important. And knowing this journey can be essential to make life easier for end customers, improve the company’s service, and help them think about how the users will navigate the site and what form of contact will be in each part. Even for some companies, some of these steps may not even exist. In these cases, just leave the fields blank.
For the customer to get to know you:
The way the company’s customer knows it, which can be social networks, can be through search engines, physical, printed material, and other channels. Knowing who they are, what they think, or even what they want it to be can help you think about how to write the text and even how to structure the site, whether there will be a blog to focus on organic content or not.
For the customer to talk to your company
Of course, all forms of contact are subject to a conversation, but not all companies have a team or even a willingness to assist in every way. They usually end up centering on one or two, and the customer who, for example, would be helped on the spot through WhatsApp may end up spending a day waiting for a response on Facebook or Instagram. So it is prudent to ask the customer which channel he prefers to serve and centralize the paths for conversation.
For the customer to buy:
Sometimes it will be the site itself. Sometimes the product or service is only sold or offered in person. Customers will often ask additional questions or quotes through the same channel they chat with the company.
For you to deliver:
Here it will often contain information beyond the contact, such as saying that a product is delivered by truck or motorcycle. But in others, the company may provide a product or service via a specific contact channel (such as an email info product) or even some intellectual work delivered via a zoomed or live presentation. And it’s one more way of getting to know, and showing on the website, part of the product or service delivery process that can help in selling them.
Although it is required by law in many countries, showing the consumer clearly how it would occur in practice can generate the confidence necessary for the consumer to close a deal with the company for which you are making the website. It is usually something simple, such as a contact email or a form, which will make life easier for the company by centralizing this type of demand in some form of contact.
Any other steps not included in the above?:
The previous steps may seem to cover everything possible, but sometimes extra steps may exist and even be relevant. Such as the following contact to re-offer a product or service that runs out, expires or needs maintenance after a specific time, something that can even be automated using, for example, email marketing tools—helping the company for whom the site is being made to generate recurring sales.
Do you have a logo? If yes, what is the inspiration?
Good logos usually have a good story behind them, and asking for that story helps you know how the company positions itself or tries to position itself.
Are there sub-brands? If yes, which ones?
In most cases, it doesn’t, but when it does, try to understand if the sub-brands are also segmented into types of customers and have the inspiration to exist.
What are the brand colors (and sub-brands, if any)?
Also, remember to ask the customer to send the Hexadecimal color code or files with the exact color to get this code and use it on the website.
What colors to avoid at all costs? (like in pictures)
Of course, you will use the customer’s colors on the site. Still, there may be some color that the company doesn’t want to appear even in the details of some image stock photo that it will use on the site, such as a competitor’s color or simply any color that some partner hates.
What is the tone of the brand?
For example: Formal or informal? Friendly? Technician? Funny? Seriously?
You will often have a good idea of how the brand should behave, but I still advise you to ask the question as in some cases, the company may want to adopt a different positioning than usual, and this answer will guide how you will write most of the texts that make up the site.
What form do you think suits your company? Circle, square, triangle…
A simple question to help guide sites design details such as rounder or straighter edges. A point that may seem simple, but that helps to deliver a design that delights the client.
What images come to mind when you think about your website?
It is a simple question but helpful, especially in the case of websites for companies whose industry you are entirely unfamiliar with it.
If you had to choose a single word to represent your company, what would it be?
Outra pergunta simples, mas muito poderosa quando respondida. Aqui virão uma ou às vezes algumas palavras a mais que em pelo menos metade dos casos irão merecer o destaque de estarem na primeira seção do site na composição de alguma frase.
Purpose and positioning
Why do you do what you do or sell what you sell? Motivations? Stories?
This question can bring fascinating answers and especially stories that are worth telling. Of course, everyone ultimately sells products or services to survive and earn money, but they often have an extra purpose or a story of why or how they ended up doing what they do. And when there’s that purpose or story, it’s practically a sin not to tell customers!
What do customers say about the company, products, or services?
Here we can often complement using evaluations such as social network reviews or even the company profile on Google My Business. Still, even so, it is always good to ask the company what customers say to them directly. When the company tells what its customers say directly to them, they often see valuable insights into that company’s key differentiators in its product or service.
And is this what you would like? If no. What would you want them to say?
I would say 8 out of 10 answers to this question will be yes. Either because it is or because the company may have already projected what they would like it to say in the previous question (instead of what they say and which might not be so cool). But in some cases, they may emphasize an important point that customers may ignore, but it would be necessary for the company’s opinion to be exposed on the site.
Say three things your customers need to know about your company, products, or services.
There is an excellent chance these three things have already been said in the answers to the previous questions. Still, with this question, we will be focusing on what is essential for the company’s customer to know in the company’s opinion. This answer generally guides the content that will be featured in the first sections of the site.
What should they feel when browsing the site?
Although it may seem strange, it is an important question whose answer can be feelings like trust, excitement, desire, empathy, and many others. The answer can also come in a sentence like “Feel that you can count on us.” which, in the end, would mean the feeling of trust.
The importance of this question is to help define the tone of the writing. In addition, some questions are asked before the brand’s tone, which you can even counter with the answer to this question if they do not agree in the case of the company’s niche. After all, would informal language match the feeling of confidence or formal language match the feeling of excitement? In most cases, the answer will be no, but in some niche combinations, that would seem odd to fit perfectly. So, use common sense with your client and try to confirm right away in the briefing if the combination appears strange.
What is the ideal customer journey on the site? What information would he have to know before reaching your sales team?
When someone sets up a company, they choose the place where the company will install it, which will filter the public according to the selected neighborhood. Once installed, it can then use various devices to inform the customer: glossy signs, menus, boards on the wall, and other written means, in addition to the people who will be there in the company to answer and answer questions.
On the website, you place the company at an address accessible for anyone anywhere to contact the company, whether or not it is its ideal audience, having read or not the vital information you would need to know to purchase the product or service.
And of course, users will never do 100% what we want, and there will always be some who won’t be the target audience or will go straight to contact without reading anything. But you can make a design that reduces the chance of these customers showing up for the company that owns the site.
And how to do this? You need to use words that make clear for the users if they are the company’s target public. You also need to use the essential information between the first and third sections of the site. Neither our client nor the site’s user wants to waste time with conversations that end in nothing.
Another issue is to choose between distributing contact buttons throughout the site (for cases where the most important thing for the company would be for the customer to get in touch, even without being fully informed) or leaving the contact towards the end of the site ( when out-of-target or uninformed customers are a problem for the company).
What are your features with WOW/Awesome numbers? Years of experience, customer numbers, patents, employee numbers, structure, etc.
Not every company will have numbers that are impressive or even not relevant to the product or service in question, and in these cases, it may be best not to use a section of this type. But in other cases, these numbers may exist and be essential to reinforce some characteristic, such as a company that wants to strengthen its tradition saying that it has been in existence for several years.
Name two brands you admire and why.
The most important thing is the reason. The brand can be from any niche, offering any product or service. But what matters is why the brand that is cited is admired.
Why? Because we are usually better at talking about others (and, in this case, other companies) than about ourselves. And when you hear what the person in charge of the company admires in other brands and companies, you will probably hear something that profoundly reflects the values and goals that are sought for your own company. And you can even confirm after the answer if he believes that the reason he admires the mentioned brands or companies is also reflected or sought after in his company.
Name two brands you DON’T admire and why.
Again, the most important thing is why. Similarly, the niche of the brand or company does not matter. But this time, we will be looking for the values and actions that most bother those responding to the briefing, and that will serve as a great indication of which path not to follow.
Post briefing: using a mind map
A briefing will be a good and accurate summary of the company. Still, using a mind map can be a great way to review, organize, and even be used as a cluttered checklist when setting up the site.
“Although the term “mind map” was first popularized by British popular psychology author and television personality Tony Buzan, the use of diagrams that visually “map” information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem-solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others.”
Source: Wikipedia, October 2021
That is, it is a way for you to structure, on paper or in some online application, information about something you are learning, data from a survey, or summarizing essential information from a briefing made with your client. And this last use is what I’m going to talk to you about today. 🙂
First, the way to use the mind map is to insert a text or image in the middle, which can be the customer’s name, logo, niche, or any other idea that makes sense for use at that time. After this first insertion, you start to draw lines from this highlighted center to another part of the sheet, then insert another word or summary information, which can also have derivations (and maybe in this part, you realize that you should have made the first derivative word less near the end of the sheet).
And after entering all the information, you would have split, but visible leads thought paths or groupings of subjects all on the same page. And if all goes well, you’ll have a single sheet where you can more clearly see the matter that made the mind map and all your information and ideas derived from it. And a big part of the benefit will be having organized the ideas better in your head as you go through the process.
And to help with this process, I use an extra method, which consists of grouping some specific subjects into imaginary squares. To explain it better: I imaginatively divide the mind map sheet into nine squares, where the middle one is the highlighted text or image of the map, and the others are for other matters. Using yet another analogy, it’s like using a hashtag #, where the middle is already filled in with the company name.
And in the remaining eight squares, I usually divide the insights and issues like this:
1 – Graphic references, font names, colors, branding rules. Simple things like drawing a square or a circle (which is one of the briefing questions: “Think about shapes and images…”.
2 – Tone of voice, personality, brand word, feelings you want to arouse.
3 – The products and services. Except, of course, I insert a general description of all categories when there are many.
In tables 4 to 8, it’s always something different for each client. Still, in general terms, I put phrases that the client said in the briefing, the actions that the client expects his end client to do when entering the site, the things that the end customer has to know what makes the company different. The point is that people do not always have the answers to every question and the answers they have are not always suitable for every question. Still, there will always be precious jewels among them that your customer will have said, and that will indeed also serve to delight your customer’s customer.
The first rule: there are no rules. Always try to adapt to what makes the most sense for you.
The second rule: don’t fully respect imaginary squares. For each customer, the amount of content will be different in each subject. There is no problem if a large part of the mind map is filled with some kind of content if that content is relevant.
The third rule: be concerned about making sense, but summarize as much as possible. Remember that the mind map organizes your thinking, so you should always make it easier to visualize it by writing highlighted words, short sentences, or even simple drawings.
And one last tip: I prefer to use paper. There is something magical about putting ideas and notes down on paper with all the imperfections, misalignments, and scrawls that your fine motor skills can produce. But you can also use other online tools and methods to do it directly or clean it up, especially when you need to present later. Among them are slide tools, online design tools, or any other tool that produces and organizes images. There are also many tools, including paid ones, which are specific to mindmaps and will undoubtedly come in handy, especially in cases where mindmaps become relatively large to fit on just one sheet. Still, in this case, you may already be running away from the purpose, that is to summarize.
Once you’ve made the mind map, you will have reviewed and organized the information in your head and on the paper or application. And can also be used to check the vital information already included in the website design, working as a cluttered checklist.
Customize your briefing
I shared with you in this book the questions that worked and work for me during briefings to serve clients, and this briefing changed over time, and every time I realized that I could have asked something and that this question would fit for most customers, I enter a new question or change an existing question.
But in practice, you may find a question strange and feel embarrassed to ask. Or even doing it doesn’t work well for you or your customers. In these cases, the best to do is stop using questions that are not productive for your case.
You will probably also miss having asked something when you start making the site, especially questions linked to other cultures and places different from the author’s country of this book, Brazil.
So whenever a question arises in your head. Think if it would also serve most of your clients and insert it in your briefing!
A thank you and a request.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. I hope this ebook helps you with your customer service process or creating content for your website.
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About our company
We are in Brazil, but if you are from anywhere in the world and purchased this ebook to develop your company’s website content or personal website and need help with the web design part, please go to https://ondatamarketing.com and leave your contact information in the form at the end of the site. We can support the creation of websites in some languages and refer others to help in some other languages.
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