Once a contract is signed and it’s time to get down to business with a new client, I ask a whole bunch of questions.  We have a meeting that I call “The Biggie.”  Sometimes it goes quickly. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours. We explore, we discover, we review, we plan.

We make it pleasant. There are snacks and beverages, good music and fresh air. Some clients come in with a tidy binder with a business plan. Some come in with sketches. All come in with dreams.

We discuss past, present and future activities. We review goals, methods, competition, past successes and failures. We explore all kinds of things. Asking a lot of questions helps me form a mental picture of the brand. It also helps me identify the strengths and challenges of the business and its key players.

One thing I always inventory is personal assets. No, I don’t mean finances. I mean special talents, knowledge and experience.

If I went six months without knowing my client is an exceptional public speaker, I’d be missing opportunities.  If my client spent 20 years in another industry, there could be a tie-in. If my client has won an award, yodels or races stock cars, I’d like to know.

Likewise, I’d like to know about any liabilities that exist right up front. If a client had difficulties in a past business, I’d like those difficulties identified. If there was a public relations crisis due to product liability, customer service or employee issues, I need to know.

My job isn’t just about making ads and brochures. It takes much more than writing copy and making things pretty to get results.  My job is to understand my client’s business, understand my client’s market, and identify assets and opportunities. Then we get to do the fun, pretty, exciting creative stuff. And we rock it pretty hard.

Strong marketing requires strong strategy built on information, experience and inspiration.