Discovery metaphor.

The Discovery Phase

How self-awareness and prioritization are pivotal to your success

Posted: Jan 6, 2015

Every new project starts with a vision. It’s your vision. Whether it’s to raise more money to do more of the good work you're doing, or recruit more advocates, or make the case to legislators—sometimes we think all we need is a little communications magic and we’re off to create positive change in the world.

But—where to start? Often, we find clients want to jump straight to the solution: We just need a better [website, brochure, etc.] or we just need a new, big [event, campaign, etc.]. But that will only get you so far. And it may not help you achieve your vision.

Before we dig in, there are many questions to answer and answering these questions takes time. And, let's face it—it's hard work. How do you prioritize audiences? What should you say and when? Who should be talking to whom? What are the best channels for reaching them?

In our world, we call this the Discovery Phase. It's where we trudge through the murkiness together. It's not always a straight and narrow path. Sure, it takes some patience, and we get a little dirty along the way. But the payoff is huge. You come out the other side with an approach that will authentically resonate with your audience and move them to action. 

Here are a few of the key questions we explore with clients during the discovery phase. 

What does success look like? Start at the end.

What does success look like? This goal (or goals) will be your lighthouse. And be clear about how you’ll know when you've achieved it. Our collective success depends on knowing exactly where we are headed together. 

If your goal is raising awareness, push a little harder to define what that awareness will help you accomplish. If your goal is raising more money, understand how much and by when. If your goal is behavior change, define that change against something that you can measure. 

Who do you need at the table to accomplish that goal? Hint: it's not everyone! 

You don't need to—and you probably won’t—matter to everyone. Figure out who really needs to be targeted to help you achieve your goal. Who has the influence you need? Who needs to hear your message or take action? Who might require more effort to engage?

You can’t to talk to everyone at once. That’s why prioritization is key. Engaging audiences in the right sequence can ensure you're using your resources wisely and intentionally building momentum toward your end goal. 

What do you want them to do? C'mon, be a little selfish. 

Pretend you have a magic wand and it has the power to make your audience do anything your heart desires. What would you want them to do? Think only about what will help achieve your goal. What feeling do you want your audiences to have when they interact with you? What do you want them to know about you? And how do you want them to behave differently as a result? 

What do your target audiences want? Turn on the empathy. 

It's easy to get caught up in everything you want and need. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to get what you want is to figure out what your audience wants. You need to align the wants of your target audience with what you want. What kind of experience interests them? What are they trying to do that would lead them to an organization like yours? What would make them want to take the actions you need them to take? 

You probably know a lot about your target audience already. But have you tested your assumptions? It’s always a good idea to do some listening and research to really get inside their heads, understand their world better, and get unbiased insight into their existing perceptions and motivations. Sometimes our assumptions can be a little off, and those insights can fundamentally change your approach.

For us, the Discovery Phase is vital for getting to know you and your world. And it should be as much about your audiences as it is about you and your organization. By understanding both sides, we can see clearly what messages, strategies, and tactics will get you where you want to go. Not surprisingly, spending this time up front can save you precious time and money when it comes to putting those strategies to work. 

Image Credit: Ben Carlisle | Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.