Before your firm redesigns its website, tackles a total rebrand, or plans to enter a new market, you must undertake a robust discovery process.

Discovery is the most important aspect of any design project. It’s the foundation that informs every decision along the way. Without a thorough discovery process, a project can go over budget, blow past deadlines, fail to meet expectations or miss the mark entirely.

When a law firm, financial services or professional services firm invests in a communications or branding initiative, they want assurances their investment will pay off. Engaging a creative agency that understands the importance of discovery signals to firm leaders that their time, energy and resources are valuable.

Let’s look at why discovery is essential, issues you might encounter without it and how you can be sure discovery isn’t overlooked at your firm.

Some Parts Seem Silly, But Good Discovery Is Serious About Results

I’ve led enough discovery sessions to know firm leaders and executives can be skeptical about the process. They might not see the point or be sure  of their answers.

They might even grimace at some of the exercises. What kind of car would we be? What does a picture of a handbag have to do with anything? How could only one word describe our firm?

All of those are normal reactions, especially for someone out of their comfort zone. But good discovery anticipates that reticence or reluctance. Good discovery cultivates an environment where everyone has a voice so that as many people as possible within that company are heard.

Done properly, discovery leads to moments where participants say, “Oh, you know what? Maybe we should have told you this.” And then you unearth additional information that your marketing department maybe never even had access to.

Sometimes everyone has a different opinion, and discovery lets them argue it. Get them talking to reach consensus on the most important question: How should this organization be represented?

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Deep Dive to Deliver Best Results

Knowing how your organization should be represented means discovering the most compelling qualities of your firm. What makes you different from your competition? Why should customers come to you?

Answers will vary, but discovery identifies what will resonate most in the market. That could include highlighting your firm’s:

  • Intriguing history
  • Exceptional culture
  • Unique offerings
  • Remarkable results
  • Astonishing growth

You want to work with an agency that can help you differentiate your brand not only creatively but effectively. You want reassurance that the investment in a particular agency will yield a positive result. The discovery process is designed to give you just that.

Successful discovery is a candid and constructive conversation that ensures the planned design work will effectively articulate who you are, where you are heading and how you’ll get there.

Consensus Through Discovery Charts a Clear Path

Far too often people assume that design alone can address issues and solve problems. They’ll say, “Why can’t you just design something?”

But you can’t start in a vacuum. You can try, but designing from scratch without proper discovery has never helped any firm achieve a communication goal.

If you don’t start a project with discovery, you can expect to encounter somebody who:

  • Comes into the project at a later date and feels that it’s going in the wrong direction because they were not heard.
  • Has information that was not shared early on in the project and now that information suddenly changes the entire direction.
  • Has a big beef with something (or someone) and they want it done a certain way,
  • Just can’t seem to make a decision.

Discovery makes sure those key people will be heard and not derail project timelines and mandates.

Check Your Ego at the Door, Be Inclusive and Trust the Process

Most organizations don’t have a lot of self knowledge. There, I’ve said it. I had to break the news to you. But that’s where the discovery process comes in. It helps everyone on the firm’s side leave their individual objectives behind and come together under one objective.

Whether it’s a law firm, financial services or accounting firm, there are bound to be a number of different fiefdoms.

Discovery is valuable not just for our understanding, but because it also helps everyone recognize the politics there may be around a project.

You need to be sure you’re including the people who might be the most problematic.

You want them to have their say at the very beginning, and a lot of times they have a good point. Not including them can disrupt the process down the road. It’s not out of sheer spite. It’s usually because they really do have something to say—and they care deeply.

Discovery is far more than the sum of its parts. Steps that might appear unnecessary can lead to important insight. Each one builds upon the next until we reach a consensus.

Discovery at the Beginning Pays Big Dividends at the End

Clarity of purpose for the professional services firm and the agency are essential. Discovery processes and exercises that get people to think, argue and reveal their thoughts are critical and enable agencies to deliver great solutions.

Good design does not come out of thin air. Effective design is rooted in reality—in really looking at the space that a professional services firm occupies.

I always say we’re not going to surprise you because every single step along the way is based on something that we’ve already done. If we have properly done discovery, when we reach the conclusion you will realize the decision has come from you and your team.

So when we show you a design, it’s going to be logical. It will make sense. It won’t be something out of the blue. It’s going to be, “Yes! Of course! That’s it.”

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