Chapter 1: How to Conduct the Discovery Phase

Posted in Digital Marketing by Frank Cowell

Welcome to Chapter 1 of The Definitive Guide to Developing a Digital Marketing Plan. In this chapter, you'll learn how to conduct the research, exploration, and ideation needed to set the stage for the rest of your Digital Marketing Plan. In essence, you'll be saying "Here's where we are, and here's where we want to go." with absolute clarity. Additionally, this phase should help you create alignment and excitement among your team.

The first step in the Discovery process is to setup a workshop-style session with your team. At minimum, this meeting should include:

  • CEO/President
  • Head of Marketing
  • Head of Sales
  • Key Marketing Staff
  • Key Sales Staff
  • Head of Customer Service
  • Key Customer Service Staff

Be sure to get your team excited about this process. Let them know that you are setting the stage to take your marketing to the next level and that their participation is critical in achieving that goal. Ask them to come prepared to discuss their goals and objectives related to marketing and sales.

Now, I'll warn you in advance: this workshop-style session will be a long day where you'll be asking lots of questions. Make sure to set expectations, bring snacks and refreshments, and plan for several breaks. Above all, make sure you have full attention from everyone — ask that all devices are put away and "silenced" as there won't be a need for them, with one exception: your "scribe." You'll need to have one person your team designated as the scribe — this person will need to take meticulous notes.

Workshop Agenda

As mentioned above, you'll ask lots of questions during the workshop. Combined with a few activities, these questions are designed to get the team engaged and aligned so that you have good information from which to work. Your goal is to come back to your team and present a plan that concisely sums-up what, largely, came out of the workshop.

One additional note before we dig-in: many of the questions and activities help to define the other sections of the Digital Marketing Plan, not just the Discovery section. For obvious reasons, we want to gather all of the feedback we'll need during one workshop. Additionally, feel free to eliminate items that are already well-defined within your organization.


  • Welcome (Welcome the group, remind them why they're here, thank them for their participation)
  • Review Agenda (Set expectations for how the day is going to go, breaks, etc.)
  • Ground Rules (No devices, staying on track, etc.)
  • Communication Starter (Break the ice with a "communication starter" such as having everyone complete a sentence like "When I was a kid, I wanted to be a...")


  • Why? (Ask "Why are we here?", "Why now?", "Why not continue doing what we’re doing - can we simply do more of what we’re doing or does something need to change?", "What happens if we don’t do make this change?")
  • Past, Present, and Future (Explore where you've been, where you're at now, and where you want to go ["where you want to go" is a big picture goal])
  • What's Stopping Us? (Explore what's currently stopping you from getting to where you want to go, what you're missing, the roadblocks, etc.)
  • Commitment (Confirm that all are committed and on the same page and agree to take action)


  • Reputation (Talk about what you're known for, how you're perceived in the marketplace)
  • Brand (Discuss the brand — how would you describe the personality and tone?)
  • SWOT (Conduct a SWOT analysis)
  • Competition (Discuss the top three direct and indirect competitors — strengths, weaknesses, the "fear factor")


For each of your core offerings...

  • Description (Ask everyone to describe the offering in one sentence)
  • Customers (Identify the key target market segments and buyer personas, define all of the questions buyer personas ask before [both online and directly of you], during, and after the sale)
  • Benefits (Discuss the benefits in terms of value to customers)
  • Pricing (Confirm the pricing model)
  • Positioning (Discuss how the product is positioned vis-a-vis competition)
  • KPIs (Discuss Average LTV [lifetime value] and Max COCA [maximum acceptable cost of customer acquisition])

Marketing & Sales

  • Marketing Overview (Discuss the marketing team, activities that are taking place now, activities tried in the past, what worked, what didn’t)
  • Website (Discuss the nature of your current website, what's working, what’s not, key results metrics [visitors, leads and customers])
  • Content (Discuss the "mission" of your content [ask "why does it exist?"], the topics and sub-topics for which you want to be known, content currently being produced, where it comes from, assets that can be leveraged, resources available to produce content)
  • Sales Overview (Discuss the sales team, sales activities, sales process, sales funnel conversion metrics such as lead-to-opportunity, and opportunity-to-customer)
  • MQLs (Ask "What are the very high level identifiers that would indicate a lead would be worth looking at?"; Remind the group that MQLs are "qualified at a distance," meaning that they aren't necessarily budget or need qualified, rather they fit the mold of a person or company that could be compatible with your company's offerings)
  • Systems (Discuss the sales and marketing systems you currently use, what’s working, what’s not)
  • SLA (Stands for "Service Level Agrement"; Discuss the need for marketing and sales to work together closely and hit their "numbers" — for marketing, it's "MQLs" [the number of marketing qualified leads generate each month] and for sales it's "MQL Turnaround" [how quickly sales processes new MQLs])


  • Customers (Above and beyond the current performance, how many additional customers does marketing and sales need to generate in the next 12 months? How does this break-down by offerings and target market segments? WORD OF CAUTION: Be realistic here. Your CEO is likely to identify a number that is not realistic at first. Don't be afraid to challenge him/her on this. Do the simple math — what are the realistic growth goals and figure out how many more customers it takes to get there.)
  • Other (What other objectives are important to the team? Make sure any objective defined is SMART — Specific, Measurable, Agreed-to, Realistic, and Time-bound.)


One the workshop completes, follow these tips and recommendations:

Aggregate, digitize, and clean-up your notes. You will work from these notes as you move to the next steps in the Digital Marketing Plan process, so the cleaner and more organized, the better.

Follow-up on all items that you weren't able to define in the meeting. For example, if nobody in the room knew the KPIs for your offerings, work with your team to define and document those.

Block-out time to develop the Discovery portion of your Digital Marketing Plan. You'll want to quickly enter all of the data and information so that you have rough draft. A rough draft will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed — you'll have a picture of the overarching story you're telling sooner than later, which will help feel like you're making progress.

Move-on to the next sections in the plan before you finalize the Discovery section. By letting each section "sit" for a time, you give your brain time to go to work in the background. It's during these times where you'll have those creative "a-ha!" moments and find a way to better articulate your points.

Your value as a marketer is in knowing how to transform complex information into easily understood stories and concepts. For that reason, your Discovery section should not be a word-for-word regurgitation of the Discovery Workshop. Your team is looking to you to help them understand that there's a clear, logical path to the organization's marketing and sales goals. Additionally, I recommend producing your Digital Marketing Plan in "deck" or "presentation" format using a tool like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote, as opposed to making it a "read" using Microsoft Word.

About Frank Cowell

Frank Cowell is President at Elevator, a digital brand strategy agency based in the San Diego, California area. He works regularly with CEOs, CMOs, and VPs of Marketing who are looking to create amazing brand experiences while driving inbound leads. A self-taught programmer with a deep understanding of technology, Frank enjoys a unique blend of brand development and marketing savvy that enables him to offer fresh perspectives on often-complex marketing concepts that he distills into actionable, easy-to-understand language. An energetic and entertaining speaker, Frank presents regularly to regional and national organizations on topics related to branding and digital marketing.
Connect with me on:
The Inbound Marketing Content Strategy Workbook

Don't Miss Out,
Get Inside Now.

Join the Inside the Elevator community and get exclusive access to next level content, online training events, our private community, and more!

Ready to double your leads in the next 90 days?

Learn More