10 Unexpected Questions We Ask New Clients

As branding professionals—and to do our job to the best of our abilities—we must get to know our clients inside and out. To do this—and much like speed dating—things get personal and fast. Over the years, we have culled our Spanish Inquisition down to the most essential and insightful questions that give us what we need and get the proverbial wheels turning in our (and our clients’) minds. 

While every question we ask serves a purpose, there are a few that almost always lead to a deeper discussion. Asking the right questions reveals the intangibles needed to achieve a more meaningful brand and moves a company forward with authenticity, intentionality, and clarity.

In no particular order, the following are 10 unexpected questions we ask every client during the discovery phase of our branding process:

1. As a company, what are you NOT? 

It’s easy for business leaders to rattle off who and what they ARE as a company. However, it’s just as important to know who you are NOT. And once you know who you are not, it’s more than ok to tell others. It provides clarity, shows confidence, and, in a way, gives you permission to be who you always intended to be as a company. For example, Todem is a branding company; we are not an advertising agency or traditional marketing firm. Todem creates meaningful brands; we are not a logo factory.

2. When someone walks into your “office,” how do you want them to feel?

And by “office,” we mean any place (or space) others, including your employees, will interact with your brand. Asking clients to imagine their ideal office experience (whether they have one or not) gives clues into how we should approach their brand’s look, feel, energy, message, and presence. Then, consistent brand application across all key points of impression builds brand authenticity—a critical component to brand success.

3. What are the biggest challenges you face as a company? What keeps you up at night?

This question would not be so unexpected if you were putting together a business plan. “Branding” professionals are often so preoccupied with the look of a brand that they forget to consider how a brand might also solve problems, overcome obstacles, and curtail challenges.

The difference comes from seeing branding as a smart business practice rather than a marketing tactic. Branding should consider every goal and challenge a company faces, and not solely those focused on marketing and sales.

4. What is your current end game? 

To sell? To grow a business you can pass on to your kids? To have a company you can work at forever doing what you love? When it’s all said and done, how do you want things to end? Aside from your financial planner or business coach, you probably aren’t often asked this question—certainly not in the branding space. However, to reach your desired end, you must first know where you are going. Then, we can build a brand that helps get you there. A brand that can scale and grow, flex and expand. A brand that helps you reach your goals now and well into the future.

Side Note – This question often uncovers misaligned visions for the future among leadership. Our process provides a safe place and outside perspective to work through these things openly and constructively. Everyone must be aligned with the final destination. Even if the plan evolves along the way, the branding process is the perfect opportunity to get everyone on the same page and rowing in the same direction. 

5. Are you proud of your company? If so, what makes you proud? If not, why the hell not, and what would make you proud?

While most are proud of their company and say so, this question allows clients to voice concerns they may not otherwise share or feel the need to share. But, more often than not, clients open the floodgates to intangible greatness when they have an open mic to share their pride in what they have created. Rarely do they talk about how much money they have made. Nine times out of ten, it concerns the difference they have made and the lives they have touched.   

6. In what way is/could your business have a positive influence on society/culture/the world (or simply your community)?

Like most business owners, our clients are hyper-focused on what and how they do what they do right now. While more and more new businesses are considering their “societal” influence, many companies never stop long enough to consider the bigger picture of what they do. They may feel it but have never articulated it…or know how to. They may want it but don’t know how to get it or sustain it. We’re not asking our clients to change the world. However, when you consider the world around you and your role in it, something bigger than your product or service enters the picture, and the door to a more meaningful brand and workplace opens.

7. Do you think your company has, or can have, a reason for existing beyond profit motivation? If so, what is it, or what could it be? In other words, aside from money, why does your company exist? 

While similar to the previous question, this question asks clients directly to remove profit motivations from the table, and you’d be surprised at how much this trips people up.

Sure. Every company needs to be profitable. You wouldn’t be in business long if you weren’t. Profit motivation is important, but it’s also obvious and necessary for every company.

As your company’s founder, owner, or leader, what is it that your company can or could provide others beyond the obvious monetary gains?

What other (greater) purpose does your company fulfill for your customers, employees, stakeholders, etc.? Are you a company that empowers employees to build successful long-term careers? Does your product/service improve some aspect of their life? Once we identify your reason for existing beyond the bottom line, your brand identity starts to take shape.

8. Based on your personality, experience, and talents, what intangible gift could you give to others? What about your personality, experience, and talents makes you the right person for this? (e.g., peace of mind, hope, making people matter, perspective, opportunity, etc.) 

Business owners often struggle with thinking beyond the tangible aspect of the product or service they provide. So, we ask point blank what intangible gifts leaders bring to the table. This is a good exercise for several reasons. First, incorporating your natural gifts into the “how and why” you do what you do is the easiest and quickest way to make a more meaningful connection to your company. Additionally, when you combine what you do or sell with your unique gifts, you immediately differentiate yourself from the rest. There will be other companies just like yours. But there is no one just like YOU. That’s where you will set yourself apart from the competition.  

9. What makes your job worth being away from the ones you love?

We’d be lying if we said this question wasn’t sometimes answered with “to provide for my family,” but more often than not, it’s paired with arrows pointing toward key components of your “why.” Now, that term is getting a little burned out, in my opinion, but it really is an important question to ask. Not just for branding or marketing reasons but to remind business owners of what makes the often brutal aspects of ownership and leadership worth it. As the owner of Todem and the mother of two children, I know why my time spent away is worth it. I know that through Todem, I have the opportunity every day to bring more meaning into the lives of others through branding. It might sound a little lofty, but it’s why my job is worth being away from the ones I love.  

10. What are your personal core values?

It’s a lot easier to embrace, practice, and share values that come easy and are already a part of you. And remember you (the owner or leader) and why you do what you do, is ultimately the only thing that differentiates your company from the next. So, it just makes sense to consider your personal values—it’s low-hanging fruit. 

Values need to be derived from personal experience and motivation. They should be actional and action-packed. They need to connect with people in a very clear and direct way…a way that inspires people to live them out daily with ease and aspiration. As the leader of your company, values are a lot easier to embrace, practice, uphold, and share when they come naturally, which is why you should infuse personal values into company values. When they mean more than words to you, they will mean more to others.

If you are interested in knowing more about our process, reach out and tell us a little more about yourself here first, and I’ll be happy to chat!


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