How to use paid discovery workshops to lead your web clients to the light

The sale before the sale

Remember the time that new client showed up in your email with all their vision and goals mapped out to perfection, along with full copy, photos, page hierarchy, favorite colors, fonts and website examples? Now, pick yourself off the ground from laughing at that insane “never-happened” scenario and read on for a type of service you can package for the non-mythical clients, the ones who exist here in reality. In this post, I’ll show you how paid discovery workshops are the missing ingredient in your service offerings and how easy they are to run.

We can all agree that the biggest problem we experience with any client is the lack of knowledge about what they need or why they need it. But if we are being fair to our future clients, should we expect them to?

Just like how you react with dazed confusion when the plumber attempts to explain the difference in polybutylene pipes and why you need to make a decision about which materials to replace, your clients have no clue what they need or decisions they need to make until you present it to them.

As a website professional, you have to be the facilitator, pulling out their goals from the deepest darkest places of their subconscious in order to lead them to the light. Paid discovery workshops can help.

What are paid discovery workshops?

How do you know what a client’s needs and goals are? You ask the right questions, and place them in a handy workbook or re-typed deliverable!

Asking questions, instead of telling clients what they need, is all about getting the client to state their goals from their own lips.


Now getting them to figure out those goals takes time and finesse; it takes a clear process to pull the right answers; it takes a service we at WP Elevation like to call “discovery.”

Discovery comes in various forms, mainly because the needs of clients vary depending on the type of website and what planning stage they are in. It also take various forms based on your specialty as the website professional — marketing, SEO, design, you name it.

No matter the type of website or client, the idea behind the “needs and goals” strategy remains the same and should be the basis for your discovery workshop.

So what does this paid discovery workshop look like and how do you position it to the client?

The strategy session

A strategy session can stand alone as a discovery workshop and involves working through the client’s vision, goals and how the client anticipates achieving those goals.

You don’t need to be a digital strategist to run a strategy session. All you need to know is what questions to ask.


Paid Discovery Workshops GoalsYou’ll know your lead is primed for a strategy session when they can’t clearly define what they want from their website. You hear a lot of, “I want it to look good. I want it at the top of Google. I want our contact information on it.” When you ask about 12-month goals or their target audience, they can’t give you a clear answer.

Through a strategy session, you can walk your client through three sections and emerge from the other side with a clear defined vision for their website and what it’s supposed to achieve.

Section 1: Why, what and who?

There are three questions you want to use to kick off your strategy session, having someone (either you or the client) taking notes.

The Why

The first is asking your client to define “Why” they are doing what they are doing. This will get them to focus on the larger goal and what impact they are trying to make online.

The What

Next is the “What.” Here is where the client will now detail the products or services they offer that help them achieve their “Why.” What exactly do they bring to market? Maybe even have them put these in order from most important to least important.

The Who

Finally, you ask them “Who” this is for? Get them to narrow it down to the group of people who will benefit most from their “What.” (That should help them narrow it down from the classic answer “everyone.”)

Section 2: SMART goals

This now leads us to the second section where the client has to review their notes from the first three questions and work to define three to five SMART Goals. “SMART,” of course, stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.

Example: “We want 100 Students (Specific and Measurable) to sign up for our summer program (Achievable and Relevant) by May (Time Bound).”

All the SMART goals should be focused on something they are trying to achieve online and something the website can make happen.

It’s up to you to help lead them through these goals and keep them within the SMART format.

Paid Discovery Workshops Smart Goals
Photo: mrkrndvs via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Section 3: The buyer’s journey

Finally, in the last part of the session with the client, walk through the steps the website visitor will take in order to eventually convert to the “WHAT” your client is offering (often made clear through the SMART goals you’ve now helped them decide on).

To do this we look at five areas: Attract, Capture, Nurture, Convert and Measure. In each of these areas, your client will be brainstorming and someone will be taking notes.

Attract: How will your client attract leads? We need to find out from them what their current tools are and how we replicate that experience online.

Capture: How does your client capture leads? This question will lead to discussing value with your client and what they can give away in exchange for an email address.

Nurture: Is you client setup to currently nurture these leads? Help them brainstorm ideas on what types of email they can send their future leads.

Convert: Most importantly, does your client know what steps they want people to take to convert and make a purchase? You’ll need to help them brainstorm and write out ideas.

Measure: Lastly, how do we measure all this? This is where your client determines the metric that matters the most, the “magic metric.” Uncover if this metric is visitors to the website, email signups or something as simple as phone call requests. Every client will be different based on their SMART goals.

As the end of this session, your client will have a workbook of specific goals and ideas on how to achieve them. You can also package this on your end with getting the session transcribed and presented in a formal deliverable like a PDF. Whichever the method, the purpose is for the client to feel they have a clear vision moving forward.

Fee, not free

You are selling yourself short if you think potential clients won’t pay for a service that helps you prepare to build them a website that actually does what they need it to. Just keep in mind two rules:

Rule No. 1

You should never be sitting down with clients for free to help them work through the larger goals and needs of their website. Offering this as a paid discovery workshop before a website build is critical to you building a website that works; it also serves as a great way to get the job if you’ve yet to have an accepted proposal. Why? The paid discovery workshop positions you as the expert.

Rule No. 2

If your client balks at a paid discovery workshop when they clearly need it, you’ve just saved yourself from a nightmare client and you should toast yourself with a bottled water at a small victory won.

Never underestimate the amount of time needed to invest in guiding the client to understanding why it is they need the website and what purpose it will serve.

Competitor and design research

Discovery workshops can range in depth and length. It might be a one-hour call remotely on Skype or a half-day meeting with the key decision makers in a conference room. You can even fill it out your paid discovery workshop by offering with some post-meeting research to package with your deliverable, like competitor and design research.

Competitor research

An added value to a paid discovery workshop is working with the lead to evaluate their competition and what their competition does well.

You’ll know the client needs this added service if they are having trouble answering many what they want their website to achieve and how they are different from the market, or even what market they are trying to reach! You hear “Bob’s Discount Furniture does some really cool things, I want to be like them. Suzie’s Kitchen Remodeling site looks great — I bet she gets a lot of traffic. Jimmy’s Table Tops comes up on Google at the top result for manufactured furniture, so I want a site like that.”

Clearly, there’s research that can done to know what competitors are doing and how these will play into your client’s own SMART goals.

How can you solve this for them? This comes back to the strategy session about what they want to achieve from their own site. Once you get that down, you can then look at competitors to tweak SMART goal metrics.

Design research

Design might also play a part in your paid discovery workshop offering as it pertains to your SMART goals. This is worth adding on if the client is hung up on what they want the the website to look and feel like. Just keep in mind, for most clients the look of the website should never take precedence over the purpose of the website.

The style and design can be part of the discovery workshop should it help determine how you attract the “Who” of your strategy session.


You can whip up style choices that fit that audience, website examples that speak to that audience, and even the behavior of this audience in responding to features of the website.

Pricing the discovery workshops

Discovery workshops can be sold as one-off services to initially begin work with a client, or rolled in as a larger proposal. The great benefit to really nailing this offer is that they can be used for clients who aren’t even ready for a website but want a head start on strategy. It’s an easy one-off sell when you know the benefit it can bring to the client.

I often price the paid discovery workshop on or about 20 percent of the overall anticipated website budget. For examples, if a client is looking for a $10k website, I’ll typically know we can invest about $2k in the discovery workshop to plan the scope of work accordingly. Now, if you are meeting with a client in-person for a half-day session, clearly the cost will be different from a one-hour Skype session, but so will the amount of work you will be doing with the client, so plan accordingly.

Quotes: Do’s and dont’s

With pricing, take care to not roll the discovery into the proposal if the time and cost it will take you to do the website is dependent on the paid discovery workshop. The items that come out in the discovery workshop will naturally change the scope of the project 2x if not 3x and you don’t want to lock yourself into a quote pre-discovery.

You can always quote your paid discovery workshop and then offer up a ballpark quote based on the current scope, noting that the cost will change.

Just be transparent about what the scope includes and how significant new features will increase the investment.


Whatever you do, don’t fear implementation so much that you don’t offer discovery in your process. You don’t need to be a marketing whiz kid to incorporate what you are encouraging in your discovery workshop, nor a coding genius to make it happen. You just need to know why you are doing the website and the end goals (SMART goals) — whether you end up providing the solution or refer them to someone who can.

Just follow the steps

Remember, all you need to do is guide your client through this self-discovery process by leading them as the website professional. At the end of it all, simply ask “does this all sound like a good plan?” With the discovery workshop deliverable in front of them, they will see their vision and goals and be excited for the journey ahead. Your job is to simply help them implement it.

Kristina Romero
Kristina Romero is a digital business consultant working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. She began as a website developer with her company KR Media & Designs creating websites for companies that included Coca-Cola Company, Food Network, and Hollywood celebrities. Kristina is also the founder of WP Care Market where she connects small business owners with quality website professionals for ongoing website care.