Kickoff Meetings: What are they and why should you do them?


You’ve found the right company to build your website or develop your digital product (maybe it’s Kobot!). You’ve agreed on a budget and signed a contract. What happens next? Well, any agency worth their weight in bitcoin is going to invite you to a meeting aptly named: the Kickoff.

Kickoff should start with high fives and even higher spirits, but there’s also a lot of work to be done before we can begin a project. We want the client to understand how this is going to work, to meet everyone, and to get an insight into the process. We know that this could be a new or uncommon experience for some clients, so we do our best to tear everything open and start the process with as much transparency as possible. What we do isn’t magic and it’s not all fireworks, and we want clients to understand that.

All that said—kickoff should be fun! It starts projects off on a good tone—so we don’t get too serious.

Getting to know each other

The primary goal of a kickoff is for everyone involved in the project to meet each other and build some rapport. Up until now, some of us have simply been email addresses on a Cc list. This is the time to put faces to names and learn a bit about everyone and their role in the project.

We have some standard asks that we use for every project, but also some specific questions that help us understand the client. For clients, it’s important to bring anyone from your organization who might be in the position to make decisions, as well as the people who will manage the website eventually. This way, we can involve them from the beginning and make sure their needs are addressed. The more we are removed from your people, the harder it is to do our job—because then we’re just guessing what they might want or need.

Kickoff is also the time to get serious about project logistics. We have an established process—because that helps guarantee success—which we walk through so everyone understands the stages and milestones we drive toward. We couple this with discussions about timeline and any barriers which may affect it, such as vacations. Finally, we begin to discuss the discovery phase and to plan who we might need to interview or connect with to move that along.

The business

It is also important to get into some detail about your organization: its history, successes and failures. This is the point where we get real about what the actual goals of the business are—to understand how they work in the real world and how we can translate that to the online world.

If the business is new, be prepared to bring in a business plan so we can understand what this website has to do to support you both now, and as the business grows. If the business is mature and there’s already a site, we want to understand why you want to redo the site right now. Show us what is failing on the existing site, as well as what is actually working and what we need to preserve.

Audience (always)

Digital projects thrive or die depending on the audience, and we never stop thinking about them from this phase onward through the project. We want to know everything our client knows about the demographics and mindset of their audience so we can effectively communicate to those users. We want to understand how the organization’s plans for growth and long-term change might affect how we address those audiences.

But really…why a kickoff?

The kickoff is the point where everyone will be the most excited about the project. It’s fresh, it’s new and the hard work has yet to start. It’s where we begin the relationship with the client, so we try to put our best foot forward and create an environment that nurtures everyone. Clients need our services rarely, so many of the things we talk about are new to them. We use the kickoff is to settle the client into the process and acclimate them to what we’re doing. We do our best to explain things, cut through any jargon and pull back the curtain on what we do. The best projects come from clients and teams who are all comfortable and aware of the process and their own responsibilities, which all starts with a great kickoff.

Be Prepared

It pays to be prepared for a kickoff meeting. So, we’ll leave you with a few things you can do to show up looking like a winner:

  1. Think about who needs to be at the kickoff meeting. Aside from the project lead, consider bringing in any available decision makers. If you have any marketing, design or technical staff that will be involved in the project, they should come along too.
  2. Review your timelines and schedule and be prepared to discuss those in the context of the project.
  3. Have a handle on your current website state. Where is it hosted? What is the content management system (CMS) it runs on. Do you have admin access?

This blog post is based on a recent episode of Ask Kobot Anything, our weekly Instagram Live where we let you ask us, well…anything! Questions or comments about this post, or just want to see something discussed on the show? Email us! And catch Ask Kobot Anything every Friday at 11:30 MST on our Instagram.