Kickoff Punchlists

Winter 2006

Kickoff Punchlists

At the beginning of workshops, I conduct what’s known as a “Town Hall” introduction. Each participant introduces himself or herself and then adds the biggest question he or she would like to see answered or the biggest problem he or she experiences in marketing or client relations. Examples of some common problems…

“The client keeps asking for things that are not in the scope of services. But if I nickel and dime the client, we might not get future work.”

“The client keeps changing the scope. We need to be responsive; the client just sees new possibilities as we go. But it often affects our costs, the schedule, and it often creates stresses our project team.”

“We’ve sent invoices and we’re not being paid. I don’t want to upset the client, and I don’t want to stop work – as it will hurt our ability to meet the schedule. How do we get paid without upsetting the client?”

“The client is supposed to do reviews and approvals in an agreed-upon time frame. But they don’t. It hurts our ability to stay on schedule – which the client still expects. And our team can’t just sit around idly.”

“Unforeseen problems arise that often affect costs and schedule. How should I share any bad news without hurting our relationship?”

“Sometimes we absolutely kill ourselves doing the job right and on schedule…and the client still seems unhappy. What else can we do?”

Seem familiar? You could undoubtedly add quite a few to these. In virtually every instance, when I ask the person sharing the problem if they go over these potential problems during their kickoff meeting, the answer is invariably, “No.”

Most kickoff meetings go over the project, goals, concerns and expectations, roles and responsibilities of all players, deliverables, schedule, budget, etc. Most agenda items focus on project parameters and what’s needed to end up with a good job. Here are three steps to add that may make life easier for you and your clients…

First, build a “Master If/Then Punchlist.”

Build a list of problems such as those cited above, problems you’ve encountered previously, and anything else your imagination thinks might happen. Plus, each and every time issues arise on a project – anything at all, no matter how small – add those items to your list. At the kickoff meeting, pull out your punchlist and…

“You’ve hired us because you perceive we’re going to do a good job for you. And we believe that as well. But – things happen. And the way in which we’ve found we can come consistently close to satisfying all of our aspirations, is with this ‘Master If/Then Punchlist.’

“Most of these items will not happen on your project. But they’ve happened on others, so some could happen on yours. Let’s go through the items, so if any do occur, we’ll know how you’d like them handled.”

Second, tailor your invoicing to that client.

Sometimes, your invoicing procedure and format doesn’t jibe with a specific client’s system. Accounting departments may resist adjusting how they invoice. So…

  • Clients may need specific invoice formats. Processing your requests may be easier for them. Our computers enable us to tailor invoices.
  • Clients may have specific pay cycles. If they receive a request on the 5th, it goes out on the 8th. But if it arrives on the 6th, it goes out on the 8th of the next month. Learn the cycle at the outset.


  • Clients may like a note indicating what was accomplished during the last pay cycle, and often what to expect in the next. If that’s the case, work out a way to include such a note with the invoice.

Also – phone your client soon after you send your invoice. Be sure your client received it. See if anything is unclear. And check to be sure it meets the pay cycle.

Third, conduct regular client satisfaction feedback.

Every firm rushes in to do “damage control” when they learn that a client is unhappy. Don’t wait that long. At your project kickoff meeting, tell your client…

“No matter how hard we try, some clients are happier than others. To ensure each client is pleased with each project, we do ongoing feedback. _____ will be asking you for candid feedback at these points (key to milestones), so we constantly fine-tune how we work for you.”

Your project manager should select a third party not working on that project, and with whom your PM is comfortable, to gather the feedback. It’s the absolutely best way to ensure that at the end of the project, your client is delighted. Virtually no firms do this as “Standard Operating Procedure.” Yet the payback is huge!

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Two years ago, some firms needed marketing training for 2-4 people each; we did it in Raleigh. Last year, firms sent people to Salt Lake City. This year, we’re thinking of Chicago, in April. If you have people needing the marketing skills, let us know.