What Is A Discovery Form And How Can I Create One For My Video Production Company?

Marcus RideoutHow To, Selling Video Projects, Ultimate Guides10 Comments

Estimated Read time: 10 Minutes

This guide covers one of the most important tools I’ve found on my sales journey.

When I started using the Discovery Form as a part of my sales process, it drastically reduced the number of “head-ache clients” I sold projects to, it helped increase my ability to close deals, and it made me feel like I was entering a sales conversation from the position of a respected professional.

This resource will show you how to create a Discovery Form for your video business (including the exact questions to include), and show you two ways to host a Discovery Form (a free version that cannot be embedded on your website and a paid WordPress plugin that allows you to host your Discovery Form on your website).

So let’s get to it!

What Is A Discovery Form?

Simply put, a Discovery Form is an application form that a potential client must fill out before you enter a sales conversation with them. It’s best used as part of your sales process when you have direct contact with a business owner or team-member; it’s not for use in a “Request For Proposal” or job-bid style project.

It’s designed to:

  • Give you a better understanding of your prospect’s business.
  • Help you come more prepared to the meeting (i.e., you’re able to do your homework, see what their competition is doing/not doing, evaluate video opportunities in their niche, etc.).
  • Weed out tire-kickers, time-wasters, or potential clients who are not in alignment with you and your business services.

Upon receiving their Discovery Form submission, you will also be in a position to choose if you would like to move forward with the sales meeting—or, if you feel they are not going to be a good fit (or they show too many “red flags”) based on their response, you can confidently refer them elsewhere.

Note: It’s not a bad thing to refer clients elsewhere. If you are moving into higher-priced projects and serving a higher-caliber kind of client, there is no shame in passing along the smaller projects to a fellow videographer who loves to fulfill the $300–$500 projects or who is just getting started! I wouldn’t pass a ‘red flag’ client along to anyone, however if it’s a business with a smaller budget than I am willing to work with I’m all for helping out local filmmakers on their journey!

Will Asking Someone To Fill Out A Form Before We Meet Turn Them Off From Wanting To Meet With Me?

Yes—at least for some people. But for others, it will not turn them off from meeting with you.

Let me break this down for you and explain why it matters to include this step before your actual sales meeting.

If you’re new to using a Discovery Form, it’s really easy to assume that everyone would feel like it’s an inconvenience to fill out an application form ahead of a sales meeting.

It can feel like a big request—I mean, can’t I just ask those questions IN the meeting?

The purpose of somebody completing the Discovery Form before entering a sales meeting with you is to help give you:

  • A frame of reference for their business and needs AHEAD of the sales meeting.
  • A sense of if they can be a good fit for you and your business without wasting your time on meetings that go nowhere.
  • An indication of whether they can follow instructions and allow a professional to “lead” them in a process (or alternatively, it can reveal if they are going to be a micro-managing client more likely to nickel and dime you through the entire process, wanting endless revisions at no extra cost, etc.).

Using a Discovery Form allows you to play the role of a detective: you will see clues about your potential client before you commit 60 minutes to an actual sales meeting with them.

Let’s take it one step further: Using a pre-meeting application is a common practice in many industries.

I remember when my fiancée and I were looking to select a family doctor in a city after a big move. A clinic posted an ad saying they were accepting new patients, and before we could meet with the doctor, we had to fill out an application form.

If our application answers met pre-determined criteria, we were then invited to meet the doctor in person.

Only after that in-person consultation would he choose if he felt we would be a good fit for his practice or if we would be a bad fit (or a risk) to what he had built over the years.

Obviously, placing these “hurdles” in front of potential customers may annoy some—and that’s okay. You shouldn’t be the right fit for everyone.

When the doctor said he’d be willing to take us on as patients, we were so excited to “make the cut.” We were even more committed to the vision of working with him as a result of the hoops we had to jump through. At the end of the day, our family doctor wanted to ensure he was attracting the right types of clients and weeding out those who would be a thorn in his side (or even put his practice at risk)

How Do I Ask A Client To Fill Out My Discovery Form In A Way That Doesn’t Make It Seem Like A Hassle For Them?

When it comes to talking about the Discovery Form with a potential client, it’s really important that you frame your request around their filling it out in the right way. Here’s how we approach it in the Video Warrior community.

Typically, when someone mentions that they want to meet with me to talk shop (or about possibly working with me on a video project), I take the following steps:

  1. I set a date + location for the meeting.
  2. I lock the meeting in our calendars then and there (do this with them in real-time, even if they are reaching out over the phone).

    This step is helpful because you will learn if they are serious about the meeting or just price shopping.
  3. Say something along the lines of, “Cool, the meeting is locked in my calendar. I look forward to seeing if what I do can be a good fit for what you do and aligns with your business goals. Before we meet, I have a short form I need you to fill out—I’m going to send it to you now, okay? It doesn’t take long to complete—should take only 5 minutes max—and it will help me show up to our meeting fully prepared. Can you fill this form out for me today?”
  4. Upon receiving their commitment to complete the form, e-mail them a link to your Discovery Form.
  5. Evaluate their Discovery Form submission to determine if you would like to move forward with the meeting or refer them elsewhere.

    If they are not a fit I will call them and ask questions that will either confirm or deny any concerns.

    For example if their submission leads me to think they have a smaller budget than I work with I would say something like, “Based on what you submitted it feels like you’ve got a good idea of what you want to shoot and are looking for someone who can come to your location, bring their gear and film quickly and at a relatively inexpensive price point, under $500 – is that correct?”

    If they confirm this I then say that I would like to refer them to a local videographer that I know personally can get the job done.

    I have done this exact example in the past and my videographer friend was excited to have a project in his price range ‘fall into his lap’. Strive to make everything you do a win for this person, even if they cannot yet afford to work with you.

A few things to note about why I frame the request as I do in Step 3:

I like to set the expectation that it’s not going to be a hassle to fill the form out, that it’s a part of my process, and that it’s so I can better serve them (i.e., it’s in their best interest).

It’s also important to ask them if they can commit to filling it out because if anything comes up and they delay, you are able to reach out and follow up without sounding like a pest.

You’re literally just following up on a commitment they gave you—pick up the phone and call them! Don’t e-mail—there’s too much room for delay or getting buried in their inbox.

Remember, the best clients are often very busy people and it’s easy for them to lose track of tasks when they are trying to juggle all that it takes to run their operation! Try not to take it personally or automatically “write them off” as a flake. I try to be forgiving and give room for one chance to honor their agreement.

Lastly: You DO NOT want to send a Discovery Form out to “cold traffic”; that is, people you have never met, spoken with, or identified as interested in talking with you about video.

Do not be the person that sends it cold. It’s just bad etiquette and no one will respect you.

What To Do If The Meeting Is Coming Up And They Have Not Filled Out My Discovery Form?

If you have followed the steps above and your meeting is happening in a few hours, you can go a few ways with this.

Personally, I will not meet with anyone who has not completed the Discovery Form application.


Their action is a tell-all sign of how they handle their life and business. If they cannot respect the word they give, then I cannot respect them and do not want to associate with them.

This may sound extreme, but if you’ve done all you can to facilitate an easy-to-follow process, think of it this way:

If a potential client can’t honor their word in the small act of filling out a simple form, imagine what life would be like if you “seal the deal” with them on a project? What happens when you’re trying to schedule and organize a shoot? What would the post-production process be like? As you build a professional business you will only want to work with professional clients who honor their agreements.

Remember, there might be many reasons a Discovery Form submission is delayed. It’s okay for you to follow up (do not write them off because of one slip). Folks can get sidetracked with the ins and outs of the day-to-day of running their business.

If you follow the process and it’s still a chore to get the form filled out, first ask yourself, “Did I do everything to the best of my ability in framing the request and explaining why it’s an important part of my process?” Always look inward first and lead with the best intentions.

The majority of people are not out to ruin you or make life difficult, so if you’re new to using a Discovery Form, just take a breath, relax, and remember that it becomes easier the more you do this.

So with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the actionable steps of this guide so you can build your own Discovery Form today.

How To Create A Discovery Form:

Let’s start by looking at a sample of a Discovery Form.

1) What Questions Should Be Included In A Discovery Form?

I’ve created a Discovery Form Template you can refer to with Google Forms. It has a breakdown of all the questions to include in your Discovery Form.

Click on the following blue text to see the Discovery Form Template resource that I have created for the Video Warrior community. You can copy and paste the questions into your own form.

2) What Software Can I Use To Build A Discovery Form?

There are a few options when it comes to creating and hosting a Discovery Form for your video production company.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have a ton of money in your operating expense budget, I recommend you use Google Forms.

You can watch this Video Tutorial I created on how to set up this exact form in Google Forms:

Google Forms is perfectly fine for getting started; however, at some point, once you have your website up and running, it will be more professional to host your Discovery Form on your own website.

If you’re using WordPress, I suggest you check out my favorite WordPress plugin, “Gravity Forms“.

I’ve tested a few plugins over the years (including some of the free plugins) and I keep coming back to Gravity Forms for all my website form creation needs.

A basic “1 website” license costs $59 USD per year (at the time of creating this guide), and I’ve found it to be the easiest plugin to wrap my head around without having to be a professional website coder.

Another feature I like is that it can be set up to send any submitted applications directly to your e-mail inbox in an easy-to-read format.

Check them out here.

(Disclaimer: The above link is an affiliate link, meaning if you sign up for Gravity Forms using the link in this article, I will receive a commission from your annual subscription.)

In Conclusion:

You’ve got everything you need to get started right away, so get to it!

Using a Discovery Form may take a bit of practice to get comfortable with in your sales process—it’s kind of like the first time you learned how to edit videos. It may have felt clunky or intimidating, but the more you use it, the easier it becomes to integrate.

It’s been field-tested by hundreds of Video Warriors since June 2017 and is a tool we swear by. I hope this guide helps you on your sales journey.


PS: What do you think? Share your feedback below. Let me know if you’re already using a Discovery Form or if this is brand new to you.

10 Comments on “What Is A Discovery Form And How Can I Create One For My Video Production Company?”

  1. Awesome read! One question: I haven’t yet had to deal with someone not filling out the form before meeting them. If in the future I’m in that situation where there is a meeting in a couple hours and they haven’t filled it out, how would you cancel the meeting without coming across as rude?

    1. @Michael Saby – I’d just pick up the phone and upon reaching state that I have not yet received the Discovery Form and first ask if they completed it (to see if it may have gotten lost in the tech somewhere). If “yes” – cool, get your form (or find out what happened). I “lost” a form once when I was tinkering with free wordpress plugins, which is why I’m a huge advocate of a paid product like Gravity Forms.

      If they say “no” I’d go with something like, “Sorry, I am unable to move forward with our meeting today. It’s an important part of my process and it would be a waste of both of our time to move forward without it completed.”

  2. Lots of great info here, thank you Marcus! Quick question – do you think I should add a question that asks about their budget range? For instance it could be a multiple choice response with “under 1000” “1000 – 5000” etc.

    1. Hey Sebastian!
      Good question – here’s one for you:

      – Where are you at in your pricing right now, and where would you like to be?

      As for my response for the budget inclusion on the form:

      I understand the premise behind the question and in fact I used to do more of the “budget inclusion” in the early days of dialing in the Discovery Form, but the more I focused on that the more I realized “until one is in a sales meeting you cannot accurately guess the budget” of a project.

      There are a lot of variables that could change it, and it can be a daunting conversation if someone says “$1000-5000” and you find out the scope of work is more likely to run $7500, $10,000, $15,000 etc.

      Does that make sense?

      I don’t think it’s a terrible idea if you want to get a ballpark idea of if they’re serious or not (and budget can usually determine that) – and I know some folks who swear by having a budget estimate on any ‘contact’ form – I personally have moved away from it.

      If you start to “read between the lines” of the answers provided you’ll often be able to get a solid idea of where they are at in their mind, in their business journey, etc.

      That’s what makes the Discovery Form so powerful.

      Typically, in my experience (and from others in our community who have shared samples of Discovery Form entries looking for advice) clients with a budget of under $1000 show a lot of potential “red flags” in their Discovery Form submissions.

      No harm in chatting with them, of course, if it’s where you’re currently at, though the more I dove into it and worked with clients under $1000, the more problems I noticed, the more time I found in post-production or trying to manage expectations (ie: “if this is the only $ they have, it’s possible to try and micro-manage the heck out of you).

      Chase Jarvis has a really cool video on the topic of “The Difference Between a $500 Client and a $5000 Client” – you can catch it here: https://youtu.be/wLuN92Zjnb0

      Hope that helps – feel free to chime in with another comment if not!

  3. Marcus,

    I really enjoyed reading your ebook, Video Selling Formula. It had a lot of great advice and was spelled out very clearly. I can totally see how your method would work. Thank you for putting this tool down in writing.

    I have been creating videos for years for another business but recently went out on my own to help local non-profits increase their video presence with their audiences. My question is in regard to working with non-profit vs. for-profit.

    The premise of your math questions in the Collaborative Close Blueprint don’t seem like it would work with these types of organizations when they don’t have customer revenue streams or products to sell.

    Have you or anyone you know ever closed deals with a non-profit? Do you have any advice on how to equate worth in this kind of situation?

    Thanks again for providing a helping hand to those just starting out!


    1. Hi Leslie!
      Glad you enjoyed the book 🙂

      As for your question regarding Non-Profits – a lot of people think of “ROI” of video projects as a linear thing (ie “client pays X, they may Y in sales”), and this thinking can cause issues when in a situation like you are now.

      So first of – in terms of working with non-profits, yea, we’ve got a few Video Warriors who have done really well working with them. It’s not as different as you may think, so let’s expand on the context of selling a bit more.

      Second – consider the objective of why a video is being made. Some non-profits do fundraising, for example, so if you made a video for their organization that was designed for raising capital, that’s a very similar thing.

      Now, it can get a bit fuzzy when it’s not directly tied to an ROI, to which I’m going to refer you to THIS video that I shot recently. Link here:


      I created this video to break down how you can begin to think about “Business” and the different ways you can create videos to help a company (whether it’s a traditional corp or a non profit – how we go about identifying problems to solve is all the same).

      It should give a wider lens to look through when it comes to the many ways we can bring value (outside the stereotypical “business owner puts money in, get money out in sales” thought process).

      Let me know if that helps!

  4. Marcus – this is seriously awesome and so helpful…. Thank you!

    I have an initial contact form on my website in which clients often use to initially contact me and get the process started. That contact form asks for:
    – Name, Email, Phone Number, Preferred method of response, project date, type of project, estimated budget, project details.

    Now, I’m thinking it’s way too much to ask for initially, especially if after they reach out and I call them and send them the discovery form, it’s asking some similar things.

    So.. My question is this, do I need to greatly simplify the initial contact form on my website? Maybe just ask for Name, Email, Phone, Project Type, Project Details? So I can at least get a bit of a feel before making the initial phone call?

    1. Hey Cole!
      Great question. What do you mean by “initial phone call?” – how long is this? Just a quick “hello” get to vibe someone / talk about what you do? Most folks don’t fill out a DF completely “cold” without any degree of contact or guidance to do so.

      WIth that said – I prefer to do everything possible to lead to getting a completed Discovery Form before having a sales conversation.

      It is meant to save you a ton of time and give you a ton of insight before committing to being on the call, and if someone reaches out and you are schedueling time you should have a better idea of if they are serious about video, a qualified lead, etc.

      The biggest thing to keep in mind as you look into what works best for you is to focus on, “what do I want my process to be like?” – a process that you can begin to replicate time and time again to begin to create more predictible outcomes. A process that you could teach someone else to do (even if you never hire another person and you do all the sales stuff). That’s how I like to think about everything I do.

      If your process requires a 5-10 minute call, then you re-direct them to the Discovery Form, and then you have a sales call, then that’s what works for you. To me I’d ask “how can I streamline the process and make it as stress-free for a potential client”.

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