Client (internal or external) meetings are essential elements in the business of creating exceptional marketing campaigns. I realize we are in the age of virtual everything, but nothing beats a good personal meeting to build a profitable relationship and launch amazing creativity.
However, there’s an art to making meetings successful, for both you and your clients.
- Come to every meeting prepared. Know who’s in the room and make your best guess as to what they care about. Write down their names and a couple of themes you think will excite each person (in the age of Linkedin.com, this is a simple task). Use those themes as bait, gently test each into conversation and watch intently for a reaction. When you get the subtle head nod or cracked smile, reel them in by driving that theme. Systematically try to land each person at the table.
- If possible, establish an agenda beforehand. I’ve never been to an effective meeting that didn’t begin with a clear objective. Meetings are often received by invitees with skepticism–will it be productive, what’s the real “agenda,” and is it even necessary? Establishing a clear and concise agenda assures everyone that there is a definitely an objective and assuming you stick to the plan an efficient path to a goal. In addition, it allows everyone to fully prepare to that agenda to ensure productivity and no one is planning a gotcha/ambush meeting. (We’ve all walked into these, am I right?)
- Don’t be late or frantic, ever! Nothing puts you behind the eight ball like tardiness or the appearance that you are frazzled or unprepared. Flying in at the last possible moment or late, out of breath, on your phone and looking like you just battled rush hour traffic doesn’t make you appear important or busy; quite the contrary, it tells the client you have a lack of focus and attention on their account.
- Get the client to lead the conversation. Don’t be overly anxious to dive into the presentation you probably spent hours preparing. I can’t tell you the number of presentations that never left my bag because the client took us down a path that I didn’t expect or rendered my presentation less relevant than the reframed discussion. Presenting your canned presentation regardless of its relevancy to the conversation will be interpreted by the client as hubris or a lack of expertise. The ability to depart from the script builds confidence and credibility with your client.
- Listen, oh for heaven sakes listen. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people run over clients to make a point. Often this happens when you get nervous, are rigorously adhering to a script or simply fear that you’ll forget one of your killer points. Don’t do it. Listening is the most important thing you can do to ensure your meeting is successful.
- Always follow-up. Within 24 hours send a brief email outlining the key objectives you heard from the client and the logical next steps you believe will move the group closer to achieving those objectives. This will give the client confidence that you get it and are moving them forward. It you missed the boat, they will tell you and it’s the best time to correct your course.
That’s the basics. As with anything that involves random people, there are nearly infinite variables and lots of artistry to master. These six tips for successful client meetings will give you a solid advantage.