Making an impact at a client meeting
Excerpt from 'How to Wrestle an Octopus: an agency account manager's guide to pretty much everything'. Available now!
If a client ever invites you along to one of their staff conferences, away days, or internal brand/marketing/sales planning meetings, you should jump at the chance to go. It means that you (and your agency) have earned the right to be there and that your client values the input and insight that you could bring to the table.
To ensure that you are well-prepared for the event, and have something worthwhile to contribute, you may like to consider the following checklist.
Before the event
- Find out the expectations. What kind of involvement would your client like you to have? Do you need to do a presentation, or have input at meetings, or just listen and absorb? If you are to speak, find out the topic, time allowed, who your audience will be, and the approximate number of people who will attend.
- Choose your team. Are you able to bring someone else from your agency to the event? If so, this is a great opportunity to bring someone who can offer a different and complementary perspective. For example (and depending on the type of event), you may like to bring your Creative Director, Strategic Planner, Researcher, or Insights Guru.
- Do a team brainstorm. Gather an agency team together of all those who have had involvement with this client over the past year, and review your projects and campaigns. Talk about what’s worked and what hasn’t; opportunities taken and missed, and results.
- Review your client’s business. What has your client achieved in the past year? Have they released new products or services; expanded their company; re-branded? How have they been tracking against their competitors? How are their sales figures looking? How has their business benefited from the campaigns that you have run? Have they experienced any significant staff or structure changes?
- Create an organisation chart. If you haven’t done so already in your client strategy planning, now’s the time to create an organisation chart of your client’s business. By working out the staff structure, you’ll be able to see where your main contact fits into the hierarchy, and who they report to. When you meet people at the event, you’ll be better able to figure out where they fit into the big picture. You can also identify the ‘power players’ and who you should make a point of meeting while you are there, to maximise business opportunities.
- Pull a plan together. From the research and reviews that you conduct you should be able to more easily plan out what you will speak about or contribute during discussions, and be as informed as possible.
At the event
- Network, network, network. Your main client is obviously your advocate (or else you wouldn’t have been invited), but there are likely to be others within your client’s organisation who could give your agency more business. Now’s your opportunity to meet as many different people as you can and ask what their role is within the organisation and what they are responsible for. Talk about what you are doing for their company, the types of services that you offer, and – most importantly – about the results that you have achieved for them. This is not the time for a hard sell, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you won’t get anything extra back.
- Be prepared. Ensure that you have everything you need for your presentation, well ahead of time. This would include any audio/visual equipment, microphone, laptop/connections, screens, whiteboard/markers/eraser, etc. You may wish to do a test run, especially if you are using someone else’s equipment or unfamiliar technology.
- Get involved. If you are away at a conference, get involved in as many of the activities as possible, which will give you the opportunity to socialise with your client and get to know them and their colleagues better.
- Stay sober. You’ve been given a golden opportunity to make a great impression at this event and to be an ambassador for your agency. The last thing you’ll want to do is lose control of your faculties, embarrass yourself, and potentially put your agency/client relationship at risk. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink alcohol; it means to be aware of when your personality starts to change, and then stop.
After the event
- Say thank you. Within 24 hours of the event, send a thank you message to your client for the invitation.
- Review with your team. Set up an internal meeting to review the event with your team who attended. Compare notes and discuss how you can utilise the intel that you’ve gleaned.
- Action the intel. Is there anything that you learned that you could put into action? Did you discover how to help your client be more successful, or pick up information about your client’s customers that will help to inform future campaign targeting? If you can, try and formulate some fresh ideas that show what you learned from the event, and then offer those ideas back to your client.
The more you can contribute interesting and valuable insight during these types of events, plus learn enough to give back again to your client after the event, the more you will be invited in the future, and the more ‘sticky’ your relationship will become.
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