A Step-by-Step for How to Lead Client Meetings StrategicallyOct 17, 2022
Meetings are one of the few chances for face-time with clients for agency professionals. They’re also essential to the client experience and a critical touch point for effective communication.
When run strategically, they’re not just a dog and pony show or a nuisance on your calendar. Instead, they’re an opportunity to keep projects and campaigns on track while simultaneously showcasing the value your team brings to a client’s organization.
Below, we’ll dive into best practices for the most common types of client meetings an agency hosts, but first, here are a few overarching tips that apply to every meeting your team might coordinate.
- Always share an agenda at least 24 hours before the meeting. Walking into a meeting without an agenda is like trying to host a fabulous dinner without grocery shopping first. You won’t get very far or accomplish much. Pull together an agenda and consider recent wins you would like to share with the client, status updates for current campaigns, and any questions or information you need to keep work moving forward.
- Be intentional and clear on the meeting details. Know who is attending and ensure it’s on everyone’s calendar. Technical difficulties will come up, but helping everyone be prepared with the meeting link or location details will make the experience as seamless as possible. This seems simple, but we cannot state how often meetings go awry due to these details getting overlooked. And if meetings are continuously run sloppily or haphazardly, it erodes client trust and confidence in the agency.
- Set objectives and outcomes. If you’re setting or requesting a client meeting, you should also understand and communicate its purpose to others. This is the key to preparing and running it confidently, which we’ll discuss further shortly.
- Plan for follow-up. Ideally, follow up within 24 hours of meetings with a brief recap and, if needed, assign the next steps to individual people with deadlines. This gives everyone a reference and an email for you to follow up on if needed.
Learn more about How to engage a remote agency team here.
The most common types of agency-client meetings
The best way to maximize time with your client is to prepare, prepare, prepare. How you do this will depend on the type of meeting you’re hosting.
These don’t only happen when onboarding a new client. Kickoff meetings are also conducted when beginning new projects, campaigns or quarterly initiatives. When hosting them:
- Use the call or meeting to get what you need to hit the ground running and increase productivity. For example, instead of sending daily emails to the client asking for feedback on ideas, answers to questions and assets, consolidate it all into one meeting. Plan ahead, think through what you’ll need in the coming weeks or months to succeed, and create your agenda accordingly.
- Align expectations. We discuss this in great detail here, but this is an ideal time to align expectations with the client to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the beginning of a project or campaign. Discuss scope, responsibilities for each team, timelines, expected results and next steps.
Check-in and status meetings
These may happen weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly for some agencies.
The goal of this meeting is to realign expectations if needed, update the client on current events, share recent wins, and get approval on anything that may be stalled.
A great tip here is to create an agenda template for this meeting so updating it each week or month is simple. The entire team will easily remember which items to include and discuss with the client with pre-populated sections.
During these meetings, you may be gathering information for a campaign, getting approval on a quarterly plan or discussing the client’s initiatives and goals for the upcoming year.
These are the meetings where teams often show up unprepared. However, this is an excellent opportunity to not only plan but show off the agency’s expertise and enthusiasm for the client’s business.
- Even if this meeting is being held as a discussion or brainstorm, it’s still important to prepare. Research past campaigns and current industry trends to come to the table with a few exciting recommendations. Review data & analytics, so you’re armed with information on what’s currently working (and not!). Or, prep strategic and thought-provoking questions to spark a fruitful conversation.
- If this meeting is being held to review a plan, always share it beforehand. Clients need time to review and process information before discussing it, so sharing it will allow everyone to feel prepared and empowered to offer thoughts and feedback.
These happen for a few reasons. Sometimes the client is unhappy with the agency’s work. Or it could be to discuss a crisis or an unavoidable situation within the company that needs your team’s attention.
Regardless of the scenario, there are a few simple tips to step into these meetings confidently and run them effectively.
- Address the problem head on. Emergency meetings are held because something has gone awry. Listen, without being defensive, and let the client know they are being heard. Speak clearly and directly about the issue at hand.
- Determine next steps to come to a solution. It’s ideal to approach client emergencies with a problem-solving mentality, but you may not have the right solution in the moment. That’s okay. Outline and communicate the next steps that will move everyone one step closer to addressing the problem at hand.
- Don’t feel pressured to have an answer to every question. You won’t be able to answer every client question or solve everyone's problem on the spot. Having a statement ready with what to say instead can really support you to not feel flustered in the moment. Something as simple as, “That’s a great question. Let us look into that a bit further and get back to you with an answer” is entirely acceptable.
- Reassure the client that you hear their concerns and are making this a priority. Always reiterate next steps and promptly follow up via email swiftly (within the hour is ideal for emergencies).
Learn more about setting and maintaining client expectations here.
They say that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and while we don’t think you’ll ever fail at client meetings, preparing is the way to maximize the experience for both yourself, your team and your client.