In the fast-paced world of digital agencies, client relationships are central to sustaining and growing the business. One wrong move could result in lost business, which in some cases, could mean billions of dollars in lost revenue. That loss of revenue could have a ripple effect on your agency, leading to restructuring, layoffs, reduction (or freezing) of budgets and more.
As someone who has worked inside an agency and also hired agencies for PR, digital marketing and other needs, I know all too well how necessary and valuable certain types of meetings are to achieving business goals. Each type of meeting, of course, varies depending on the intended objective, goals and outcomes. And for clients who have hired digital agencies, meetings can play a critical role in the actual success of campaigns and impact their level of confidence and trust in an agency’s ability to deliver results.
More specifically, there are six types of client meetings that are critical to keeping campaign deliverables on track, nurturing client relationships and reducing churn. Getting each of these client meetings right should be a top priority for digital agencies.
#1: New Business Pitch Meeting
New business pitches are an essential part of how digital agencies run. They’re key to growing the client portfolio and ensuring long-term revenue growth. But they’re also notorious for being drawn out over a long period of time (upwards of six to nine months), involving too many people, using antiquated processes (i.e. PowerPoint presentations) and, in many cases, being rather inefficient.
If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you’ll know that new business meetings are considered to be a top priority. As such, only the privileged few (who hold senior-level agency positions) are invited and permitted to take part in new business pitch meetings. While that may have worked in the age of Mad Men, many brands know the deal and are demanding that anyone who will be involved in working on their campaigns, regardless of how junior they are, sit in on the pitch meeting. This is exactly what Domino’s Pizza did when it began its search for a Hispanic marketing agency. According to Karen Kaiser, VP of national advertising at Domino’s before retiring in February 2018, “I don’t care how junior they are. If they’re working on my business, I want to meet them.”
In reality, having everyone who is involved in Domino’s business sit in on the new business pitch could end up being upwards of 100 agency staffers, including account directors, account planners, media buyers, copywriters, designers and more. Chances are that every agency staffer who will be involved in the Domino’s business is not located in the same office or location. They’re likely to be spread out across dozens of cities and countries. And it certainly won’t be cost-effective to fly out every single staffer to physically attend the new business pitch with Domino’s executives. So many of the agency staffers will need to dial in virtually for the actual meeting. Can you imagine what a scheduling nightmare that could be? And there’s no room for process inefficiencies that could delay the meeting or give the prospect a negative perception of your agency.
So what can your agency do to keep the scheduling process on track? First, don’t send 50+ emails to every single person who needs to be in the big pitch meeting. That could end up taking weeks to get responses from everyone and then trying to figure out the best time across 10 different time zones could make things ten times worse. Instead, use a scheduling technology platform that allows everyone to choose the best time (and automatically syncs to time zones based on calendars).
If you plan to have agency staffers be present via video conference, then the last thing you want is for it to be 10 minutes before the meeting and realize the Zoom link is missing from everyone’s calendar invites. Rather than manually creating Zoom links and then having to copy and paste the link into the calendar invite, use a scheduling tool that integrates with video conferencing tools and automatically adds the Zoom link to calendar invites. That means less chance of staffers being no-shows to important new business pitch meetings and better yet, that the meeting begins on time and gives your potential new client a good impression of your agency.
#2: Strategy Kick-Off Meeting
Once your agency has won the new business, there’s much work to do. But before your teams can hit the ground running, a kick-off meeting is critical. This ensures that everyone, both from your agency and from the client’s team, are all on the same page about the strategy, working processes, expectations, deliverables and KPIs.
For this meeting, make sure that the necessary preparation has been done ahead of time. If there are specific materials you want everyone to read before the meeting, make sure to send them to everyone at least a few days before the meeting. Give everyone time to absorb the information and bring relevant questions or ideas to the table during the meeting.
Because this is the first real meeting your team has with your new client, make sure to send an agenda outlining the structure of topics that will be discussed and assign a meeting leader who will keep things on track. In group meetings that have a large number of participants, it’s easy and common for people to digress off topic or lose focus. Take ownership of the meeting process. By doing so, you will not only bring focus and clarity to the meeting itself, but you will also make a positive impression on your new client. That will translate into more trust, confidence and respect for your agency.
#3: Weekly Status Update Meeting
Now that the groundwork and foundational elements of your working relationship have been set, it’s important that your team communicates with your client on a regular basis. This is often done in the form of a recurring weekly meeting to discuss status updates and deliverables.
As someone who currently manages our PR agency, I find it extremely useful for the agency to create and send a status update document (Word, Excel or whatever format you prefer) prior to the meeting. This should be a living and breathing document that’s updated each week by the agency. For example, it can include discussion items, active media opportunities, the latest media coverage, pending media coverage and proactive outreach opportunities.
While continuity is important in these weekly status update meetings, it’s also important to change things up and not have them become monotonous or ineffective. Use these meetings to bring up new ideas, request feedback on directions being taken and confirm launch timelines for upcoming campaigns. Also, offer up new storylines and themes that you feel would resonate with the client’s target audience. It’s also an opportunity to provide updates on the client’s performance metrics – and how close or far you are from hitting those KPIs.
#4: Uh-Oh, We Have a Problem Meeting
As with anything in life, nothing is ever perfect. Things go wrong. Relationships hit icy patches due to miscommunication and misunderstandings. This usually leads to what many call the ‘uh-oh’ meeting. Essentially, these meetings are often held as one-to-one meetings between one senior-level staffer from the agency and the primary contact at the client. This meeting has nothing to do with discussing current projects or performance metrics. Rather, it’s meant to identify a problem (be it campaign-specific, operational or just focused on the relationship itself) and come up with solutions to resolve the problem.
Because this meeting will likely be fraught with tension and frustration, it’s important that your agency makes the scheduling part as quick and easy as possible for the client. Since it’s just two of you, you can simply send your client your personal Bookable Calendar link that shows all available times in your calendar and they can book the meeting instantly. Simple, no fuss and you and your client can focus on rebuilding your relationship.
#5: Monthly Performance Recap Meeting
Performance and metrics matter. For the clients who hire and manage digital agencies, KPIs are the cornerstone of how an agency’s worth is measured and defined. It’s customary for agencies to create monthly performance reports for their clients. But rather than simply send a PowerPoint presentation or document outlining the monthly performance metrics, this is an opportunity for agencies to walk clients through the results in a monthly performance recap meeting. Numbers are just numbers. It can be far more insightful to provide context and deeper learnings from the metrics so that your agency can refine and optimize your strategy and tactics to further improve the results in the coming months.
#6: Quarterly Business Review Meeting
As you progress your relationship with your clients, you will inevitably come to the point where a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) must be set. This is a meeting with your client to discuss the business and how you can better support them.
Unlike the other meetings, this meeting should be more strategic – than tactical – in nature. This isn’t the time or place to talk about support questions or plans for additional training. Rather, this is an opportunity for you to gain a better understanding of the client’s business and future plans – and to then strategize together on how your agency can deliver further value. By stepping away from the typical ‘vendor’ association and acting more like a trusted advisor, you will be able to solidify your relationship and earn the respect and loyalty of your client. That translates to client retention and year-over-year revenue growth.
To learn more about how a scheduling technology platform works – and how it can help you grow your business – download our white paper, “The Comprehensive Guide to Scheduling Technology Platforms.”