Meeting a new client for the first time is a bit like a blind date. You put on your cleanest, most flattering clothes, take extra care with your hair and/or makeup. Your heart pounds nervously and your palms sweat as you turn over the meeting in your head. Whatare you going to say? Will you like them? Will they like you?
Luckily, you don’t have to date your clients (unless they’re really cute) but you do have to impress them. You know how vital first impressions are, and that initial meeting serves as a teaser for the client on what to expect. They want to see an agency that’s experienced, professional, organised, and highly attuned to their needs.
If you find yourself striking out in those initial meetings more than you’d like, then take a few of these tips and tricks to your next meeting, and you may just find yourself winning that bit account (or scoring that hot date - whatever takes your fancy!)
Client Meeting Tip 1: Control The Meeting Place
I find it particularly useful to meet potential clients in a place of power - by that, I mean a place where you feel comfortable, and have some control over the elements of the room. Usually, this will mean a room in your office, but if you operate virtually, or your office doesn’t have meeting space, rent a room from a business hub. That way you can arrive early, prepare the space, and figure out how to work any equipment.
This is better than meeting at a client’s office, where you can’t control the surroundings. This can become frustrating if, for example, you bring along a USB stick of samples but there’s no available computer to demonstrate them.
Client Meeting Tip 2: Set the Tone from the First Glance
You want your client to walk away from the meeting feeling confident that you’re the right agency for the job. What they want to see is a professional, friendly firm with a real creative streak. Dress appropriately, but don’t be afraid to let your personality show. Remember, you’re a creative.
Tidy the meeting room and arrange all your materials ready for the client. If possible, set up some water and glasses, and make sure to offer coffee or tea. Check that any digital equipment you need is a) working, and b) switched on and ready to go.
When your client arrives, make eye contact and shake their hand. Take a few minutes to get comfortable and establish a rapport. Small talk can be difficult for some people, but it’s an important part of making your client feel at ease. Ask them how their day is going, if they found the office OK, what their plans for the evening / weekend are, or mention something non-confrontational in the news (such as an upcoming sports game or celebrity visit - nothing political or religious).
Client Meeting Tip 3: Be Prepared
Think of client meeting prep as similiar to the prep you'd do for a job interview ... but not a job interview with a blind date, because that would just be weird. You are trying to show you’re the best candidate for the job by going above and beyond what is expected. The key is being prepared.
When a client sits down for a meeting with you, and you can not only talk authoritatively about their company (which you’ve googled) but are aware of a recent news story about them (from their blog). Then, you pull out a selection of mockups, concepts or samples that demonstrate what you can do, while talking about how a competitor (who you’ve also googled) is using a particular technique and how the client might employ it in a more effective way,.
If I were that client, I’d hire you. Every time.
Client Meeting Tip 4: Don’t Waste Anybody’s Time
At an initial meeting, it’s important to get the gist of the project out in the open asap. Hopefully, you’ll have had some discussion with the client before the meeting. You will have a fair idea of the project parameters and what the client wants.
But sometimes you go into a client meeting completely blind. Many clients can misunderstand what different creative agencies offer, so it’s vital to understand from the get-go if you’re the right agency for the job. There’s no sense wasting anyone’s time if they need branding experts and you’re a digital marketing shop.
Client Meeting Tip 5: Focus on Their Needs
Often in an initial meeting, it can be easy to get carried away selling your agency as the best in the biz. The client might ask you about some of your recent projects and before you know it, an hour’s up and you haven’t even talked about their project. Oops!
Instead of opening by talking about what YOU do, start by establishing the client’s pain points. What are they looking for? What is the problem they are looking to solve? Every time you find yourself talking, ask yourself if you’re focusing on the client’s needs? Ask more questions than you answer, and I guarantee you’ll win over more clients.
Client Meeting Tip 6: Practice your Pitch
If you’re feeling particularly nervous about a meeting, then practice pitching your ideas and chatting to the client. You may feel silly, but practising your pitch in advance is a great way to grow your confidence. Getting clear in your own head about what you’re going to say, and how, will help you to focus on getting to know the client (instead of worrying what you’re going to say next).
Client Meeting Tip 7: Prepare your Takeaway
You want your client to walk out of the meeting with a clear idea of what to do next. A great thing to do is to prepare a small selection of papers or samples to send away with the client.
You might include a “welcome to the agency!” document, outlining some useful info about the company and your creative processes. Some samples of your work, or notes on your pitch, would also be handy. Don’t forget to attach your business card.
When the client meeting is over, you’ll head back to the office and nervously wait by the phone, hoping they will call, all the while replaying the whole thing over in your head, trying to figure out what you did wrong. Again, wooing clients is a lot like dating. But if all goes well at the client meeting, that client will call you the next day, and you’ll get the go-ahead to make a start on the project. When it comes to clients, it definitely pays to play the field and get plenty of practise!
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