The Art of Client Meetings

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “The Art of Client Meetings.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: Do you email agendas in advance of meetings? Why or why not? What is the value to sending agendas beforehand?

  • As a client, PLEASE SEND AGENDAS FIRST! If nothing else, it eases anxiety. – Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
  • Depends on the client / how windy the conversations can get. – Zach Griffith (@ZachGriffith)
  • I send agendas. Keeps everyone on-task. Be sure to include start/end times. – Jim Lastinger (@jimlast)
  • As much as possible, yes. Useful to set goals & at least have a plan to stay on topic. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • I always try to email agendas up front, however in my experience 9/10 times, the agenda gets discarded 10 mins into the meeting. – Utsab Saha (@sahautsab)
  • Depends on the client, I will usually email projections prior to the call so they have a chance to get their thoughts together. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
  • When I have specific things I want to cover I email an agenda. If not, I don’t. When I have an agenda I send an agenda. – Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
  • I often give agendas in advance to set expectations and get feedback upfront, avoid ratholes. – Siddhartha Naithani (@noeticsound)
  • Sometimes. If there’s something I want them to think about ahead of time, I will. Otherwise, we talk enough to not need one. – Nate Knox (@nateknox)
  • Almost always. If it’s a reg meeting, want to cntrl meetng flow, if ‘client’ initiated, ask for topics to create agenda/prepare. – Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
  • I do for some clients. It helps them prepare anything they might want to bring & manage expectations on time. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
  • If prescheduled meeting, should always have an agenda. If unplanned call, then none needed. And by agenda, I mean bullet points of discussion topics. Not “at 10m we discuss A, at 10:15 b”. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • If i have a ton to go over and i’m worried the client will try to deviate off topic, definitely. – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • Sending an agenda works. If the agenda itself tackles the messy conversations head-on. – Utsab Saha
  • Usually someone does. Not always me. We take notes on them, stick to main points, not get sidetracked. Time mgmt. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • It depends on the client. For most I like to have just a few high level things to discuss but nothing too formal. – Derek Martin (@derekmartinLA)
  • If requested, we send over the presentation document beforehand. Gives the client time to come up with ?s after digesting data. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • We usually have a bullet list to hit, but not typically formal agendas. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • Not sure how y’all are set up, but I let PMs/AEs handle meeting agendas and the like. – Nate Knox
  • I send over an agenda before each meeting if for nothing else to document what I want to cover. For planned meetings I think agendas are definitely a good guide to keep the meeting in check and they also show planning. – Matt Umbro
  • I personally like to include agenda in the calendar event and send over reports right before meeting. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
  • Also, I make my agendas Four columns: [Item, Action, By Whom, When], with the table continuing below for unplanned items. – Josh Devlin

Q2: How do you generally like to frame your PPC meetings?

  • I lead with performance stats and projections, then a bulleted list of open items. – Heather Cooan
  • Review current results. Discuss new action items. Review outstanding items. – Zach Griffith
  • Go over our “recommended next steps” from the previous meeting since both parties agreed upon them. Then show results from that. – Joe Martinez
  • I’m no PPC guy so should recuse myself, but there are all kinds, no? sales, strategy, reporting. frames differ accordingly. – Siddhartha Naithani
  • Quick overview of performance. Then move into bullet points for this particular meeting. – Jim Lastinger
  • Highlights, general performance, recent change reminders, ask for questions, show more detail (maybe) pros, cons, next steps. – Nate Knox
  • In general, I like to make sure the client is comfortable with jumping in at any time. I have my spiel, but I want them to share. – Matt Umbro
  • What we’ve done, what’s working, what’s not working and what’s next. Every time. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • 1. Here’s what you care about the most, 2. Here’s what we did and didn’t achieve, 3. Here’s what we can do. – Utsab Saha
  • Our reporting calls follow the What, So What, Now What format. Frames the discussion nicely. – Melissa Mackey
  • Absolutely. Your client always knows more about their business, so it makes sense to listen a lot! – Zach Griffith
  • High level stats check in, projections, then move to strategies and optimizations discussion. – Michelle Morgan
  • Usually start with Target Vs. Achieved. Channel Perf. Actions taken. Impact. Insights. Further course of action. – Tanuj Nandurkar (@quacker_69)
  • Review past performance, discuss, then “next steps”. i also always save a little time for chit-chat to get to know my client better. – Erin Sagin
  • Q2.1 How do you frame calls with clients who are not happy with performance?
    • The top-level conversion stats, what’s working, what isn’t, & current/planned tests. A little more detail, but that’s the idea. – Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
    • The most important step is to let them vent and/or fully describe the problem before jumping in. – Josh Devlin
    • Listen twice as much as you talk. Formulate a plan to rectify the situation after you’e heard them out. – Melissa Mackey
    • Here’s what we’re seeing, why we think it’s happening, what we’ve got on deck to fix it. Have strategy ready before the call. – Michelle Morgan
    • That’s when you focus on the numbers and plans to improve. Don’t let it become a blame game. – Jim Lastinger
    • Firstly, accept that things are not good then suggest at least 2 good solutions. – Utsab Saha
    • Do a deep-dive analysis and then walk through findings & recommendations with your client. Always communicate! – Zach Griffith
    • Maybe it’s just me, but just explaining WHY is all it takes. They need to understand, then they’re OK… as long as things pick up. – Nate Knox
    • Let the client vent, reset expectations (if necessary), and create a workflow to improve important metrics. – Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
    • I proactively try to avoid them. But I own it if it’s not going well because of me. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
    • There is often contextual details that I/we don’t know about that impact performance. I have panicked while the client relaxed. – Nate Knox
    • Good clients allow mistakes. good services providers learn from mistakes. honest relationships make good business. – Siddhartha Naithani
    • Work in tandem with the client on this one. He might have some good ideas. – Sameer Hakim (@hakim_sameer)
    • Sometimes all the client wants is to know you know he’s not happy and why. – Utsab Saha
    • Addressing what went wrong and why right from the beginning. Then going into right what we can do to improve performance. – Vamsi Ponada (@Vapo1126)

Q3: How important do you believe it is to meet with existing clients in person? If so, how often?

  • We do quarterly business reviews in person (although that is usually just acct team). Yearly at minimum is good. – Melissa Mackey
  • Meeting face-to-face is a must! Depending on location, I would say at least once quarter. If friendly, get HH 1/month. – Nate Knox
  • Important, but not make or break. Can strengthen relationships past what’s available on the phone. Just depends on schedule. – Michelle Morgan
  • It’s important to meet in person sometimes, but not every time. Regular meetings are good as Melissa suggested. – Josh Devlin
  • Very important when possible. It really strengthens relationships! Quarterly is good but at least yearly. – Susan Waldes (@suzyvirtual)
  • Extremely important, these guys trust you with their money. It helps to associate a face with the email address. – Utsab Saha
  • Not always possible but highly beneficial to meet in person at least once early, and periodically post that. – Siddhartha Naithani
  • I agree with Michelle, we have had customers for 5 years that we have never met in person, but it can help. – Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
  • Not super important. You have to be really good at using tools like Google Groups, GoToMeeting etc.. Yearly in person is good. – Zach Griffith
  • Doesn’t directly benefit the work I do, but it can ease minds of hesitant clients who put high value on personal relationships. – Nathan Schubert (@NateSchubert)
  • Extremely important. You can see on someone’s face if they’re confused or what their tone is. Hard to see that over a phone. – Joe Martinez
  • It becomes extremely important to meet in person as you better understanding of the person and their expectations of you. – Ashwin Chandra (@ashwin_chandra)
  • If you’re a remote team or client – video is a step better than a call. – Josh Devlin
  • Client perspective: It doesn’t matter much. Skype is better than in-person agency puffery. – Matt Lukens
  • V.V.Imp. At least once a month. Very important for sustained relationships. F2F tell you a lot about the client mood. – Tanuj Nandurkar
  • At the very least we try to do a quarterly meet with clients. Goes upto once in 6 months for international clients. – Utsab Saha
  • Depends on client. Some NEED that in-person time. And it’s easier to get through tough times if you’ve met someone face-to-face. – Katy Tonkin (@katytonkin)
  • Usually, at least quarterly. Depends on amount of activity, schedules, locations, timing. Lunches, happy hours too. – Lisa Sanner

Q4: When meeting with an existing client offsite, what materials do you prepare? Why?

  • Depends on the meeting. Maybe just print a few copies to bring along with the laptop and necessary connection components. – Nate Knox
  • We collaborate on topic ahead of time. Some want reviews, some strategies for the next year, others want to work together better. – Michelle Morgan
  • Usually some sort of recap, like the last quarter. Sometimes we bring swag! – Elizabeth Marsten
  • Less regurgitation of #s, more lessons learned, what we can do to grow the business, needs, other ideas/suggestions, etc. – Katy Tonkin
  • A projector, or verify that they have one, to review plans and outlines, ad copy, display ad creative, landing pages, etc. – Stuart Draper
  • Our typical presentation in a few versions. High level & in-depth. Depends on which manager levels are pulled in to the meeting. – Joe Martinez
  • Usually report, either printed or digital, key convo pts and lots of space for note taking. – Ariana Wolf (@ArianaWolf)
  • Metrics at every business level. Be prepared for that one guy who asks about that one search term they’re not ranking on. – Utsab Saha
  • Depends on the agenda of the meeting but mostly performance deck, plans ahead, strategy, business insights etc. – Ashwin Chandra
  • Honesty, Integrity, the “Passion” in Compassion and the “Friend” in Friendliness. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Usually Quarterly or YTD totals & achievements followed by strategy review and finally open discussion about current business. – Zach Griffith
  • Try to make face time about relationship building. My job is to make sure they know how the business is doing before the mtng. – Katy Tonkin

Q5: What do you believe to be the most important trait/skill when speaking with clients? Why?

  • Patience. Of which I admittedly have little. – Susan Wenograd
  • Being able to think before you speak. – Nate Knox
  • Listening. – Melissa Mackey
  • Patience and understanding. They know what they want. It’s your job to translate that to PPC. – Jim Lastinger
  • A ppt showing 1. broad results 2. tests and outcomes 3. next steps. Then have a casual convo with the deck as a backdrop. – Susan Waldes
  • Shutting up and listening. – Lisa Sanner
  • Patience, empathy and a knack for picking up elements about their business. – Utsab Saha
  • Listening first! Then of course knowing your client/their acct/their goals and being able to speak to their questions & concerns. – Ariana Wolf
  • Communication and being personable with the client. – Ryan Mower (@ryandmower)
  • The ability to clearly define the tactics and value to someone know matter what level of knowledge they have on PPC. – Joe Martinez
  • Compassion. The old golden rule always prevails. Treat them as you would be treated. – Zach Griffith
  • Anticipation – always try to think a step ahead…if you see something you would question, chances are the client will as well. – Matt Umbro
  • Listening & interpreting client’s concern and developing an actionable strategy to solve their issues. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Listening, empathy, business understanding, being able to think on your feet. – Ashwin Chandra
  • Identify his needs, not his wants. e.g. Wants you to do a good job on the account, Needs you to make him look good to his boss. – Utsab Saha
  • Listening & empathy. Find their pain, explain a solution in plain English. Develop a follow-up plan (and do it) to build trust. – Andrew Miller
  • Also, being able to hear what they’re saying, know how it relates to your job, then being able to articulate that is important. – Michelle Morgan
  • Confidence is huge, same as any other meeting/industry. If you’re confident, the client will readily accept and trust you. – Nate Knox
  • I was a focus group moderator in a previously life, It helps me gather info. in a focused way, summarize & move agendas forward. – Lisa Sanner
  • Also being aware of the industry and the competitor level insights helps. – Ashwin Chandra

Q6: What are meeting guidelines you set? Why?

  • I always have an agenda and keep it simple/short. – Robert Brady
  • Set a hard stop, I’m fine with going off course a bit, but my time is valuable. – Matt Umbro
  • As long as we hit the talking points, we pretty much leave it as an open discussion. – John Budzynski
  • Not so much a guideline, but as part of onboarding (or new report hire) find out how they like to be communicated to. – Josh Devlin
  • Performance review, client generated topics, questions/concerns & actions items. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Leave it open format. Questions can be asked at anytime. We want to make sure everyone is at the same page. – Joe Martinez
  • All meetings have a goal and agenda, no screens up unless it’s a working session, keep to scheudle as sign if respect. – Katy Tonkin
  • For a tough client, more than guidelines, pick your battles. Decide on the one thing you want from them and go after it. Focus on looking forward, not backward. – Utsab Saha
  • It should begin more directed towards action items/goals/strategy & then have flexibility to have a more creative conversation. – Ashwin Chandra

Q7: What is your best piece of advice you would give to someone in order to run better PPC meetings?

  • Be proactive: know your clients and anticipate their questions before they ask. – Timothy Jensen
  • Don’t read from the slides. – Matt Lukens
  • Holds true for most questions today. Listen. – Utsab Saha
  • Make sure everyone has notes, numbers, & time to review before meeting starts. Makes for more efficient time usage. – Michelle Morgan
  • Don’t get bogged down in ad hoc data requests. Schedule a follow up to allow for proper analysis. – Andrew Miller
  • Have a regular structure & rhythm eg review, what’s next, strategy, questions. – Josh Devlin
  • No one gets to sit. Goes a lot faster. – Elizabeth Marsten
  • Customize your presentation to the client’s needs, not to what you are comfortable presenting. – Joe Martinez
  • Be confident and have fun with it! Do it right and your clients might just stick around for 10+ years. – Zach Griffith
  • Know the PPC history and path moving forward going in. – James Svoboda
  • Think & plan the meeting keeping the client in mind. Make sure you cover things that the client is looking for. – Ashwin Chandra
  • Save time to plan for future work that will need to be coordinated with other department’s initiatives. – Stuart Draper
  • I’ll say it again, anticipate! Put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about what you would ask. – Matt Umbro
  • Consider: “Is this meeting truly necessary” before scheduling. Most things can be better accomplished via email/phone. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Don’t just focus on PPC alone, be sure to illustrate how it fits into the bigger picture. – Ariana Wolf
  • Side note, we didn’t hit on it, but make sure you send recaps after each meeting with the action items for each party. – Matt Umbro


More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Andrew Miller (@AndrewCMiller)
• Ariana Wolf (@ArianaWolf)
• Ashwin Chandra (@ashwin_chandra)
• Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
• Derek Martin (@derekmartinLA)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• Jim Lastinger (@jimlast)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Josh Devlin (@JayPeeDevlin)
• Katy Tonkin (@katytonkin)
• Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
• Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
• Matt Lukens (@mmlukens)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Nate Knox (@nateknox)
• Nathan Schubert (@NateSchubert)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Richard Fergie (@RichardFergie)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Ryan Mower (@ryandmower)
• Sameer Hakim (@hakim_sameer)
• Siddhartha Naithani (@noeticsound)
• Stuart Draper (@Stu_Draper)
• Susan Waldes (@suzyvirtual)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Tanuj Nandurkar (@quacker_69)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Utsab Saha (@sahautsab)
• Vamsi Ponada (@Vapo1126)
• Zach Griffith (@ZachGriffith)

The Art of Streamcaps….yeah, it’s an art!

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; WebRanking Director of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #PPCChat Streamcap Grabber, SEO Blog Author. Connect with me @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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