How To Turn A Client Visit Into A Collaborative Success
February 19, 2016
As account managers, a lot of our time is spent interacting with our clients. After all, part of our job is to keep our clients abreast of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. For me, most of my client interaction occurs on weekly calls and email updates. While effective, sometimes a face-to-face meeting can really help an account turn from day-to-day management to a collaborative exercise that results in growth and success.
Initially, the thought of getting out of your routine and visiting a client in person might seem counter-productive. For one, there might be significant travel time involved, which could potentially cause you to get backlogged on the work you do for other clients. For me, it usually means that I need to reschedule calls and meetings and spend extra time keeping up with all the emails I missed while I was out of pocket. However, the flip side is that my meetings usually have a positive effect on the client I’m meeting with, which makes all the hassle worth it.
Once you’ve decided that you’re going to visit a client, the most helpful thing you can do is give yourself time to plan. You’re spending the time to travel there, so you definitely want to make sure that you show up prepared and well-versed on what you’ll be discussing. If you’re not, the meeting is not likely to be as effective as it could be.
If I’m meeting with a client I visit regularly, the first thing I do is pull up the last presentation I did for them and see how many of the action items were accomplished. This is important with recurring meetings because the items you spoke about the last time are likely to be brought up again. You need to be prepared with answers and explanations. It’s also helpful to find out ahead of time who will be attending your meeting so that you can ensure that the information you present is relevant to all involved.
Putting Pen To Paper (Or PowerPoint)
Once you feel you’ve got a good handle on what you want to discuss, start putting it in writing. Though it may seem like a daunting task, starting your presentation as soon as possible will help you gather your thoughts and streamline them faster.
One thing I’ve learned from past experience is that waiting until the last minute to prepare meeting materials usually results in errors that are sometimes embarrassingly discovered while presenting, as well as a general feeling of uncertainty about the material you’re presenting. When you prepare ahead of time, you can really look over the data, anticipate questions and think about ways to steer a productive conversation.
Where Do I Start?
I like to begin by reviewing the items we discussed at the last on-site visit and provide a status of where we are with those items. If I’m discussing performance, I’ll break it down into what worked and what didn’t work, so that the client can clearly understand the action that was taken and the accompanying results. I then like to give the client updated search trends about their industry, which is usually a great springboard for conversation.
These are the conversations that don’t always get to happen on a weekly call, but are so important and eye-opening to have with the client. Plus, there are sometimes people invited to an on-site meeting who have different roles in the company, thus providing different insight. Conversations about industry trends can really take on a higher-level and can result in deeper account learnings.
It’s also important to talk about your future plans for the account. Let the client know what your upcoming initiatives are, why they’re important, and what you’re going to be doing to accomplish them. This is a great way to bring everyone onto the same page and provide a deeper understanding of the strategies behind your account management. It’s also an opportunity to explain tactics on a deeper level to those in the room who may not be as familiar with PPC as your direct client is. Overall, it gives everyone an understanding of what you’ll be doing and what you’ll be reporting on during your next visit.
Collaboration Is Key
Having been on many on-site client visits, I find it extremely effective when I can reach out to my main contact in advance of the meeting and share my presentation early. Doing so usually helps me get the feedback I need to ensure that my presentation is on-point and relevant to everyone who will be attending the meeting.
As an account manager, I like to feel as if I’m an extension of my clients’ internal marketing teams. Collaborating on my presentation with my direct contact beforehand provides me with the opportunity to be on the same page as my contact, as well as prevent any surprises in the meeting that may not be as well-received as originally thought. I must admit that collaborating with the client beforehand wasn’t something I always did. Rather, it’s something that I learned to do as a result of previous on-site meeting experiences.
The End Result
Typically, on-site meetings for which I’m well-prepared turn out to be exciting days of learning and collaboration that generate a solid list of action items. Though preparation can be lengthy and stressful at times, the end result is almost always something that couldn’t be achieved over the phone or via email. Rather, it’s a time to possibly meet others in the company whom you’ve never met, gain a different perspective of things, and have a productive discussion about where the account is going.
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