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As I’m right in the midst of a big agency screening process, I thought it was a good time to update my Top Ten Tips for Chemistry meetings.  Although they’re written for the agency pitch process, they’re relevant to any new business meeting.

I’ve run countless pitches for some very big organisations and have watched many a good agency needlessly trip-up in the very first meeting.  Fortunately, the most common pitfalls easily avoided with a bit of preparation and attention to detail.  So here’s how to ensure all your meetings are productive and successful…

1.  Make us feel welcome.  Think of it like you’re inviting a guest to your home.  Make sure your reception is tidy, that the copies of Campaign aren’t three weeks old and one of your employees isn’t sitting there eating a bowl of spaghetti.  And if I’m a bit late because of trains or snow (I will have phoned to let you know), don’t leave me sitting in reception for a further 10 minutes when I arrive.  This is when you were meant to be in a meeting with me – what are you doing?  Oh, and please don’t abandon me in an empty meeting room while we wait for my colleague to arrive.

2.  Be Prepared.  It’s a job interview, so do your homework. To be honest, I’ve interviewed junior Marketing Managers who’ve done more research and shown more insight than some big London agencies.  Don’t ever let a member of your team say “This (sector) is so interesting, I knew nothing about it until yesterday!”  We’re looking for experts, not interns.

3.  Remember there is life outside Soho.  Or Hoxton.  Please don’t show me a voxpop of 23 year old media-types saying they’ve never visited or heard of my regional, family-market brand.

4.  Don’t overwhelm us.  There’s nothing worse than walking into a room full of superfluous people.  Match the agency team to the client team.  Get the creatives to put on a clean t-shirt (and maybe have a shave).  Don’t ask someone who can’t drive to present to a car client.

5.  Think different, but stay relevant.  In the age of the internet, there is such a thing as a stupid question (like “who is your parent company?”).  Share your insights, but in the immortal words of Basil Fawlty, try and avoid “specialist subject, the bleeding obvious”.  Double, then triple, check every slide for typos.  We get upset when you spell our names wrong.

6.  Let me speak!  The first meeting should be a discussion, not a presentation.  Don’t rush from one point to the next without taking a breath and sense checking things with us.  If you put the shovel down for a minute you can usually avoid digging yourself into a dead-end.

7.  A word about your awards.  Congratulations.  But we probably read about them at the screening stage, so you don’t need to tell us about them again.  And we’re more impressed by awards for effectiveness or innovation, than big budget TV ad creativity.

8.  Don’t spend most of the meeting talking about other clients.  In minute detail.  I’m here to talk about me! And if one of the team starts rambling on, or talking about something that’s clearly irrelevant, shut them down. The rule of thumb is, if I look bored, I am.

9.  ‘Here’s something to remember us by’.  Handing out branded USB sticks, pens and notebooks is fine and appreciated, but don’t leave them in a pile in the middle of the table, I’m too polite to help myself.  Avoid anything that says ‘I made this specially for you’ (iced cupcakes, printed t-shirts and the like).  Just wrong.

10.  Beware the crumbly croissant.  Good catering is really important, but please don’t give me a super-sized croissant that’s going to flake all over my best shirt or Danish pastries that are still frozen in the middle, or half a cup of milky tea in a chipped freebie mug.  And please don’t spill a jug of milk all over my suede boots.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll do brilliantly.  But for the best pitch strategy advice, give me a call.

All these examples have really happened.  Although thankfully not all during the same pitch process.