1. Determine a Meeting Schedule
At the onset of a client relationship, you should begin by establishing expectations for reporting meetings. Determine how often you’ll want to meet to review results, while realistically taking into account the project budget and your clients’ availability.
Generally, you’ll want to meet at least monthly. However, based on the size of a project, you may want to check in weekly or biweekly, as results may create a need for agility. For some small clients, you may only find it necessary to meet quarterly.
Talk with your client about what time works best to schedule a meeting. For instance, some small business owners may deal with a heavier workload at the beginning of the month or on Mondays. Ideally, you should determine a regular time that works to connect (say, the third Thursday of each month) and send a recurring calendar invite.
2. Decide a Method of Communication
Next, decide how you’ll plan to meet. If your client resides within a reasonable driving distance, meeting in person every so often is ideal for the fullest level of communication. Otherwise, phone calls or web conferences will suffice for connecting.
When meeting remotely, be sure to plan well in advance exactly how you’re connecting. Too many scheduled calls involve wasted time when people don’t know what number to call or can’t find the right GoToMeeting link. Add any necessary phone numbers and web conference links to both call invites and reminder emails.
3. Prepare an Agenda
Before going into any client meeting, you should prepare an agenda listing out what you plan to discuss. An agenda doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) a complex multi-page document. A text-only email will work, although you can prepare a nicely formatted agenda in a Word doc, as well. Simply bullet out the major items you’re going to cover.
- Review July results
- Discuss linkbuilding strategies
- Discuss plan for new website content
- Present proposed fall ad messaging for approval
You should send this agenda to your client ahead of time but also have printed copies available if you’re meeting in person. Ideally, this document will help to keep you on track and on schedule during the meeting.
From our example above, if your client brings up a question about the fall ad messaging while you’re still reviewing the July results, you can remind them that you’ll discuss that point later. Of course, you won’t be able to fully avoid off-topic conversations, but you can plan in advance to cover all topics that you know matter to your client’s goals.
Aside from the practical advantages of an agenda, it also conveys organization and a command of strategy that will remind a client they are in good hands.
4. Send the Report Ahead of Time
In addition to the agenda, email your client a copy of the report ahead of time to review in advance of the meeting. That way, they can come prepared with questions based on what they’ve read.
Also, make sure every member of your agency’s team who will be involved in the meeting has reviewed the report in advance. While an analytics team member may have prepared the report, an account manager may have just skimmed it. To help reinforce advance understanding, hold a quick internal discussion about what’s in the report, including advance explanations for any metrics that may appear negative, along with calling out positive and negative performance points. Address any internal questions or ideas internally to ensure you present a fully unified presentation to clients.
5. Invite All Necessary People
Think about which people need to be involved in a meeting, both from your team and your client’s. For many small businesses, the business owner wears multiple hats and wants to be directly involved in marketing discussions. For larger client teams, you’ll likely be speaking to top-level staff who play a role touching your marketing efforts.
On the agency end, including every member of an agency team in every meeting is a waste of the client’s budget and of agency resources. An account manager may be able to handle a monthly reporting meeting alone for a client with basic, low-budget ad campaign. But when strategy is on the agenda, or discussions that require give and take that will directly impact day-to-day tactics, don't leave out important team members to save a little money.
Team leads who are actually working on an account should participate in at least a quarterly meeting for a large client engaged in a cross-channel marketing retainer. Many clients want to connect with the people who are directly involved in the work on the account, such as writing content, managing a PPC account, or implementing an SEO strategy.
6. Hit the Highlights
Once you actually kick off a meeting, focus your discussion toward actionable takeaways. While your report may contain minute details such as clickthrough rates for multiple keywords or bounce rates by page, you don’t necessarily need to read through every number in the report. Your time and your client’s time are both valuable, and attention spans are limited, so decide in advance what key metrics you can highlight from the report. Your client can review more detailed sections on their own time; however, be prepared to answer questions about any questions or concerns that may arise from their review of the report.
When you share success metrics, talk about how specific tasks you performed contributed to those results. For example, links that you built may have supported the 20% growth in organic traffic, or bid adjustments in AdWords led to a 15% reduction in cost per acquisition.
When you mention any negative metrics, talk about what you’ll do to improve those metrics moving forward. For instance, if costs per click have been rising, you may research some more cost-effective keywords or work on improving quality scores.
Also, make sure you address growth and losses in the context of previous performance and long term goals. A decrease in traffic month over month may look bad, but it may be an anomaly in an overall upward trend. And progress may still be evident from a year over year perspective.
Finally, address any needs you may have from your client. For instance, the conversion rate may be suffering due to a poor website experience, and you may flag a need to update the site. At the end of the meeting, make clear both the tasks you’ll plan to work on moving forward and what tasks you need your client to complete.
7. Send a Meeting Recap
After the meeting, you should always follow up, preferably in writing, with a summary of the action items and any other important takeaways from the discussion. Send this both to your client and to any internal agency staff involved with the project.
When you’re planning your next meeting, it may be helpful to review your action items from the previous meeting. This will help ensure you’ve addressed any relevant concerns in the next report. It will also give you the opportunity to place any items that still require follow-up on the agenda for discussion.
Effective client reporting meetings involve more than just getting everyone on the phone and reading through a report. They demystify your process, your efforts and the value of your work. From the beginning of a client’s contract, take the time to set clear expectations for both sides regarding metrics, KPIs and regular communications schedules. From there, you’ll need to follow through on those expectations, which requires thorough preparation and delivery in your meetings. In addition, ask for your clients’ feedback on how you run reporting meetings and incorporate what they’d like to see in future discussions.
How do you make your client meetings a success?