Agencies manage many clients with a multitude of needs. All of these needs are critical to the client’s business, and so time spent collaborating and planning is crucial to ensuring productivity and hitting deadlines. Weekly meetings to sync on a project’s status or to provide updates can often times become redundant, not only stalling productivity but preventing innovation and momentum.
We spoke with three agency leaders on how they keep meetings with their portfolio of clients on-task and make the most of the time spent together:
- Christian Beck, Executive Design Partner at Innovatemap, a digital product agency
- Jenn Lisak Golding, CEO at Sapphire Strategy, a measured marketing agency for B2B businesses
- Andy Tiepen, Director of Marketing and Sales at Crafted, a digital studio in Indianapolis
Let’s dig-in to the strategies these leaders use for planning and managing meetings in an agency setting.
How to structure meeting agendas in a collaborative way with clients
While there are several ways to structure client meetings, the most common thread is encouraging clients to be active in driving a meeting’s focus and goal.
Keep meetings client-focused
Christian shares how he and his team maintain the structure of the meeting, while guiding clients in participating in its agenda:
“We take the lead in guiding our clients through our process so our agendas support the meetings we need to execute our work. Most often we drive the agendas, but typically we have entire sections devoted to us asking the client questions. So while they don’t dictate the agenda, often we are still guiding them towards driving the content.”
Jenn and her team mirror this method, dedicating a section of a meeting’s agenda templates to the client so they can add their own meeting notes. This also places a level of accountability to the client to stay alert and focused as the meeting progresses.
Andy also follows the trend of keeping meetings client-focused:
“We always encourage our clients to add their items to the agenda ahead of time so we can account for items that are important to them, be prepared, and include the right people in the meeting.” Andy cautions against adding meeting to-do’s in “real-time” during meetings, stating how it creates more bottlenecks and takes meetings off-task: “[Many] times agenda items get added in ‘real time’ during the meeting, which is not always the most effective.”
An additional tip is to try assigning a “leader” or “moderator” of a meeting, to ensure your precious, scheduled time doesn’t veer from its goal(s).
How to get clients to show up for meetings (all the time)
In order for an agency to serve their clients best, it is critical that participation occurs on both sides; so, how does one ensure all key stakeholders show up to meetings? A central log of communication and status of projects using a tool like Docket always encourages participants to not only be present during meetings, but engaging.
Christian and his team make sure to bring up bottlenecks as soon as they arise and are proactive in anticipating when something could become a potential hurdle:
“We get key stakeholders to show up to meetings by making the connection between participation and progress. We communicate our progress regularly, which makes it clear where bottlenecks happen. Nothing motivates a client showing up like knowing they’re preventing progress from being made!”
Have a dedicated project workspace
Having a dedicated hub, or portal, where all project and meeting agendas can be accessed sets a tone of accountability. If there’s a known location where everyone’s responsibilities and tasks can be located, it makes the uncomfortable situation of bringing up bottlenecks and missed deadlines less confrontational (and less frequent).
How to hold clients accountable for bringing their action items/next steps to meetings
As with all meetings, the goal is to come out with clear next steps and action items. If a meeting doesn’t have clear next steps for moving a project forward, then it usually falls under the “stand up” category, where a team meets for a quick sync on what team members are working on.
In an agency setting, meetings with clients can include a project details review, implementation of next steps, and addressing hurdles that may push deadlines. Here’s where agency leaders have found success in holding clients accountable for meetings.
Drive honest dialogue
Christian works with several clients and credits up-front communication as the necessary foundation for a successful working relationship:
“Accountability with clients starts with creating honest dialog up front. When you begin working with a client, it’s a two-way relationship. We set these expectations up front and treat key client stakeholders as a part of our team: communicating what we need for meetings, and what we need reviewed in between.”
Create a true partnership
Building off of the expectations around communication and transparency, Jenn shares the tactics she and her team use to ensure all parties are held accountable. She shares that her team sends meeting agendas a day ahead, so they have time to review the items before their discussion. Setting due dates for client action items and making sure to follow up when the due dates aren’t met is also a key tactic. Following up on the “tough stuff”—like when deadlines are missed—can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it keeps everyone on track and on schedule.
Additionally, she and her team make their next action items dependent on clients completing their action items, making a project’s success a truly collaborative effort.
Successful agencies don’t treat clients like another checkbox; each client is treated as though they are the top priority—because they are! Do you have your own success strategies for meetings? Tweet us your tips @docketmeetings!