Ad Agency New Business: Ensuring a Productive First Meeting


Have you ever attended a new business meeting that seemed awkward or directionless? One in which the intent seemed misunderstood? Unfortunately, many agency principals have occasionally found themselves in these circumstances. As the business development liaison, avoiding this situation is a critical aspect of your job.

Preventing a Wandering Discussion

We have all been there. Initial intent gets sidetracked. A spark of interest grows cold. Unhappiness with an existing partner fades. A new contact learns she doesn't command the decision-making power originally claimed.

Situations change and people can be fickle. Perhaps, when you initially connected, frustration levels were high or there was a strong desire for change. Those feelings may have shifted, but a meeting is on the calendar and costly preparations are in the works. How do you ensure that you are sending your A Team into a situation that represents a real new business opportunity?

It’s all about qualification.

Your Pre-Meeting Questionnaire

After uncovering the key business issues surrounding a new client opportunity, be sure to ask these pre-meeting qualification questions before sending your big guns into their first face-to-face with a prospective new client.

  • Who will be involved in your agency review process?

    • Who are the decision makers?

    • Are there any key influencers who will play a role?

    • Will the CEO be involved?

  • What are your criteria for reviewing candidate firms? (Get details.)

  • What firm(s) are you working with presently?

    • What is the nature of that relationship? (Is it AoR or project-based?)

  • What is driving your decision to consider alternate resources?

  • Are there any other firms you are considering?

    • Who are they?

  • Is there a timeline associated with your process?

  • What specifically would you like to learn from our team during this meeting?

    • How much time will you allow?

    • Are you interested in reviewing case study material?

  • Is there a particular assignment you would like to address?

    • Is there a brief we can review prior to getting together?

    • Is there a budget associated with this initiative?

  • What is your process for moving forward?

Most prospects, if properly cultivated, will answer the majority of these questions willingly because they appreciate that this is a serious endeavor for both organizations. Occasionally, you will encounter someone who is “interested in learning more”, or “open to meeting the team” or is “just too busy" to give significant detail.  Such responses indicate that you need to make a judgment call. Carefully consider the following:

  • Is the account a whale and worthy of a possible tire kicker session?

  • Are you so well positioned that the networking opportunity alone is well worth the price of admission?

  • What’s your gut?

Bottom-line, don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the process. Prospects expect them. You are sending your most valued agency assets into a discussion with an organization with which you hope to do business. Your job is to arm your team with as much information as possible.