Four Meeting Protocol Don’ts

A recent string of bad behavior has made me think it’s time for another column on business protocol.  Let’s talk about setting up meetings, shall we?

Protestations of the programmatic crowd notwithstanding, the media business thrives on meetings.  A salesperson believes they have an advertising venue, bit of ad technology or new service that an agency might be interested in, and it’s their job to set up and attend meetings with a list of prospects.  It’s the agency’s job to use their time wisely and use their best business judgment to figure out which of these salespeople have products that are worth investigating further and doing business with.  That much we all understand.

But we all have different levels of experience with business and technology, as well as different methods of prospecting, so it’s no surprise that someone needs to write something every once in a while that identifies breaches in business protocol in an attempt to shore them up.

So please, please, please change your behavior if you engage in any of the following tactics:

Sending Spammy Meeting Request E-mails

Even if you manage to fill out all the form fields correctly such that we don’t see “[AGENCY]” somewhere in the body of your e-mail, we agency people can easily distinguish a mass-mailed meeting request from a personalized one.  If you’re asking yourself “So what?” at this point, perhaps it makes sense to discuss how these robo-mails are perceived:

  1. If we didn’t have an existing relationship, our opinion of your company after receiving a mass e-mail is that it’s on par with spammers and people who try to get somebody to give them the serial number of the copier so they can ship exorbitantly marked-up copier supplies.

  2. Regardless of what the e-mail says, the message we get is “Whoever sent this out hasn’t done their homework and they’re trying to meet with anyone and everyone.”

Opinions don’t change if you happen to engage in the spam tactic du jour of following up spams with personalized e-mails saying “I never heard back from you on this” and attaching the original spam.

Repeat after me: If I indiscriminately carpet-bomb, nobody owes me an answer.

Sending a Meeting Invitation Without a Preceding Conversation

If you send an agency professional or a client-side marketing professional a meeting request without having cleared it first, you’ve done something incredibly disrespectful that’s apt to get you blacklisted.

Sending an unsolicited calendar request says “I’m presuming you have no objection to an immediate meeting, and I’m presuming you have the time.”  Meanwhile, you have no idea what the requestee’s schedule looks like or whether they actually believe they need to meet with you.  And you’ve declared, essentially, “your judgment as to whether you need to meet with me is irrelevant.”

Repeat after me: Sending a calendar request should be the last step in securing a meeting, not the first.

Not Doing Your Homework

Agency people assume that when someone requests a sales meeting with them, they’ve taken some very basic steps to understand the organization they’re selling to.  Nobody likes answering questions like “What types of clients do you service?” if that question is answered on the home page of the website.  Ditto for “Where are your offices?” and “Do you guys do media buying?”

Notice I’m not objecting to requests to give rundowns of client rosters and approximate planning cycles.  That information isn’t’t typically available unless asked for, and most agency people are glad to give that information when requested.

Repeat after me: If the question is answered on a top-level page on the website, I probably shouldn’t ask it.

Refusing a “No.”

You might believe that any marketer would be crazy to not consider your product or service.  Marketers have a right to disagree with you.

Fact is, if media teams were tasked with meeting every potential partner who requested a meeting, that’s all they would do, and they wouldn’t have time to put together media recommendations for clients.  The goal of meeting with everybody is simply unachievable because there are too many media, technology and service vendors to meet with.  Media teams have to be selective, and they typically look for some sort of fit with an existing or planned advertiser initiative or a very real need before they’ll agree to a meeting.  So a “no” response to a meeting request might simply reflect that the media team is overwhelmed and doesn’t see an obvious fit with what they’re currently working on.

If you’re told that a meeting just isn’t feasible at the time and you’re given an explanation as to why, there’s no reason to keep insisting on an immediate meeting.  Pressing the issue makes things more difficult, because it implies that you don’t trust the agency team’s judgment when it comes to priorities.

Repeat after me: No means no.  Instead of insisting, ask questions and understand why first.

Tom Hespos is a contributor at The Makegood and Founder and Chief Media Officer at Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing programs. Look for Tom’s column the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month.