By Jason Parks, owner of The Media Captain.
As a small business owner, I'm constantly driving to meetings to grow my digital marketing agency (and if it weren't for my GPS, I'm not sure my company would still be in business). In today's digital age, however, face-to-face interaction is becoming a lost art. Yet there are so many ideas that are formulated in a meeting that can't be replicated through email, over the phone or even via video conference.
1. Send an email confirming the address beforehand.
Never assume the meeting location's address is correct online or even on Google Maps. If the webmaster for the company you are meeting with hasn't updated their Google My Business page, you could be traveling to an old location. And unfortunately, the blame will still be on you and your company if you're not on time.
2. Scout out a nearby coffee shop.
Having the right mindset heading into a meeting is crucial. Arriving with plenty of time beforehand will put you in the right state of mind: There's nothing more stressful than sitting in traffic when you are on the verge of being late. Pick out a coffee shop you're comfortable with and head there before your meeting. This will also give you plenty of time to prep for your meeting.
3. Ask for a list of attendees.
I can't tell you how many times I thought I was only meeting with John Doe, and three other people showed up to the meeting. If you are handing out a PowerPoint deck, this can be troublesome. Make sure you ask for a list of everyone who will be attending and get their contact information. Sometimes, the most important decision maker won't be the one you are initially communicating with.
4. Do your research.
If you go into a meeting somewhat prepared, you've already lost the battle. Not only do you need to be an expert in your own field, but you need to be an expert in the other person's field, too. Plan to have a list of questions prepared. You'll be amazed how impressed a prospective client will be if they know you've done your due diligence before the meeting. While most do their research, many don't go the extra mile.
5. Dress to impress.
Your outfit doesn't need to be fancy or expensive, but you should always be sure to look professional. You never want to go into a business meeting underdressed. I am always under the impression that if I'm asking a business for money to sign up for my agency's services, I should wear a nice jacket. Investing a couple of hundred dollars into your "meeting wardrobe" can go a long way. Remember, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression.
6. Leave them with something memorable.
Let's say you have a meeting regarding new business and it's a productive session. Afterward, you and your prospect go on to attend other meetings like it's any other day. You want to leave your prospect with something memorable.
We hand out branded coffee mugs after all meetings: Yes, there is a cost involved, but our thought is that the person we are meeting with is important to us since they've put us on their calendar. It's also a great idea to send out a thank-you note to everyone who attended your meeting.
7. Head back to your coffee shop.
This is a trick that works wonders: Since you've already done your research on a nearby coffee shop and are comfortable in that setting, make sure you head back to this destination to jot down all of your notes.
Too often, business owners will attend a meeting, get back on the road, and by the time they get home, they've already started thinking about the meetings they have the next day. Key details can get lost if you don't jot down all of your notes.
This is why it's also important to send any questions you may have as soon as possible. Getting definitive answers can help you land the business. There are plenty of ways to botch a meeting if you're not on time or not prepared.
Following these steps can be the difference between you or your competitor walking away with a new client.
Jason Parks is a proud Buckeye and the owner of The Media Captain, a digital marketing agency based in Columbus.