Six Tips to Get the Most From Vendor and Agency Meetings

    Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time. — Jim Rohn, author and speaker

Last time, I discussed the importance of setting up productive meetings that have clearly defined objectives and goals. Since then, I’ve watched Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Randy Pausch‘s lecture on time management, which he gave at the University of Virginia. I strongly recommend you watch it, too. Pausch passed away from pancreatic cancer in July 2008 at the age of 48. Between his diagnosis and his untimely death, he coauthored the book “The Last Lecture,” which was modeled on a lecture he delivered in September 2007, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

With limited time to live, Pausch became an authority on time management, and in his lecture he discusses ways to make one’s life and, consequently, meetings more productive. He reminds everyone that Disneyland was built in 366 days, from groundbreaking to opening day for the public. He offers the following advice that I thought pertinent to our vendor/agency meetings. How do the following compare to your meetings?

  • Keep it to an hour. I would add that even our lunch meetings should be wrapped up in an hour (or less).
  • Prepare! There must be an agenda. Yes, even for impromptu sales call you should have an idea about what will be covered and how much time is allotted for each element. Most important, everyone needs to agree on this. It makes sense, then, to send out the agenda at least a few days before the meeting. Think about all the follow-up meetings we have because we weren’t prepared in the original meeting with either the right people or right information.
  • Keep track of decisions made in a meeting and assign responsibilities. Sales reps usually want to deal with the most senior person because the perception is that person has the most influence over budgets. In actuality, the person with the most influence is the person the senior person has given the responsibility to make these decisions. Therefore, you may be more likely to make it on a buy if you’re dealing with the assistant planner than the group media director. Find out who is assigned the responsibility and work with her.

Let me add the following tips:

  • Be direct and specific. It’s hard to say no to a rep who is selling her heart out, she may even be someone you are friendly with. However, it’s better to be direct and let her know you have no budget or no desire to invest money with her in the near future than to waste her time with unnecessary requests and next steps just to avoid being direct.
  • Assign someone the role of writing up meeting notes. An hour after a meeting, you’ve probably forgotten what was discussed and what the next steps are. Someone at the meeting should be assigned to write up meeting notes, indicating next steps and assigned roles (with dates of when things are due), then following up to make sure next steps are being met.
  • Don’t be sneaky! Clients and their agency people are usually friendly and like to talk. If your contact has responded to you and provided consideration for your proposal or property and communicated their decision to you, then going around them to a more senior (or junior) person or her client for further consideration is a waste of time and almost always backfires. In the same spirit, be respectful of people’s time. Don’t show up at their office unannounced or call their private cell phone number, which they asked only be used for the gravest emergencies (e.g., letting your contact know about the new navigation bar on your site isn’t a reason to call and interrupt their vacation).

Vendor Spotlight: acerno

There are several behavioral targeting properties worth getting to know, and I’ll be spotlighting them throughout the year. If time doesn’t permit, have one person on your team meet with them and fill out the media evaluation form I mentioned last time (Drop me a line if you need the form). Please note, I’m not making a recommendation that the company belongs on your plan, because I personally haven’t worked with all of them. I’m only recommending they should be on your consideration list.

For this month, I recommend connecting with acerno. It has the ability to target consumers based on their actual shopping and purchase data as well as shopping activity across more than 450 e-commerce sites. If handled properly, the possibilities are endless. For example, a diaper advertiser can target parents who just purchased formula or even diapers online. In October 2008, acerno was acquired by Akamai, which reportedly hosts the world’s largest distributed computing platform. The merger is supposed to further enforce each company’s position as a digital powerhouse.

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