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Creating Value for Marketing Clients: The First Meeting

The main objective for any marketing professional is to create business value for clients through communication. This process is deeply embedded in the creative, consultancy and technical aspects of marketing - it begins on day 1. Here is my guide on what you should cover during your first client meeting to make the experience valuable.

Making the connection.

Marcomms is all about the human factor in communications - how do you connect the brand, product, promotional concept to an audience effectively? To do this on behalf of your clients, you need to get to know them and their business.

During your first meeting, make sure that you get a feel for the client. Make a profile of them in your mind by making a mental note on the following areas:

  • Who are you talking to? What is their role in their company, what is their education, school, work experience, family, personality traits?

  • Make a hierarchy judgement: who calls the shots in the client team and what does it take to pitch to them successfully?

  • Ask questions that have a very low resolution to get the big picture. Allow the client to fill in the gaps by themselves.

  • Take notes on their company and pay attention to any pain points, goals, objectives, problems to solve through marketing.

  • Find out what they expect to gain from this relationship and where does that need come from.

Making the connection with your client in a professional, limited-time setting can be challenging, especially if you and/or your client have bubbly personalities - professional talk can end up being a girls night out, pushing business goals aside. That is fine if it is in line with your style and duties, but generally, I would recommend focusing on getting as much out of your client during the first meeting, so that you are enabled to maximise your value output in the future. Some clients test for professionalism, so I advise setting and sticking to timelines and outcomes for the meeting.

To be more efficient at understanding your clients, study the OCEAN or Big 5 Personality Trait model. It will allow you to profile your clients and other marketing audiences through a deep understanding of personality psychology.

The Big 5 consists of:

  • Openness - This dimension judges openness to experience. Individuals high in openness tend to be creative, liberal, exhibit risky behaviour, are entrepreneurial and able to vibe with you during a brainstorming session. These are modern business leaders, graphic designers, vloggers, filmmakers, social media content creators, musicians, etc. They tend to be in a younger age group (18-30).

  • Conscientiousness - This dimension predicts industriousness, discipline, structure. Highly conscientious people are hard workers, highly persistent, less risky and more conservative. These are the managerial types: accountants, project managers; they may be sceptical of the creative process and strict about imposing harsh deadlines. People low in conscientiousness tend to seek a balanced lifestyle, avoid performance pressure and are generally more relaxed about deadlines. Conscientious professionals tend to be in a higher age group (45+).

  • Extraversion - This dimension predicts the psychological need to seek social interaction. Individuals high in extraversion are your socialites who get energy from engaging with the people around them. These people are naturally talented in sales and direct communication. People low in extraversion are considered introverts and are likely to have more creative personalities. Introverts are less reliant on other people and find comfort in limited but meaningful and effective communication.

  • Agreeableness - This dimension predicts a persons warmth, friendliness and assertiveness when compared to other people. Agreeable people generally have an optimistic view of human nature and get along well with others. An excessively high score of agreeableness is seen in non-leadership positions, especially nursing, caring, non-profit volunteering. Low agreeableness means that the individual is highly assertive, bossy, seeking a higher position in any given social hierarchy. People low in agreeableness are managers, bosses, leaders in a conservative hierarchy.

  • Neuroticism - This dimension predicts the tendency towards elevated levels of anxiety and stress. Highly neurotic people are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, such as panic attacks, depression, bipolar disorder and others. A moderate level of neuroticism results in a healthy drive to move forward with daily tasks efficiently. Neurotic people are easier to read and they tend to talk faster, which may make communication easier. However, if overwhelmed, neurotics may not engage in meaningful conversation at all, especially if they tend towards avoidance.

Combinations of these traits can help you predict behaviour and adapt to your clients' needs. Conscientious and extroverted people will constantly ping you on updates, while agreeable and introverted people will follow your lead and expect you to touch base first on most matters.

Neurotic personalities may help you get a better feel about pain areas faster, while non-neurotic, non-conscientious and extroverted people may tend to drag on the conversation for a longer time than reasonable. Understanding these basic principles of personality psychology will help you make deeper connections and may enable you to execute creative solutions that are perfect for your clients.

Here's where you can undergo a psychometric Big 5 test to learn more about yourself and understand the basics of psychometrics.

Feel the brand.

Identify the business model and learn how it produces value for their target audiences. Ask for success metrics and learn how they were achieved. What role did marketing have, if any?

Identify points of innovation to look for opportunities to transfer ideas and knowledge from other industries. Once you have a clear grasp of the business operation, ask about the brand identity: what does the logotype mean, what is the brand story, what are the brand colours and creative assets. What and why does the brand communicate on social media; how is the content received?

Listen for the needs below the surface, ask more questions to clarify, and take notes. You should be doing little to no talking during this part - focus on feeling the brand and the corporate culture that you're dealing with. This is how your intuition with the client is developed - you need to trust it to be exceptionally effective at marketing.

Differentiate between your clients' internal and external processes and examine whether the internal culture matches the target audience. If you detect a conservative, non-creative corporate culture on the inside and all of its efforts are directed at communicating with a young, wild, creative, risk-taking target audience - note this disconnect as something to target with your marketing thought.

You can feel the brand before the meeting, by looking at the information that is available about their business, creatively evaluating the logo, language used etc.


This is when you ask about the outcomes required by your client. What do they think and how will it play into their overall business objectives? All marketing objectives should feed into the business model and seek to create value for the client.

Align all necessary marketing activities to their business goals. If you see a mismatch between expressed need and their business operation, make it known - this is a good time to use your professional expertise to suggest solutions that will be genuinely valuable. Persuading the client to ditch useless things is always a sign of confidence and necessary to maintain your professional integrity.

Make sure that the request does not violate your own values. For example, I have the rule to avoid all politics at all costs in my marketing - you will never see me making a woke or conservative political statement for myself or clients. In the past, I've observed clients that do not heed the advice to stay away from politics learn very painful lessons, while apolitical brands tend to enjoy steady growth by avoiding pissing off half the country (to put it lightly).

So, if I have a client who wants me to develop a marketing campaign strategy on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party with the underlying objective to hide their crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against Muslim minorities, I'll be out of the room faster than they say 'Glory to Xi Jinping'. An extreme example, but I'm an extreme person.

Identify what must be addressed in the next steps. Use the key bits of information you have acquired from the conversation until now to create a sandbox for the project to live in; build the world and environment for the project to be executed within.

Confirmation & Next Steps.

Review the key points covered in the conversation and recite a summary of the first meeting. Now is the time to confirm what they need to see in the proposal. Identify the next steps and tasks to accomplish.

The information that you've gathered from your client must be turned into a robust explanation of what their needs and wants are. Follow up with the deliverables that you will provide to them to address their needs and wants. In other words, define the problems and then provide your solutions and ask for confirmation throughout this summary.

Once the summary is confirmed to be correct and all additional comments received, you should outline a timeline for the next steps and let the client know what to expect. You’ve already bracketed a budget: now it’s time to get a specific bid.

Once the meeting ends, all relevant parties should have confidence in the agreed outcomes. You seal this in by sending a summary email to their official business account while asking for a confirmation email.

Where's the value?

Creating value during the first meeting is all about collecting and interpreting information from the client effectively, to establish common ground with confidence. The client is looking to enter the meeting with questions, stories of their present state, and give you a lot to work with, and then leave confident about the process that is going to increase the value of their business operation.

Young marketing agencies and freelancers tend to say yes to everything that their client requests from them, even though they may not be confident at executing them. More experienced professionals correct the client from the get-go and pitch better solutions than that the client may not be aware of.

As a marketer pitching to a client, you should know that a budget exists and that addressing it from the first meeting will determine what you can and cannot do. By participating in the process of distributing the budget with the client, you will demonstrate professional understanding - you are on the side of the person talking to you and understand the gravity of the budget being put on the table. People value a smooth and clear process, which is why a team-like relationship between you and the client will have the most chances at creating a valuable long-term relationship.

Last but not least, and perhaps the obvious thing to consider, is that having a strategic approach to the first marketing meeting with your client will save time as well as future effort, ensure professional standards and start the process with lightning speed.

Talking points.

After reading the above, you should already know the direction to aim for during your first client meeting. Despite this, you may still be wondering about what specific questions to ask?

Here are my go-to questions along with professional talking points:

  1. Who are you speaking with?

  2. What are the basics of the business?

  3. What's the problem that needs a solution? What are the pain points?

  4. What are the stakeholders and what are their roles?

  5. What is the product? What is the service?

  6. Are sales increasing or decreasing?

  7. What are some big trends in your industry?

  8. Where do you sell (in person, resell, web, Amazon, social)?

  9. What was your last marketing experience? How did it go?

  10. If time and money were not an object, what would the perfect solution be?

  11. What's your timeline?

  12. What's your budget?

  13. Who are the decision-makers? What factors influence their decisions?

  14. What do you need to see in a proposal?

  15. Clarify your approach and what you have discovered about the clients' requests.

  16. Have we covered anything? Has our conversation sparked a new idea?

  17. Next steps: a) directly after meeting; b) at a later date.

Let's misbehave, harry


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