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Steps for Better Local Business Client Meetings

Download a PDF version of the above checklist for your office or to share with employees to ensure you’re having your best and most productive client meetings.

Detailed key to the checklist:

1. Check expectations

It’s a momentum dampener when either you or your client arrives at a meeting unprepared or you find yourself staring at a blank Zoom screen for ten minutes because the other party forgot to attend. Send a reminder like this, via text or email, the day before your meeting confirming time, tech, place, and mutual deliverables:

Hi Jean! Looking forward to our Zoom meeting at 3 pm your time on Tuesday. I’ll have the Corte Madera landing page mockup ready to show you, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the staff photos you’ll be bringing to our meetup. The meeting link is _________. See you tomorrow! — Jim

2. Check goals

“What is this meeting supposed to be about?” is unfortunately an FAQ that arises when no clear goal has been defined for the allotted time. Double check that your deliverables are ready to cover the bare minimum of the point of the meeting and periodically review the overall goals set at the beginning of the client contract to ensure that the work being done ties into the bigger picture.

If, for example, the client stated at the outset of onboarding that their main goal was to earn more bookings, check to see if the work you currently have in hand supports achieving this. If the project underway involves improving their booking landing page, then that’s a clear yes. But if something else has come up, like a sudden reputation management problem, you should let the client know that attending to this important matter may delay your benchmarks for the larger goal, or require adding more hours to your schedule of work for them. Be consistently communicative about goals so that projects don’t end up off in the weeds, forgotten, until the client wants to know why X hasn’t been achieved.

3. Check tools

Most consultants offer regularly-scheduled reporting, but SERPs alter constantly, and it’s a good idea to check your favorite tools the day before a client meeting. Take screenshots if anything novel has arisen since the most recent formal report, and export any data you feel requires further investigation. This way, meeting time will be reflective of the most current client scenario rather than how things may have looked a couple of weeks ago.

4. Check SERPs

SEO tools are great time-savers and organizers, but spot-check a few key SERPs manually as a quality control measure. Tools are sometimes behindhand or even wrong, and a manual check provides peace of mind. Meanwhile, new SERP features or significant updates may reveal brand-new opportunities for the client that you can showcase at the upcoming meeting.

5. Check recent reviews

All good local SEOs know it: reviews are one of the best online gauges of how your client is really doing in the real world. Browse the reviews they’ve received since your last meeting, noting both rates of acquisition and sentiment. Raise concerns where necessary in order to find solutions, and be sure to compliment the client on the best reviews they’ve received because they represent a major offline achievement.

6. Check local SEO news

Look up the date you last met with the client and note down any major local search news that has happened in the interim because these developments may have impacted them. Hopefully, you have your own favorite local search news sources, and I highly recommend adding these to the mix for their fast/comprehensive reporting of significant happenings:

  • Search Engine Roundtable — Barry Schwartz is second to none in reporting breaking local search news.

  • Near Media — The best outlet, in my opinion, for expert interpretation of local search developments.

  • Sterling Sky’s Local Search Forum — Emerging problems are often reported here early, as consultants and business owners encounter them in the course of their daily work.

  • Moz’s Quarterly Local SEO Roundup — This is my own report of the major local search developments each quarter and it can be useful in helping you know what’s happened since you last met with a client.

You’ll feel absolutely great if a client brings up a new issue at your next meeting, and you can immediately tie it to something that happened recently because you’ve been keeping up with the news.

7. Check local market/industry news

If you’re ready to become a next-level consultant, prepare to meet a client by looking at the local newspaper in their town or city and browsing through the major news sources in their industry. You bring good tidings to any meeting when you can spot opportunities for sponsorships, awards, new customer bases, B2B partnerships, event participation, and more. For example, local business closures may indicate that your client could fill a new gap, and local business openings may offer the chance to start up a cross-selling promotion with a new partner. SMB clients are often simply too busy to notice these kinds of opportunities and your trained eyes on their market and industry scene can spot valuable growth potentials.

8. Check your personal file on the client

Many of us have trouble remembering the birthdays of all our extended family members and friends, yet we don’t want to be the consultant who insensitively forgets to congratulate a client on having gotten married two weeks ago. If a client shares personal news with you about major life events, they’re including you in their circle of people who matter enough to them to be told about these things. If they made a point at the last meeting that they’d be participating in a big marathon for charity, or taking a dream vacation to Yellowstone Park, or that they’re having a surgery, or bringing home a new pet, or that a flood hit their town, you should make a note of it so you can remind yourself to follow up on how things are going.

I consider making time in meetings for informal, personal chat an essential part of full-service consulting. When clients are relaxed and comfortable, they may share anecdotes with you that reveal hidden talents, exciting aspects of their companies of which you weren’t aware, mission-oriented dreams, and other tidbits that can spark your own creativity and even new campaigns. With some clients, you may have to be careful not to let personal topics eat up the whole time slot, but cordial conversation is the bedrock for building a strong partnership.

There’s never been a better time to make business more relational instead of merely transactional, with AI proponents cheerfully claiming their tech can replace most of us and “handle” nearly everything and everyone without the need for human input, talent, or feelings. Local SEOs prize a certain degree of automation in our daily work because it frees us to focus our minds and time on more creative tasks, but you can’t automate caring about what matters to clients. This requires the effort of staying tuned into both the business and personal goals of the people we serve so that we can bring our best skills to solving problems and earn the great happiness of celebrating shared successes. Real relationships — business relationships that last — have much to do with letting clients feel how much you care about them.

I hope that considering all points on this checklist will help you be both your most effective self and a little bit more authentic at work while dispelling some of the ambivalence you may feel about meetings. With the proper preparation, consultations can be opportunities for living and learning well!

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