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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or Email Jim Piper or David Newman

The Good, the Bad and the Porcupine

One of the comments I hear most frequently when meeting agencies is:
“I’ve used new business agencies before and they’ve sent me on some meetings that were a complete waste of time.”

The main reasons for this disappointment are normally expressed as:

  • the person was too junior
  • they didn’t have any budget
  • they didn’t really know why I was there
  • they had clearly been ‘persuaded’ into a meeting

Sound familiar?

It certainly sounds familiar to me in my 20 years’ experience at Alchemis and it’s why we chose to illustrate our understanding of good and bad meetings with a series of animals.

Let’s look at a few of them.

The Racoon:

The RacoonUnfortunately, these animals are endemic in the creative world. They are often looking for new ideas and strategies that they can either take to their in-house team or to their current agencies. We have to be mindful of raccoons when setting meetings for our clients and be careful to identify that they’re genuinely interested in working with someone who can give them fresh ideas rather than steal them!

This is also true with non-creative agencies such as research, analytics and digital who are constantly developing new methodologies and approaches which are going to be of interest to decision makers in this world. We have to be vigilant that we’re not sending our clients out to educate rather than win business, although sometimes business can be won off the back of a seminar to the client team, for example.

The Mole:

The MoleOne wonders why moles agree to meet anyone, as they are so unreceptive to anything new or different.

They require a lot of careful probing and qualification on the phone to find out if there’s a genuine interest in changing agencies or whether they just want a sounding board for their own work.

The Porcupine:

The PorcupineWe’ve all met them, the ones who barely offer you a glass of water and who look at their watch pointedly and repeatedly. Again, you have to wonder why they agreed to meet, unless they have been ‘persuaded’ to do so by the caller, using one of the infamous lines like ‘we’re in the area anyway…..’

This is one of the main reasons we recruit mature business development professionals who don’t use cheesy sales lines like this or else our clients will end up wasting their time with porcupines. We focus on asking intelligent relevant questions that help identify whether there’s a genuine reason to meet or not. That meeting won’t necessarily result in an immediate brief or opportunity but should certainly be about starting to form a relationship which needs nurturing over time. This element of following up meetings to ensure that the relationship is sustained and developed is often carried out by us on behalf of our clients, as we are adept at finding reasons to call or email and therefore keep in touch, so that our clients are at front of mind when that opportunity arises.

Now, here are some of the good meeters:

The Swan:

The SwanAn ideal prospect, the swan is genuinely looking for a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership and once in one, it could last a lifetime. It’s all about looking for these relationships which have a life time value of years, on-going needs and multiple projects. You need to demonstrate a mature, considered approach to your work in these meetings and be prepared to share case studies which show your ability to sustain long-term relationships, whilst still ensuring that you’re capable of thinking strategically and creatively in order to bring continuing value to the client-agency partnership.


MeerkatsOften working for innovative organisations, meerkats will typically meet potential new agency partners in groups. Whilst these meetings can sometimes be intimidating and difficult to control, it’s a great sign that they are genuinely interested in seeing what you’ve got to offer. They will often bounce ideas off each other during the meeting, sometimes even disagreeing amongst themselves. You need to be on your toes and be prepared to bare your soul as well as show your passion and excitement for what they’re looking to achieve.

The Rhino:

The RhinoOften difficult to break into their outer hard layer and find out what they’re looking for, they want to see your credentials before they open up. You need to be methodical in talking through your case studies, they are interested in the why, the how, the when, the who, the where and the what and will ask lots of probing questions before they feel comfortable in sharing their goals and challenges. You may well be asked to sign an NDA too!

Don’t put any pressure on them by getting them to agree to the next steps them too early, let them make a considered decision in their own time. The shutters will come down again if you close too early. They also appreciate an honest appraisal of the work that you’ve done; it’s even worth sometimes admitting where you would improve a project if you did it again – this level of transparency shows that you’re not full of bs.

Whilst I firmly believe that no meeting is a waste of time, as long as it meets the key criteria – you never know where that individual may turn up later in their career, for example, and whilst your agency may not be right for their current company, it may well be right for somewhere they move to (1 in 3 marketing decision makers change jobs every year) – I also believe that it’s incumbent upon a professional business development agency to deliver on their promises. This includes doing everything in their power to ensure that meetings are set with the true decision maker within organisations from the right market sectors, who are the right size, who have the right level of budgets, are in the right location and meet the agreed profile.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more about how we go about setting you great meetings or if you want to understand how to make the most of meetings you’ve got in your diary.

And don’t forget to share this post with your colleagues!

Good and bad meeting types infographic

The people we set meetings with. And the people we don’t.

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