Preparing for your first meeting with a new prospective client is critical to winning the business. You want to convey that you understand their industry, the competitive landscape and the local market. Uncovering an advertiser’s goals, challenges and vision allows you to deliver the most relevant proposal. But how do you get there? You’ll want the conversation to include these questions you should ask advertisers.

The answers to these questions become the basis for your proposal. In creating your list of queries, keep in mind that it should be unique depending on the advertiser’s industry, size and potential market.

Meeting Prep: What to Know Before You Go

During prospecting, you likely already did research before you made contact to qualify the company. That assessment may have included:

  • Company size
  • Service area
  • Current advertising scope
  • Digital footprint (e.g., website, social media, etc.) 
  • Previous interactions with your organization
  • Top competitors
  • Defining their business model (how they make money and what they sell)
  • Average spending for the industry on advertising (Schonfeld & Associates is a resource; RAB (Radio Advertising Bureau) members can also access an abbreviated version.)

These data points are public facing, so they aren’t hard to find. However, they don’t dig into a company’s actual needs in terms of advertising. You’ll get those answers during your meeting.

Questions You Should Ask Advertisers in the First Meeting


Who is your target audience, and why?

You have an idea of who their customers may be on a general basis. For example, homeowners and business owners need plumbers and HVAC service companies. But you want to narrow it down a bit. Prompt the advertiser to discuss their “best” customers and their unique attributes.

For example, a plumbing company may want to target commercial businesses with at least 10,000 square feet of space because they know that’s a good margin for them. Further, they might also prefer companies operating for at least five years.

The more information they provide, the more you can sketch out targeting opportunities and the tactics that enable this.


What do you want to sell more of or focus on in advertising?

Most companies have multiple products or services. They may have a significant revenue stream from one but not others. What they want to sell depends on the margin, availability and demand, so this question aims at defining what they want to promote. You may also find that they need advertising for more than customer acquisition. They may have a more significant need for recruiting, for example.


What is the lifetime value of a customer?

Advertisers may need some assistance in answering this. It’s different for every type of business. It all depends on how often a customer needs the product or service. Gyms see income regularly from memberships. Spa salons may provide services every six weeks. Larger purchases like new HVAC systems occur infrequently. Field service businesses can also make revenue from maintenance on the unit.

Talk through their business model, and ask follow-up questions about frequency and customer retention rates. You can ballpark the number by getting granular.


How many new customers do you need to acquire per month to make a profit?

Business owners may not know their CAC (customer acquisition cost). However, they can tell you how many new jobs or sales they need to make monthly to be profitable. They know their costs — labor, goods, operating expenses, etc. They can also provide you with their average revenue per job or product sold.

With this data, you’ll be better able to recommend a budget that delivers those new acquisitions each month to turn a profit.


Who are your biggest competitors, and what are they doing well?

You already have an idea of the competition, but it’s good to get the customer’s perspective. The number of competitors will vary, influenced by the service area size and industry. Your city may have hundreds of salons but only 10 plumbing companies.

Additionally, asking what the competition is doing well lets your customer express their opinions. Hearing what inspires them can help you customize your advertising proposal.


What results, or lack thereof, have you experienced with advertising?

From your initial evaluation, you know some things about the advertising they are launching. The question is, did it provide any positive ROAS (return on ad spend)? They may be able to share some charts or metrics from past campaigns. If so, that’s a great way to assess the strategies they’ve used and if they produced results.

If a prospect is talking with you, that’s an indication that what they’ve tried didn’t perform. They may have worked with an agency or used self-serve platforms for digital advertising. As you know, many things impact results. Try to get more details on the creative, channels and targeting. From that, you may be able to diagnose why these campaigns didn’t deliver.

launch campaign

Have you launched an integrated campaign with linear and digital?

Find out the scope of their advertising campaigns and if they’ve ever developed one that includes both OTA (over-the-air) and digital tactics. The answer will most likely be no. If so, you have an advantage since you can provide both. The reality is that OTA and digital together complement each other. OTA gives them a broad reach, while digital is more targeted. If you have any success stories to share, this is a perfect opportunity to do so.


What is your advertising budget?

Not every company has a stated budget. It could fluctuate depending on their sales and cash flow. Seasonality, supply chains, geography and staffing all impact budgets.

Most of the time, the answer’s going to be “It depends.” There’s the classic 5% rule, which states that a business should spend around 5% of their sales revenue on advertising. The budget number they need to spend most often depends on the CAC.

Since most businesses don’t know this, you can start with an approximation of CPL (cost per lead). Here’s a resource with projections for a variety of verticals. Of course, what a business pays to capture a lead doesn’t always lead to revenue. The CAC depends on the industry and conversion capabilities.

Going into a meeting with some base numbers lets advertisers know you’ve taken the time to understand their business. There is no perfect budget. Rather, spending has to be enough to make an impact and have a duration long enough to see results. It should also consider what they’re comfortable spending to get more business and the costs associated with gaining new business (e.g., more staff, inventory, etc.).

The best way to talk budget with a customer is by looking at factors and calculations. This valuable information is the basis of our webinar, Doing the Math: Crafting Winning Proposals


A Prepared Sales Professional Is a Good Detective

Being prepared for a sales meeting requires time and effort. You don’t have an endless supply of this, so focus on advertisers with the greatest potential for a long-term relationship. You’ll need to put on your detective hat to come to the table with numbers and insights. In the end, it pays off, as prospects realize the value of your knowledge and see you as a trusted resource, not a salesperson.

Watch on-demand: Doing the Math: Crafting Winning Proposals Webinar

Get tips and tools on how to calculate the “sweet spot” for digital ad proposals.