When building a new business relationship, about 50% of the legwork is done during the first handshake. Your goal should be to make a good first impression, whether you're the client or the consultant. Taking five minutes to review your objectives for the meeting will help you keep your focus and make sure that first meeting is productive.
Most modern "marketing consultants" really know nothing about marketing. Their first suggestion during your meeting will be for you to start a corporate blog and to take your messaging "viral." If you're a legitimate marketer and you make these suggestions during your first meeting, you've failed to make a good impression. Keep actual suggestions to yourself until either the second meeting or when your client actually asks for your opinion.
As a client, make sure you spend enough time explaining what you want to get out of the relationship. Don't just ask for deliverables, try to paint a picture of what success in general will look like 5 years down the road. This gives your new consultant more to work with and establishes a broader metric for performance. If you try to get too technical, you'll squash creativity and end up micro-managing the project in the end.
Always keep the 90-10 rule in mind when you're having your first meeting. According to the 90-10 rule, the client should do 90% of the talking (10% of the listening) and the consultant should spend no more than 10% of the time talking. Consultants, you're supposed to be learning from and about your clients at this point. Clients, you're supposed to be explaining your overall goals and vision. Don't switch roles or you'll end up with an end product no one is happy about.
I recently had a potential client yell at me for not explaining my grand scheme for a solution during our first meeting. He had spent an hour and a half explaining in vague terms what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, he hadn't moved past the brainstorming phase and wasn't really ready to bring on a consultant. I assigned him some simple planning homework - take some time to write down your overall goals for the project. Don't describe how you want the project finished, just explain the ideal endgame.
Our meeting was originally scheduled to be a 30-minute kickoff for a new project. Instead, we ended up sitting for over 2 hours in a coffee shop without accomplishing much of anything. I still didn't know what he wanted to have at the end of the project and he didn't have a new website when he left the coffee shop. On the up-side, both of us learned a valuable lesson:
Know what you want to walk away with and make your expectations clear at the beginning of the meeting!