Updated: Apr 4
Originally written for Forum Magazine February 2022
In the May 2021 edition of the Forum magazine, Patricia Giesbrecht shared her insights on advisory practices developing a strategy to ask for client feedback and then devising a plan to apply that feedback. Not surprisingly, asking for feedback can have a profound impact on your advisory practice if you know how to apply it. It can help strengthen client relationships, increase referrals, identify ideal clients and better understand what your clients value most. It may feel like an intimidating task. Some advisors feel exposed and vulnerable and it does require time to coordinate. It is however worth it if you formulate the right plan to implement it.
Any new strategies or business initiatives should be made with your client feedback in mind. Your clients know best so always consider their feedback to maintain the most productive direction.
Have you ever considered taking client feedback a step further and developing a client advisory board (CAB)? Let’s start by understanding what a CAB is. In the advisory world and other industries, a customer advisory board is a group of clients, ideally your best clients, coming together to provide feedback and advice on the business’ effectiveness and future direction.
We have seen some of our clients create a CAB to enhance their client experience as well as their marketing initiatives which ultimately impacts their business’ growth and future success.
Your best clients are the best fit for your CAB because you want more of them. They matter to you and so does their opinion. Many are likely business owners themselves and appreciate the same type of feedback from their clients. They may have their own CAB in place or you may inspire them to do the same.
Because they are your best clients they also likely have a deeper relationship with you and your business and have a good understanding of your value and ways to improve upon communicating that value.
Clients to consider on your CAB:
- Clients who you enjoy working with. You care about them, they likely are in the same stage of life as you and there is mutual respect between one another.
- Clients who understand your business philosophy, your beliefs, your process, your brand and overall business direction so they can help you see innovative ways of continuing down that path.
- Clients in your “sweet spot” who have the funds for you to make a difference in their lives and who understand the importance of comprehensive planning.
- Clients who are likely to refer you to others, who would have the best opportunities to do so and they understand your services and product offering.
- Select clients who are somewhat extraverted for your CAB so they are comfortable speaking in front of others.
- Consider other professional advisors such as your accountant or legal professionals to get a different perspective.
You may choose to meet with your CAB virtually or in person, perhaps a few times a year or quarterly. Ideally, you can take them to dinner or do an activity you all love to do. You can also hold a virtual event and have a bottle of wine or dinner delivered to their home before the meeting.
Whatever you decide is appropriate, the most important goal of these meetings is collecting insightful information. This is most likely to happen with a prepared agenda. Some advisors will get a third-party such as their business coach to facilitate on their behalf. This would help you relieve some pressure so you can focus on listening versus facilitating.
A CAB is a step above one-on-one client feedback simply because the conversations will go deeper. One idea will often spark several ideas from others and they will build on each other.
Your CAB should have the opportunity to communicate why they choose you over other advisors, what they believe is most valuable to them, their business and their family and what they like most about working with you and your team. They should also have the opportunity to discuss what they would like to see in the future or ideas they have for you to grow and improve your business further.
If you are focused on adding new ideal clients to your practice, a great question to ask your advisory board is, “If you were me, what would you do to attract more clients like you?” We have seen some great suggestions and increased referrals just as a result of asking this question. This powerful question gives you insightful answers and you are showing your CAB how much you truly value their business. So much so that you want more of them!
Also, open up a discussion around thoughts and ideas about your products. What would your CAB like to see prioritized? Are there any issues they have with your solutions? What problem did they have before working with your team, that you have since resolved for them? With the increased emphasis on technology in these virtual times, it is an opportune time to get client input on how easy it is to do business with you in the electronic environment.
Make sure you also save time to discuss your own vision for the company and the priorities you see on the horizon. Give the CAB the opportunity to ask questions about your vision and offer feedback.
Likely, from this engaging discussion, themes will emerge and you will notice that comments end up being similar across the board, especially since these are your ideal clients and they likely all appreciate your business for similar reasons.
Not only will this help you with building your business in the future but also consider the following:
1. The members of your CAB are more likely to do more business with you and will be more likely to introduce you to someone else, because of the strengthened relationship you have developed.
2. They know that they are your priority. They understand that their feedback and opinion matters. When they see feedback get implemented, they will more inclined to provide more. They may ask you to do the same with their business and join their CAB.