What does your Client Advisory Board think about you?

What do your clients think about you, your team, and your practice? When is the last time you asked them? Have you ever asked them? Then why not ask? Advisors are increasingly forming Client Advisory Boards of a small number of their best and ideal clients to better understand their clients and receive valuable and actionable business feedback. These forums can also serve as a low-cost, high-impact way to deepen client relationships, do more business, and potentially earn more referrals. Having a clear idea of the goal of the first couple of meetings – issues to discuss, ideas to focus on – can inform the selection of board members and preparation for the first meeting, helping ensure the group’s effectiveness and respect clients’ time.

Additional considerations for creating a new Client Advisory Board

Selecting your board members.
  • Create a short list of potential board members.
  • Keep it small. Consider a handful of your best clients.
  • Look for clients that generate revenue and with whom you share common values.
  • Consider clients from all walks of life and demographics.
  • Select individuals who will openly share their opinion and give honest feedback.
Set the stage for the meeting:
  • Schedule an off-site meeting, possibly including a social element.
  • Set their expectations: Thank them for their business, let them know they are one of your best clients and that you value their thoughts and opinions.
  • Communicate expectations of what is required as a board member: how often you’ll meet, what type of feedback you’ll be asking for, length of commitment.
  • Have meetings twice per year, rotating clients in and out by staggering their terms from 1-3 years.
Making the most of your meetings.
  • Make sure to provide members with sufficient advance notice of the meeting dates.
  • Send out the agenda several days before the meeting.
  • Stick to no more than five questions per meeting.
Potential questions to tackle:
  1. How and why did you choose to do business with us?
  2. What do you believe makes us different from other advisors?
  3. Have we met, exceeded or fallen below your expectations?
  4. What is one thing you feel we could improve on?
  5. How can we improve our communication?
  6. How do you feel about our newsletter?
  7. Do you have any comments about the strengths or weaknesses of our competitors?

Meeting follow up.

Within a week after each meeting, thank each board member in writing (letter or email, as appropriate) for coming, summarize what you heard, and provide initial thoughts on how you plan to implement their feedback.

Act on their words. Demonstrate you’ve listened.

Although the Board meetings take time and preparation, those meetings are just the beginning. The real work begins once the feedback has been collected. Implementing corresponding changes – and giving the regular progress updates and eventually credit to the Board for the improvements, as appropriate – is one of the most effective ways to engage these important clients and demonstrate that their feedback is valued. Consider starting subsequent Board meetings with brief updates reviewing changes based on their recommendations since the previous meeting.

The bottom line

Creating a Client Advisory Board and hosting regular meetings, acting on their feedback, and making corresponding process improvements has the potential to generate valuable client referrals. Actively engaged Board members who know your business and know you listen can lead to good things. Don’t think so? Ask them.