Five reasons to hold a client advisory board meeting
By Dave Scranton
A business practice I have always believed in is that of periodically pulling together a client advisory board or board of directors. Not only is it incredibly valuable from a client services perspective, but it can also be a potent marketing strategy when organized and conducted in just the right way.
Despite my belief in this practice, I must confess I had let far too much time pass between my last client advisory board meeting and the one I held recently. That became all too clear as the meeting stretched into its fourth and final hour! Obviously, my clients also felt it had been too long since the last such meeting. They were happy for the opportunity, and not shy about sharing their thoughts and opinions.
Now, by acting strategically on those thoughts and opinions, I can virtually guarantee myself positive outcomes in the pursuit of two crucial business goals: retention and referrals.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though, so let me back up and share what I believe are five good reasons to host a client advisory board (or board of directors) meeting.
1. It’s easy — There is certainly nothing radical about the concept of a client advisory board, and from a logistical standpoint, it’s relatively simple (certainly simple enough that the potential benefits far outweigh the minimal effort and expense). The first step, obviously, is to identify who you want to be there. I reach out to my top eight client couples, making it clear that the goal is to get their input on how to improve client services.
2. It’s a good barometer of how you’re doing — By framing the meeting around client services, you will inevitably learn what your clients feel you are doing right and specifically where they believe improvements could be made. My own meeting touched on everything from my office décor to parking spaces, and involved rating the performance of each staff member who deals directly with clients. It was extremely informative and — for the most part, I’m happy to say — reassuring.
3. You will learn surprising things — I’m a huge advocate of staying in front of clients year round through various communication tools and special events. I thought I had a good handle on exactly how my clients wanted to me to stay connected, but my meeting showed otherwise. For instance, the group agreed they wanted to receive my monthly newsletters via email as well as in paper form. Why? So they could easily forward them on to friends!
It was equally eye-opening and helpful to hear their feedback on some of the regular activities I host: client appreciation events, workshops, etc. In my own practice and among advisors I coach, each of these activities has a strategic marketing component, so knowing precisely how your clients feel about them can go a long way toward helping you improve and strengthen those marketing pieces. 4. Clients feel like active participants in your business — Clients already know on some level that there is a connection between the client services they enjoy and the health and growth of your business, but an advisory meeting provides a great opportunity for you to highlight that message and get them actively thinking about it. More often than not, they are probably looking at you only as their advisor and not considering the broader picture in terms of your overall practice. This event literally gives them a seat at the table and drives home the message that what’s good for you is good for them. The inevitable consequence is that…
5. You will get referrals — You can seamlessly broach the subject of referrals in an advisory board meeting by emphasizing how important referrals are to the growth of your business, which, as everyone now knows, is what allows you to take great care of your existing clients. Participants will happily offer up their ideas on how you can become more referable and invariably come out of the meeting thinking more carefully about who, in their own lives, might really benefit from and be open to a meeting with you.
Probably the most important thing to remember about a client advisory board meeting is that its value isn’t limited to the actual meeting. If you really want to maximize the growth potential presented by this simple strategy, take careful notes and come out of the meeting ready to act upon what you’ve heard. (And don’t wait more than a couple years before you schedule your next one!)