Client Communications

A client advisory board can be helpful to your business

By Fiona Collie |

A client advisory board can help you shape your business and marketing strategies.

"Engaging with your best clients and involving them in your practice is an immensely powerful tool," says Stephen Wershing, president of Client Driven Process in Rochester, N.Y.  You can make your plans more effective and targeted by inviting clients to participate in a CAB and including their feedback.

A CAB is a facilitated meeting during which top clients discuss various aspects of your business, from what makes you different to what services they would like to see added to your practice.

Of course, a CAB is not suitable for every advisor. If you offer a unique experience and different service levels for every client, says Wershing, you don't want clients sitting down together talking about your business.

If, however, you offer the same experience to clients, at least to those within the same segmentation, a client advisory board can be helpful to your business. Here are a few reasons why you should create a CAB:

> Hear new ideas
A CAB will generate a more productive discussion about your business than any other form of feedback.

Having a client complete a survey, for example, or asking him or her about your business at the end of a client review meeting, are useful ways to gather feedback, says Wershing, but they also have limitations. That's because these other forms of response don't feature group discussions, nor is there a facilitator asking for more specific information.

When clients participate in a group discussion, they can bounce ideas off each other and feed off one another's opinions, which makes for a more in-depth response, says Wershing.

> Find your unique value
Create a stronger marketing plan by using a CAB to define your unique value proposition.

Often advisors think about what sets their business a part from their competitors by themselves, says Wershing. However, there can be a substantial difference between what advisors think makes their businesses distinctive and what clients believe.

Refine your unique value proposition, says Wershing, by asking CAB members why they hired you as an advisor, why they remain your client and what would cause them to leave your business.

You can then incorporate that answer into all your marketing materials and client communications.

> Improve your service offering
One of the benefits of organizing a CAB is that you can discover exactly the type of services clients want.

Use the feedback from the meeting to customize your service mix, says Wershing. For example, you might focus on creating more comprehensive financial plans or hiring someone to discuss tax issues with clients.

> Engage your clients
If you organize a CAB make sure you intend to listen to your clients' opinions and are prepared to act on them.

"Asking for feedback drives loyalty," says Wershing, "and then acting on that feedback can significantly enhance client engagement."