How to host an effective client advisory board meetingKeep your CAB engaged in the growth and development of your firm and client base
May 31, 2016
Because a client advisory board (CAB) can go a long way in benefiting your practice, we’ve been focusing on CABs in recent posts. If you haven’t yet, read my other posts on the business boosting benefits of a CAB and how to create an advisory board of your own, before digging into this third and final piece in the series.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, the primary focus of any CAB meeting — whether it’s your first or your twentieth — should always center on how you can better serve your current and future clients. As you set the meeting agenda, consider your short-term goals, but also look for ways to hone your knowledge of the following:
- Which services your clients value most
- What differentiates you from other advisors
- When and why clients refer their networks to you.
How you craft your meeting will affect the authenticity of your board’s responses. Don’t underestimate the power behind even the most seemingly inconsequential details.
Carefully consider location, format
An offsite location, such as a private room at an upscale restaurant, can neutralize the client-advisor relationship that you experience within the walls of your office. The setting is important because in a successful CAB meeting, traditional roles will be flipped. Instead of offering advice, you’ll be receiving it.
A third-party facilitator can further enhance the openness displayed by CAB participants. Because your clients like you, they may not want to say things that could be perceived as hurtful. Having someone else ask questions — particularly questions that are likely to garner an uncomfortable response — can separate you from the interaction (even though you’ll still be present) and allow for honest, insightful answers. To fill the facilitator role, consider a client with experience planning meetings, a hired professional, perhaps your wholesaler, or even a hired stand-in. As a guest at firm retreats and workshops in the past, I have found that the experience of working with advisors with different styles and from different types of firms can be extraordinarily valuable in stimulating conversation.
Even with an outside facilitator at the helm, your reactions to the conversation will be on display. To gain as much insight as possible, keep your posture, demeanor, and responses as open and inviting as possible, particularly when receiving feedback that may be difficult to hear.
Identify your objectives up-front
When planning the meeting’s agenda, consider your firm’s current challenges, and structure the program so it’s designed to identify solutions for your biggest areas of concern. You may be surprised to find members of your CAB with clear opinions about all aspects of your business: the design of your marketing materials, your quarterly statement performance reporting — even the quality of the coffee in your office.
Your CAB members, many of whom are independent business owners like yourself, can help you identify a wide range of previously unconsidered potential solutions. Such as? Perhaps the creation of millennial-attracting social media sites. By 2017, the millennial generation will have the largest buying power of any cohort, according to Dr. Nathan Harness, our advisor education consultant and director of financial planning at Texas A&M University. Your CAB may bring up a wide range of new ideas: Maybe you’ll discover a need to add or discontinue services, bring on additional staff, or expand your office space.
Still, the primary focus of the meeting should be on them. How can the addition of a new office enhance their customer experience, for example, or which new potential products or services could augment the strategies already in place in your clients’ portfolios? You are fostering engagement when board members see that you have framed the meeting around the overarching goal of finding ways to better meet their needs.
Follow-up after the meeting
Be sure to send a thank-you note to participants. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Once suggested changes are in the works, send updates on those that have been implemented, so board members can see the direct impact they’ve had on your firm’s development.
Finally, share feedback and changes with your broad client base, perhaps via an update in your quarterly newsletter. Even clients who aren’t part of the CAB can feel that their voice is heard when they see you making changes to better serve your base. In the end, nurturing relationships with your existing clients can be the unexpected key to future business growth.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any app, service, or publicly traded company. It is also not a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security.
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