What a client advisory board can (and cannot) do

Aspiring entrepreneurs searching for business ideas are often advised to find a problem and solve it. As someone who already runs a successful firm, you have an advantage: an existing client base already coming to you for solutions. Among the ways you can accelerate growth in your firm are encouraging your existing clients to share word of your firm, increasing clients’ satisfaction with the services you currently provide, and finding additional problems to solve. Client advisory boards can assist with all three.

Your client advisory board can help you:

  • Discover what clients value most about your work for them
  • Find out what parts of your process they enjoy most, and which need improvement
  • Discover new services they want
  • Refine your communications to be more relevant
  • Increase loyalty
  • Increase referrals

Client feedback is most valuable for advisors who are interested in improving the client experience. Some advisors believe they have designed the best experience possible for their clients. Those advisors feel their long client relationship puts them in the best position to know what their clients want.

While I have no doubt you do a great job for your clients and they are satisfied with their experience of working with you, I also have no doubt that if you have not asked them specifically about each element of their interactions with you there are opportunities, possibly significant ones, to make them more excited about working with you and value you even more.

Your client advisory board can help you deconstruct your client experience, give you insights into each step and each interaction, and discover what to enhance, what to add, and what to eliminate.

Those are the insights at the micro level. We recommend engaging your board at the macro level as well.

You can engage your board and helping you design the advisory firm your ideal prospects most want to work with. That’s what we mean by being a Client Driven Practice. Leverage the board to get feedback and guidance on your strategic plan.

There are also some things an advisory board cannot do:

  • Produce referrals
  • Generate the next service or improvement in your business
  • Write your marketing plan

All of these can be enhanced, tested, and accelerated by your board. But it is unrealistic to hope that it will create them.

A client advisory board will help increase loyalty and increase referrals. But if that’s all you are in it for you will be disappointed.

I have had advisors ask if they should tell clients to come to an advisory board meeting with a list of referrals. That is a recipe for creating discomfort and laying the groundwork for a bad outcome. A move like that is all about you. A client advisory board should be all about them, at least until you have demonstrated that you are willing to accept AND ACT UPON their feedback.

A consistent stream of referrals is the product of a relationship. Actions to improve the relationship may inspire referrals. Asking for referrals is transactional. You ask, they give. It weakens the relationship in the short term and is not a sound long-term strategy. I am often amused by advisors who remind me that “it’s a relationship business” and then pursue a totally transactional strategy like asking for referrals.

Your advisory board can help you evaluate new service or marketing ideas. They may even come up with a couple. But that’s a bonus if it happens. You, as leader of your firm, are responsible for generating the ideas. Then bring them to your board for vetting and discussion.

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