Cultivating a Client Advisory Board

You likely have a number of clients who, for various reasons, represent the best of the best in terms of what you cultivate as an advisor. It’s possible you’ve even thought something like, “If only all of my clients were more like this person.” If you’re lucky enough to be doing business with this sort of client, you might want to consider maintaining a Client Advisory Board as part of your business plan.

Having a Client Advisory Board is an opportunity to pick the brains of your best clients, sharpen and focus your marketing message, and allow you to expand your business through referrals and the advice and experience of your best customers.
Some Best Practice “DOs” and “DON’Ts” when you are putting together and meeting with your board:

DO make your objectives and expectations clear. Nobody is going to want to be beholden to this board forever, but if you suggest that you’re interested in meeting twice a year for two years, to engage them on your current and potential business practices, you might discover that your clients appreciate the opportunity to open a dialogue. Letting them know that you appreciate their business and want to learn more from them how to appeal to folks just like them can be a bit of an ego boost, not to mention open you up for potential referrals.

DON’T overload the board. They are meant to be a representation of your business, not the entire business. More than twelve members is probably unmanageable and too much. Also, make sure you are selecting a wide cross-section of your clientele, not just the “biggest” clients, just representations of the best. Don’t be afraid to invite an estate planner, a CPA, or even a trusted non-client to join the board.

DO keep in touch. Not everything you bring to the board has to wait for the meeting. The occasional call can sometimes provide the needed input to help inform your decisions. Also, be sure to send emails or letters with invitations to meetings, including directions if necessary, and reach out before the meeting to remind them it’s coming up. Also, let them know when you make changes based on their suggestions; they will see how their participation is valuable to you.

DON’T have a boring meeting. Make sure the board members know you have something interesting and engaging planned for them. Treat the board to an exciting outing at a nice restaurant or engaging in a fun activity. In many ways, a Client Advisory Board meeting can intersect with a Client Appreciation Event. Let them know you value their time by showing them a good one.

DO remember that the objective is to grow your business. An advisory board can stagnate from too few new ideas, so having turnover is a good idea. Don’t be afraid to stagger these board memberships, too, so that new members can engage older members and vice-versa; having someone new in the room can make a world of difference.

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