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The Surprising Value of a Client Advisory Board

Posted on: June 25th, 2022

The Surprising Value of a Client Advisory Board

Entrepreneurs should always be looking for ways to strengthen their businesses, enhance their success and grow their personal wealth. The top business owners we know and work with are not only highly focused on those goals, they’re also open to fresh and novel ways to achieve them.

Take advisory boards, for example. As we’ve noted in the past, it’s common for business owners to establish advisory teams—organized groups of leading professionals who contribute their expertise to help both the company and the owners excel. The experts on these teams are able to help guide the business forward by enabling the company to avoid obstacles. They may do this by sharing industry best practices and dealing with specific problems the firm faces. Advisory teams can be especially critical to ensuring that a family business continues as a family-owned and

-operated enterprise over several generations.

But there’s another type of team that some business owners may find especially valuable: an advisory board consisting of a select, handpicked group of the company’s existing clients.


We call this a client (or customer) advisory board (CAB), and we’ve seen that it can be an excellent way to gain insights into how to provide an exceptional client experience at all steps—and capture new opportunities. Here’s a look.

A CAB overview

A CAB is a forum in which business owners invite a select group of top clients to share their insights, ideas and advice about the business. It involves regularly scheduled, in-person or virtual group meetings to discuss key practice management issues that the entrepreneur is facing and to seek creative solutions together.

Essentially, a CAB is a focus group consisting of highly valuable clients of a business who are both willing and able to help the owner enhance the overall value and effectiveness of the firm and grow the company.

Important: A CAB is different from client-driven appreciation events or get-togethers. It’s a more formal and systematic approach to enrolling clients in the future of the business. Also, it’s designed to provide owners with insights and strategies from a group of top clients brainstorming in a collaborative, work-focused environment that encourages creative solutions.

Why clients?

It’s probably easy to see the value of creating an advisory board of other business owners and professional experts, but perhaps less obvious why entrepreneurs would want to include clients in their initiatives.

There are several key reasons to form a CAB. If you’re a business owner, your clients view your success as an entrepreneur as an important part of their own overall success. You might not realize this, but it makes perfect sense. We all want to work and associate with top people. Your clients have a vested interest in helping you and your practice achieve tremendous success. In fact, it’s in their enlightened self-interest to do so. They want you to continue to provide them with excellent service and solutions. The upshot: Many of them, if given the opportunity, would be eager to provide you with insights and resources that could help you grow your practice and become even more successful.

There are several important reasons to consider enlisting top clients as formal advisors (see Exhibit 3):

Exhibit 3

Reasons for a Client Advisory Board

The Surprising Value of a Client Advisory Board
  • To engage top clients in the success of your firm. The Pareto principle suggests that the top 20 percent of your clients account for approximately 80 percent of total revenues. By giving these key clients systematic opportunities to provide you with business-related ideas—as well as feedback on your initiatives—you will receive high-value insights from successful people who are responsible for your success and who care greatly about your future.
  • To ensure a world-class client experience. A CAB is an excellent resource for learning if you are truly executing on the client experience you think you’re delivering—or if you need to make improvements. In short, a CAB consisting of top clients can give you much-needed clarity and serve as a reality check on what’s working in your business—and what isn’t.
  • To identify and leverage new opportunities for success. It’s likely that at least some of your top clients are respected, powerful and well-connected members of their fields. These clients understand their unique needs and the needs of their communities. Having a formal system for tapping into such knowledge gives you the ability to understand the key needs of your target market—and helps you identify ways to expand your business through referrals, introductions and other smart methods of growth.
  • To conduct targeted market research. A CAB allows you to go directly to the source—your top existing clients—for key insights and knowledge about your client base, your offering and other aspects of your business. In our experience, this approach is more effective (and cost-effective) than hiring expensive market research professionals.
  • To generate greater client loyalty. Asking top clients for their ideas and feedback on your business and its future direction sends a message that you respect them and value their opinions about issues of great importance. What’s more, by incorporating their ideas into your strategies and initiatives, you will deliver to your clients the exact type of experience that they truly want.

Building a valuable CAB team

To create a CAB, you must recruit ideal participants from among your client base. These four steps will get you started:

Step #1: Identify ideal CAB members.

Develop a list of your ideal clients, and identify the top 20 percent in terms of the revenue they generate for the firm or their overall profitability. You might also consider select clients who are not among the top 20 percent—for example, clients with access to a particularly helpful center of influence. From your list, look for 12 to 15 clients who would be ideal candidates to join your board. A CAB consisting of 15 members or less will be large enough to generate plenty of good ideas but small enough to be manageable and avoid too much “groupthink.”

Pro tip: Ideal board members will be those who can bring to the table skills and perspectives that are different from your own yet are complementary. In particular, look for clients who have specific skills or experiences that relate to your main customer base. Ideal board members also will be those who are willing to collaborate with others.

Step #2: Schedule a meeting.

Call each ideal candidate and tell them you’re developing a focused approach to your marketing and business development and would like their help. Ask to take them to lunch to get their ideas and opinions about your plan. You don’t need to dive into the CAB concept at this time. Simply obtain the buy-in for the initial meeting.

Step #3: Conduct the CAB interview and evaluate suitability for membership.

Now determine if the client can provide high-value insights. Ask questions that will allow the client to identify and share with you the most important aspects of working with you: why the client chose you, what the client most values about your relationship, and how you should position yourself to work with similar people. Take notes during the conversation. If you are not sure you captured a response accurately, read back what you wrote down and ask if you understood correctly. Above all, do not make the mistake of trying to sell any additional services at this time. You are there to get input, period.

Step #4: Explain the CAB and invite the client to participate, if appropriate.

If the interview was worthwhile, tell the client that you are creating a client advisory board and invite the client to join. Explain that your CAB will consist of a few top clients who will be asked to meet as a group two to three times per year to share their perspectives on key client experience and marketing issues you are focused on (such as identifying new business opportunities, ensuring a world-class client experience and so on).

Explain why you are asking the client to join your board—for example, because you value their insights and believe that with their help you can do an even better job serving them and capturing opportunities to become more successful. Point out that their experiences, both in life and as a client, give them a unique perspective to support the continuous improvement of your firm and that by joining your board, they can help you have a significant and positive impact on a lot of people’s lives.

Conclusion

Regardless of what business you’re in, it’s vital to accomplish a few goals: Understand your clients’ evolving needs, give them an exceptional experience, build rock-solid client loyalty and capture new opportunities for growth. A well-executed CAB can potentially generate all of these outcomes for you and your practice by enabling you to fully leverage the experiences, knowledge, connections and insights of some of your most valuable assets—your top clients.  


This report was prepared by, and is reprinted with permission from, VFO Inner Circle.  AES Nation, LLC is the creator and publisher of VFO Inner Circle reports.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra IS or Kestra AS. The material is for informational purposes only. It represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results. It is not guaranteed by Kestra IS or Kestra AS for accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions. It should also not be construed as advice meeting the particular investment needs of any investor. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS.

Fusion Wealth Management is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. https://www.kestrafinancial.com/disclosures

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