Like many leading advisors, Norm Boone has assembled a client advisory board. Unlike many of them, he is not in a hurry to reconvene it.
If you have read me, you know I believe a client advisory board to be the most powerful tool in an advisors arsenal to gather client feedback and drive marketing and strategy. So I thought it would be interesting to hear from an advisor I deeply respect whose advisory board experience was not so profound.
"It wasn't a failure" reports Boone, "but there weren't any surprises. There weren't any a-ha’s."
Reflecting on the experience, he has an idea why he didn't get more out of it. When asked what he would recommend to another advisor considering a board, he said "have some very clear questions about what you want to get out of it and what the client is going to get out of it." On his experience he reflects "that was one of the big weaknesses - I'm not sure we had very clear objectives."
Norm, who is President of Mosaic Financial Partners and founder of IPS AdvisorPro, describes his firm's goals for pulling clients together as "to see how we were doing." He believes now that not being specific enough about what they wanted to learn or what they wanted to improve contributed significantly to the disappointing results.
I couldn't agree more. If the main thing you want to learn from your clients is how you are doing in addressing their needs, let me save you the trouble and cost: you're doing great. They love you. That’s why they remain your clients. And, remember – you are likely picking the people you consider to be your best clients for your board, so it is unlikely you will be picking people who are generally dissatisfied with you.
Boone's experience illustrates how critical it is to formulate the right objectives. If you want meaningful feedback, you need meaningful questions. Don't ask "are you happy," ask "what are the three things we do that are most significant in making you a happy client?" When asked a general question, advisory board members will do what any person would do – give you a superficial and general answer. To get value, you will need to dig down into it and find out what's underneath. Better feedback is dependent on better questions. These clients have signed on to be your advisors – engage them as they would engage you as their advisor.
Boone is not opposed to bring his board back together. "We have no meetings contemplated right now, but we may meet again." If he does, one thing is certain: it will be because they want to learn something specific.