You are probably finishing up your 2022 strategic plan. A lot has changed in the past year. Some of it probably affects your initiatives looking forward.
- Clients are more open to Zoom meetings. In fact, in areas where the pandemic persists or heavy traffic is an issue, they probably prefer them.
- After working at home for a year, some of your key team members may want the option to continue some proportion of their workdays remote.
- You may decide portfolios may need to be adjusted for anticipated inflation, stock valuations, or some other current circumstance.
- You have planning advice might to be updated for the possibility of tax law changes.
Here’s one New Year’s resolution to consider as part of that plan: why not become more client driven?
What does it mean to be client driven? It means your business plans are created and updated from the perspective of what clients want most from the experience of working with you. It means the voice of the client is an integral input to strategic planning. It means you actively engage clients to discover preferences they can articulate and anticipate what they would respond positively to even if they cannot verbalize or even imagine them.
It starts, of course, with asking. That may take the form of client surveys, individual interviews, or leveraging a client advisory board. Discover what aspects of each step in your process generate value. What do clients value or enjoy the most about a review meeting? What do they want on the agenda and how much time do they want to dedicate to each topic? What parts of your onboarding process made it easier for them and which parts made it more difficult?
I don’t mean to suggest that you should customize every client relationship. That would not be practical. You need standards and systems to make the experience consistent and efficient. That’s why knowing your target market is critical. It’s difficult, maybe impossible, to have an ideal experience for multiple profiles. You need to know who you are creating that experience for.
Once you have gathered feedback, co-create the experience with the client. It can be as simple as requesting their input on agendas when you send a draft in advance of a review meeting. Or you may involve them more deeply in the design of your client experience. Because most people cannot imagine what possibilities exist beyond their current experience, you can develop alternatives for client meetings, office arrangement and decorating ideas, report formats, even services you might provide, and bring them to your advisory board for evaluation and criticism. Even if you believe clients would dislike the ideas, putting them up for discussion can yield some interesting insights. You might even go outside of your current definition of financial advice for inspiration. Advisors I have worked with asked their advisory boards, for example, about bringing in experts to provide career advice as part of the relationship.
Recognize that client preferences will not only change generally over time but can change through the course of your relationship. Several advisory boards I have conducted suggested that they cared more about the detail of the portfolio (the performance of individual segments) when they first started working with their advisor and got comfortable enough that they were satisfied with higher level information after they had worked with their advisor longer. Ultimately, their recommendation was to have one style of report for the first two years of the relationship and go to a simpler format after that.
There is already a trend underway to move from a client-centric model to a client-driven model. The first is paying more attention to the needs of individual clients. The second is involving them in the design of the experience. Maybe this is the year you make this shift in your business.
Have a happy and successful new year.