Let your Clients Be your Guide

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stock-footage-couple-looking-at-road-map-on-car-hoodYou’re looking for a way to better your business, and improve your relationship with your existing clients. If you want a tried and true way to improve client engagement? Let the clients be your guide.

Successful startups use customer data and feedback to shape their products, brand, and customer experience. They constantly iterate based on what their customers need.

Figure out what clients care about. What frustrates them. What challenges them. This will be the start of your newfound successes in client engagement.

Solicit feedback.

An example: In 2008, Sunil Rajarman co-founded the screenwriting software company Scripped. The idea was to provide free software to screenwriters and then sell their scripts to producers. By 2010, Sunil finally realized that his business model was at odds with what writers really wanted: paid gigs. He learned this by talking to customers about their challenges and observing their behavior. With his customers’ needs in mind, Rajarman re-launched his startup as Scripped, an online marketplace that allows businesses to hire freelance writers for blogs, articles and social media posts.

The key for Rajarman was to uncover the motivations and behavior of his customers and use those insights to improve the product. When it comes to customer feedback, it’s not about asking customers what they want—it’s about asking specific questions and observing behaviors that will help you uncover their pain points. Once you know more about your customers’ challenges and experiences, you can then use this information to identify the right solutions and unroll them to your community. This in turn leads to happier customers who stay longer, refer more, and feel personally invested in the success of your business. Customers with awesome LTVs.

For financial advisors, soliciting feedback is a key to avoiding turnover. By asking clients about their challenges, you can increase the impact of your engagement and improve your services and operations.

For example, if clients tell you they have a poor understanding of their complete financial picture, you can work to solve that problem. [Unapologetic plug: It may be account aggregation and easy-to-read performance reports, all automated by Blueleaf. Learn about it here: http://hub.am/1nZw2tV] When you make the helpful changes, explain them in the context of their challenges: “You told me X was a challenge, so we’re trying out Y to help solve that problem.”

Start gathering feedback:

  • Just like Rajarman did for Scripped, avoid asking clients what they want. “What do you want from us?” isn’t going to yield helpful insights. Here’s a better approach: “When it comes to [insert topic, like financial life or planning for retirement], what are the things you find most [insert adjective, like challenging, time-consuming or rewarding]?” Questions like that will help you get at the underlying problems that clients need your help to solve.
  • SurveyMonkey is an easy-to-use tool that lets you create and send survey questions.
  • Google Forms lets you build custom forms. Results are compiled into a separate document in your Google Drive.
  • Sometimes a personal one-on-one conversation is the best way to collect meaningful client feedback, especially if your focus is on qualitative information
  • Monitoring the results of your blog posts and newsletters is a great way to discover insights about your clients. While it’s not direct feedback, knowing which posts got the most clicks and highest engagement levels gives you a better sense of the challenges your clients face and the issues they care about.

If you have an upcoming meeting with a client, use that as an opportunity to gather feedback and figure out the issues that matter to them. In the past we’ve suggested creating a meeting agenda ahead of time, and then sharing that agenda using a document-sharing platform (you can do this easily through Blueleaf’s client portal). Ask clients to review the agenda and then add in the topics, questions, and concerns they’d like to cover at the meeting. It’s a great way to get feedback on what issues are top-of-mind for your clients.

However you choose to gather feedback, know that doing so leads to happier clients who you can better service, and, in effect, stay with you for the long haul.

This post is an excerpt from our e-book, How to Grow Like Today’s Hot Startups. Access it here.

Corinne is an emerging expert on social media-based communication, with a BA in Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communication. Content Manager at Blueleaf, Corinne enjoys organizing content in the cleanest and most elegant way possible. Outside of Blueleaf offices, she can be found performing in comedy, on the elliptical at the gym, or trying to conquer the latest video game. Connect with her on Twitter @CorinneDeCost.
  • Marty Morua November 8, 2014, 3:50 am

    A client committee (or panel)

    I first saw this in the early 2000’s when TDAmeritrade started their advisor panel. A diverse group of financial advisors who custodied their assets with TDA. They’d meet twice a year discussing the state of affairs. Suggestions, critiques, complaints, compliments and more. Discussions were focused on ways to improve the custodian-advisor partnership.

    Earlier this year I read an article where some financial advisory firms also created such a panel, but with their clients. A select group of clients that meet several times a year discussing ways to improve the advisor-client experience. A moderator (not necessarily the advisor) facilitates these meetings and suggestions are presented to principles of the RIA firm.

    Some of the best businesses experienced robust growth listening (really listening) to their clients.

    Thanks for sharing this Blog Corinne & John.

    Marty Morua

    • Corinne DeCost November 10, 2014, 5:38 pm

      Totally agree, Marty! It’s a shame when people don’t listen to their current clients – it’s the best way to get real, honest feedback. And a great way to learn how to get more clients!