Wednesday, April 29, 2009

6 Steps for Client Focus Groups That Produce Loyalty and Referrals

by Bill Cates

Referral Coach International

Once upon a time, I owned a book publishing company.

Not only did I publish books, I brokered printing, and even did some training for printing and graphics companies. One of my specialties was running Client Focus Groups.

These took on a myriad of forms, but the basic premise was always the same.

We'd gather some of the client's top clients and customers into a room and talk about improving and expanding the business. These clients were given royal treatment and were willing to engage in these sessions because they had a vested interest in their relationship with the company.

Whether they realize it or not, your clients have a vested interest in your successful business. These meetings help solidify their interest in your success. The more successful you are the better you are able to serve them. Plus, many of them would be more than happy to help you just because they like you. It's time to tap into these relationships.

Step 1 - Identify as many groups as you can of about 8-12 "A" and "B+" clients who might be willing to participate in a focus group. You'll probably end up with 6-10 attending the meeting. Pay attention to how you group these folks, making sure personalities are compatible. Other small business owners, consultants, and salespeople tend to make the best focus group participants.

Step 2 - Working with one group at a time, invite them to a meeting with you and your staff to discuss/brainstorm how you can serve them even better than you currently are. Serve them a meal, breakfast or lunch, or both and give them the royal treatment.
Step 3 - The first item for discussion is how you are presently serving your clients. If you have one, discuss your client-service model. If you don't, formulate one for the group to evaluate and give you feedback on.

Step 4 - The second item on the agenda is marketing. Let them know the types of individuals you are trying to reach with the important work that you do. Let them know of any niche markets you are pursuing or are thinking of pursuing. Brainstorm marketing and referral ideas.

Step 5 -The third, and optional, item is to discuss any new products that you might want to make available to your clients. Discuss the value of these products. Brainstorm how you will talk about and present them to your clients. You'll get great ideas and many of these folks will want to know more about the products for themselves.

Step 6 - Take action on as many of the ideas they give to you as possible. But even if you can't act on all of them, stay in touch with them so that they know their time with you was well spent. Be ready for a lot of great ideas, as well as direct referrals.
Many of your clients will appreciate the opportunity to be "let into" your business. Many will love the creative thinking around service and marketing. Many will begin to think about your business, even when they are not in direct contact with you and will continue to share ideas as they come up.

Some advisors run several focus group meetings a year. Many of your clients will do this with you annually. Some of them would prefer every other year. If the thought of creating these groups is just too far out of your comfort zone, then schedule some one-on-one sessions with some of your clients - for the purpose of helping you serve your clients better and reaching more people with the important work you do.

What are you doing that's working for you with regard to referrals and client service? What isn't working? What topics would you like to see me address?

Maybe I can help. I'd love to hear from you. Send your questions and best practices to me at:

*Don't miss BILL CATES THURSDAY, APRIL 30th...for a special referral class...

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