Client Forums are a smart and cost effective way of understanding customers’ needs and expectations and building relationships and trust to win their business. There are particularly useful for testing propositions, and new products and services – at any stage of their development from early concepts to pre-launch testing.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why do it?
The main reasons are to understand customers’ needs and expectations in depth; to test and refine propositions; to build relationships with key people in the customer’s organisation; and to influence their buying behaviour, without resorting to the ‘hard sell’.
Will customers attend?
Our experience is they will attend if the sessions are well planned and the agenda is exciting and relevant. Feedback we’ve had from delegates at Forums we’ve run with clients say they value particularly:
• The chance to network with peers in similar organisations; to get insight on how they’re dealing with common issues; to share ‘war stories’.
• The opportunity to meet and get to know a potential business partner, particularly senior people and specialists.
• Information about products and services they may not be aware of.
• Ideas on potential approaches to key projects and business challenges.
• The opportunity to give feedback and influence our client’s thinking – this increases the chances that the 2 parties will do business in future.
What are the ideal numbers?
We recommend between 6 and 15 customer delegates attending a session (the ideal numbers are 8-12). Less than 6 delegates means you may not get enough breadth of ideas and interaction. More than 15 can be done, but requires a more directive style from the facilitator and sessions leaders.
What are the roles? Who does what?
The key roles are chairperson, facilitator and scribe. We recommend that subject experts come in for particular sessions.
Who should facilitate?
This can be done in house or with an external agency (like us). An external facilitator is seen by customer delegates as more objective and balanced (not inclined to take sides). Delegates tend to speak more frankly with an external facilitator involved. Most importantly the client should avoid the temptation to do a sales pitch (the best sales technique is to listen to customers and understand what they are looking for).
Do customers open up? Or are they cautious about sharing information and insights?
A good facilitator sets up an atmosphere where customer delegates are relaxed and comfortable about opening up. The sessions we facilitate are run under Chatham House Rules. Meeting notes distributed to customer delegates afterwards don’t refer to comments made by individuals or to company specific information. This gives delegates assurance about respect for confidentiality.
What about follow up?
We find strong business opportunities invariably arise from Client Forums; we can help identify them with our client and track follow up. Our experience is that Client Forums achieve a high return on investment (as much as 10x) as part of your marketing programme.
If you’d like to find out more about our Client Forum package, contact us 01707 373700 or firstname.lastname@example.org