Plan your resources for an effective client listening programme

I hope you’re well and have had a good start to 2023.

A new year often brings with it budget planning for the coming financial year – assigning resources to those priorities that have already been identified.

And so, the latest ‘Marketing Leaders Benchmark’ survey from the professional services sector was music to my ears. It’s something that is no doubt replicated across other sectors too, with marketing leaders consistently citing ‘improving client experience/service’ and ‘obtaining feedback from clients’ in the top three priorities for the coming year.

It’s great to see that so many people seem to have client listening on their radar! So, with that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share a framework for planning an effective client listening programme that meets the financial (and other) resources you have at your disposal.


The amount of budget you need to allocate for your programme will depend, in part, on how you plan to gather insight from your clients. Straightforward surveys using Google Forms and Survey Monkey are the lowest cost options, while specialist survey tools and interviews require a greater outlay unless you choose to conduct your interviews in-house (more on that below).

Although in cash constrained times it can be tempting to go for the lowest cost option, quick surveys only ever yield limited insight. More often than not, a ten-minute chat can elicit far richer data than a survey with no verbatim comments.

And of course, there’s no point finding out how your clients are feeling unless you’re going to do something about it – so setting aside a budget for implementation as well as insight gathering is vital.

Not all follow-up or changes that need to be made are high-cost. For example, the recommendations I make when I’ve finished my client listening rounds can vary from minor adjustments, to those that require further investment such as training. One of my clients splits their client listening investment 50/50 between insight gathering and implementation – this may be a good starting point for you too.


However you choose to gather insight from your clients, you or someone in your team will need to put in the time to ensure the programme runs smoothly. Typically, you’ll need someone who can do the following:

  • Work with internal stakeholders to identify the clients that are to be approached
  • Contribute their input as regards the questions and review the invites to clients
  • Chivvy their colleagues along so that they invite their clients to participate in the programme
  • Chase colleagues who haven’t sent their invites or ask them to follow up with clients who haven’t responded (or get their permission for me to chase!)
  • Galvanise internal colleagues to take action when the insight has been gathered
  • Communicate the findings and resulting actions both internally and to clients.

I typically liaise with someone in the marketing or BD team, but in smaller client firms, my main point of contact may be the MD. The most successful client listening projects are invariably those where someone has a firm handle on keeping internal stakeholders engaged.


In service businesses, time is money – literally!

Unless you’re a large organisation, it’s likely you won’t have an in-house resource dedicated to listening to your clients. Many senior marketers or partners I speak to would like to carry out client listening interviews themselves but in reality, the ‘day job’ takes over and the interviews often fall down the priority list.

Not being able to devote enough time to a client listening programme is the No. 1 reason programmes aren’t successful in delivering the hoped-for results.  I so often hear people say something along the lines of, “We tried client listening before but we didn’t get much value from it as we weren’t able to give it the time it needed.”

I absolutely get that – so much so that, unless you’re able to commit to taking the time to make the programme a success, it’s not the right time for to set out on a client listening journey.

If client listening is on your agenda for 2023, I’d love to hear from you – with the right resources (and partner 😉) on board it’s a highly valuable activity with plenty of return on offer.

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