Annual Business Reviews with Clients: A Small Business Best Practice

It’s Annual Business Review Time!

Large companies routinely conduct Annual Business Reviews (ABRs) with their top clients at the end of every year and this is a best practice that’s ideal for smaller companies, as well.

Why? It’s a great opportunity to say thank you, review what went well with the work you did for your clients, and gain some valuable insight into what your clients are planning for the next year.

The goal of this meeting is to re-enforce that you are a dependable supplier, learn how you can directly or indirectly contribute to their success in the upcoming year, and uncover additional ways to partner, which moves you closer to the designation of being a strategic partner instead of just a supplier.

Inviting Clients to an ABR

Annual client reviews are just as important as annual employee performance reviews. Start by focusing on your largest clients and clients that may be in jeopardy. These reviews can take place over breakfast or lunch or at your client’s place of business. Here’s a template I use to invite a client to an ABR:
Hi, ______________
 As a valued key customer of OUR COMPANY, ________________, I would like to set up a one-hour Annual Business Review meeting with you and your team members in December or January. We find holding an Annual Business Review meeting allows us to say thank you in person for the work we’ve accomplished together this year, review how each company has fared over the current year, and learn how your business may have changed as a result and allows us to understand what’s important to you in 2023.
 Here’s the agenda we’d like to cover during the meeting:
  1. OUR COMPANY Update – 2022 – 10 minutes
  2. YOUR COMPANY Update – 2022 – 10 minutes
  3. CURRENT YEAR Project Review – High Level – 20 minutes
  4. YOUR COMPANY 2023 Initiatives/Focus – 20 minutes
We don’t intend this to be a formal meeting and would be happy to meet you at your office or over lunch or dinner, whatever your preference. We can also do this via Microsoft Teams if a remote meeting is desired.
Thank you for your partnership this year. We value you as a customer and look forward to learning how we can contribute to your success in 2023.

Use the information you gather to improve your client support and position your company as the problem solver they can count on in the future. This is especially important in the constantly evolving and unpredictable business environment where goals and tactics can change quickly. 

What to Discuss

Annual business reviews are an opportunity to better know and understand your client’s business and strengthen your relationship. These meetings are not long, so you must be discerning when choosing topics to discuss. You can’t cover everything.
Focus on a few primary topics which are most impactful to your client and which you have a chance of influencing. Topics to consider include:
  • Past Goals: If this is your first ABR with the client, look at the goals they previously set for themselves or set with your predecessor. If you’ve done an ABR with the client before, discuss whether or not last year’s goals were achieved and why or why not.
  • Goals for the Coming Year: Allow this discussion to extend to their broad goals and strategy, not just goals related to your service. This will allow you to identify new opportunities or additional services you can provide.
  • Business Objectives: You want to continually work to align your goals for client engagement with their business strategy and goals. Look for areas you can contribute to and help solve problems. Establish yourself as a part of their growth and development to gain a recurring customer.
  • Identify Opportunities: Is your client introducing any new products or services? What customer segments or sales channels are they targeting? Do they have any ideas on the drawing board? Any insights you can gain will help you to better serve your client and increase the success of both businesses.
  • Pain Points and Obstacles: What is your client struggling with? What obstacles are in the way of them reaching their goals? This discussion may lead to uncovering problems you can solve or additional services to help your client. Identifying what isn’t working is just as important as understanding what is working.
  • Celebrate Successes: Take the time to recognize achievements and share the success of your partnership. What targets have you met or exceeded? Highlight the progress you’ve made and the positive impact you’ve had. 

Choose topics that are of interest to your client and affect them. Interdependent topics will increase engagement and drive productivity. Make sure everyone in attendance knows the purpose of the review, what will be discussed, and if anything is required of them. 

How an ABR Benefits Everyone

ABRs benefit your clients by providing an open forum for communication to share their direction, goals, and challenges, offer insight on how your company can better serve them, and hopefully receive helpful solutions for their company. 
For your organization, the annual business review is crucial for staying connected to clients and reinforcing your relationship. ABRs provide a forum for you to discuss growth initiatives and new products/services, give you the opportunity to address customer concerns, promote loyalty and customer retention, and spur the action needed to achieve goals with the client. 
The annual business review provides regular face-time with your clients, without which you run the risk of missing opportunities and losing touch with them. Be sure to follow up on your discussion, or even schedule smaller quarterly reviews to track your progress throughout the year.
Need help with your annual business reviews? Contact us for more ABR templates and tools.