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What a vegan menu can teach you about the importance of listening to clients

While I’m an average bloke in many ways, I do harbour a quirk that many people find either amusing, or deeply annoying. It’s one that I developed three years ago, and I have to say, it’s one I’m happy to have.

I remember the first time my partner, Caroline, sat me down and told me that this quirk was a good thing, and was something that could help to enrich my life. It was an emotional conversation and at the time, difficult to hear, but I decided that it was something I would embrace and be open about it.

Yes, that’s right: I’m a vegan.

My conversion to a plant-based diet started when Caroline explained to me that we were already eating a lot of vegan food. I’m lactose intolerant so don’t eat dairy products, and at the time, she was a vegetarian as she dislikes the taste of meat.

Negotiating from a position of weakness never works

I must confess, when she first pitched the idea of becoming vegan I resisted. But I realised I was trying to negotiate from a position of weakness as Caroline does 90% of the cooking, so it wasn’t long before I joined the many people who have switched to a plant-based diet.

As it turns out, I quickly took to it, and soon realised that I didn’t miss meat at all – something that came as quite a shock if I’m honest. Up until that point I couldn’t have imagine giving up ribeye steak or roast lamb with mint sauce to start living on a couscous, tofu and lentil-based diet.

Since becoming a vegan in 2019, veganism has become much more popular, with plant-based options appearing on more menus at more restaurants across the UK. Initially we thought this was a good thing, yet our excitement was short-lived.

The proof is always in the eating

As Caroline and I enjoy eating out, we thought the fact more restaurants were offering vegan options or alternatives was great news. How wrong we were. Sadly, it became apparent that many restaurants were more concerned about being seen to be catering for vegans, rather than actually providing good quality cuisine.

While I would never claim to be a “foodie” or a published food critic, and have the cooking skills of Mr Bean, I know from Caroline that producing tasty vegan food requires a total rethink about how you cook.

The problem seems to be that many restaurants don’t understand this, or perhaps don’t want to understand it. This means that Caroline and I have excitedly booked a table at a venue that seems to have an appealing vegan menu with mouth-watering options, only to find that the options are either unimaginative, badly executed or both.

Sloppy in “Sloppy Joe” shouldn’t refer to the way it’s made

I still remember one particularly uninspiring “vegan Sloppy Joe” pizza, which tasted like it had been made by a Blue Peter presenter using cardboard, tomato ketchup and a can of party string.

To suggest that every meal we’ve had at restaurants offering a vegan option was as bad as this would be wrong and unfair.  Once in a blue moon we find a restaurant that offers genuinely imaginative, wonderfully cooked food that is a joy to eat, which brings me to an important point.

When we do find a restaurant that serves food we enjoy, we not only become a regular customer, we become ambassadors for it. Since finding one such eatery not too far away from where we live, we have eaten there several times and recommended it to many friends, whether they are vegans or meat eaters.

And the evidence suggests that we’re not alone in this, as booking a table is now something that has to be done weeks in advance.

Listening to clients ensures you give them what they want

It’s testament to the value of standing out because you provide excellence and a high-quality product.

Central to this though, is having a real understanding of what your customers or clients want and ensuring you deliver on it. To achieve this, you need to listen carefully to what they’re telling you in the first place.

In the financial sector, doing this ensures that you truly know what your client wants and needs, and that you won’t fall into the trap of thinking you know what they want when you actually don’t. Yet one of the easiest traps to fall into is believing that you’re listening to someone when you’re actually not.

As financial advisers and planners, you have very busy lives and a lot of information inside your head at any one time. As such it can be easy to listen “passively”, which means you hear the words but don’t actively take on board what’s being said.

Making the effort to truly concentrate and process what clients tell you can help you to really deliver the first-class service that sets you apart from your competition.

The danger is that failing to listen to your clients means they’ll be as disappointed as I was with my Sloppy Joe pizza. If this happens, your clients are more likely to be tempted away by another adviser and less likely to recommend you on to friends and family – both of which are bad for business.

Conversely, improving your service in response to feedback can lead to clients becoming ambassadors and advocates for your business, creating positive word of mouth that will have people queuing up to work with you.

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If you’d like help in finding more of the clients you want to work with, we can help. Whether it’s demonstrating the excellent outcomes your clients enjoy, impressing prospects online, or positioning yourself as a go-to expert, our team of expert marketeers add real value.

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