Customer advisory boards enable organizations to gain insights into markets and the competitive landscape, receive advice on key strategic areas, and to more deeply understand trends that may affect their business. Customers join advisory boards with certain objectives in mind as well, such as the opportunity to engage with peers and thought leaders, the access to key senior executives, and to help shape the strategies of their business partners.
In order for boards to thrive, there must be reciprocal value for both the sponsoring company and the clients they bring together. Here are a few things to consider when developing and managing executive advisory boards to ensure that all parties experience the benefits.
Act on advice. Advisory boards are created to advise, but is the advice always fed back into the organization? Board members spend valuable time providing strategic advice and will expect that insight incorporated into strategies, roadmaps, services, and products. Meeting agendas that are created solely with the organization’s interests in mind or that lack progress against the challenges discussed in the board meetings will put board member participation at risk. Take the time during board meetings to acknowledge that you hear their advice and share with the board tangible ways their insight has helped move a strategy forward or resulted in new product or service innovations.
Reward members. Keep board engagement strong by giving them an early glimpse into a new strategy or offering, or provide them the opportunity to engage with a thought leader they may not get access to elsewhere. Being the first to hear about innovative solutions to problems, or new content and thought leadership adds extra value that customers appreciate, and will ensure their interest in sharing their advice back with you.
Provide access to executives. Board members often mention to us how much they appreciate when senior executives of the sponsoring company attended – and stayed at – the board meetings as engaged participants. Customers are able to access the executive team at one time, and can easily engage them for informal conversations as well as the formal sessions.
Cultivate true peer connections. Advisory board members often mention the importance of being able to interact with their peers as one of the biggest benefits of participating in boards. Case in point, we recently spoke with one CIO who has engaged with a number of other members outside of the board meetings. This is a testament to the power of the peer. Examine the makeup of the board membership carefully to ensure that you have the right mix of members to create a true peer conversation.
Reciprocal value is key to sustaining customer advisory boards. What are some of the ways you are giving to get?