Creating a Customer Advisory Board? Your Internal Team Matters

Companies launching a Customer Advisory Board or Council place a lot of focus on recruiting the right group clients – who to invite and what criteria to use. However, we often see less attention paid to the internal team required to launch and run a Board successfully. To leverage the Board to drive change and get impact in your company over time, there are a number of critical roles that need to be considered. Even if you are partnering with a third party to help manage and facilitate the Board, the right internal team must in place to get the value of a Board.

The internal team should include the following roles and responsibilities, working in hand in glove, to get the Board launched and staying on track.

  • Executive Sponsor. The Executive Sponsor is typically the most senior executive leader in the company involved in the Board and chairs (or co-chairs) the Board meetings, and provides commitment, leadership and direction to the team on strategic issues and agenda focus. He or she provides the vision and mandate that is required to demonstrate the importance of the Board for the company and to the other internal senior leaders participating and ensures the company moves forward with the advice received.
  • Program Champion. The Program Champion provides the strong support, content knowledge and tactical leadership required to drive the execution of an Advisory Board program. The Champion must have enough seniority and influence to command the respect of the senior executive team, and make things happen on a day-to-day basis within the organization. Recruiting, agenda development, meeting execution and planning for next steps are all areas that need the Champion’s leadership. Complex and matrixed organizations require this important role to ensure the right participation and buy-in to advance the program and move the Board’s counsel forward.
  • Program Manager. The Program Manager works day-to-day to manage all of the required internal co-ordination and communication to support the Board meetings and follow-through. Strong organizational knowledge and internal relationships across the company in addition to project and program management skills, ensure the high-quality experience Board members are expecting when they invest their time and energy. Content knowledge relevant to the Board’s agenda is also helpful in this role.
  • Team Coordinator. The executive nature of the Board membership and the high-level focus of the meetings requires a Team Coordinator to help schedule meetings with internal executives as well as the program team, deliver communications to the Board members, track and manage responses and requirements, and keep the team briefed on status and progress.
  • Event Logistics Manager. In-person meetings with your executive clients require an Event Logistics Manager with expertise and keen attention to detail around securing facilities, food and beverage, entertainment, and transportation. A Board meeting is not an event, and it is imperative to create the right atmosphere and tone for the discussion.

These roles are not by any means full time; the clients we work with include these activities as part of their broader marketing or client experience responsibilities, and often combine them across team members. The amount of time spent on the tasks will ebb and flow based on the Board meeting schedule. The main thing is to make sure that someone is on point for each area so that nothing falls through the cracks. While this list is not exhaustive, we have found in our work across many different Councils and Boards, that if you align your team to these core responsibilities, you will create a strong platform for Board success.

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