Cultivating the Pipeline: Keys to Customer Advisory Board Recruiting

I have written about reciprocal value in previous posts, and one of the keys to a thriving customer advisory board that provides reciprocal value to both the members and the sponsoring company is a healthy membership base.  The sponsoring company receives strategic advice on products and services from trusted clients, and the members find value in the true peer connections advisory boards can provide.  While the client membership may be flourishing today, it is inevitable that an advisory board of 25 client members may lose members sporadically as executives depart from companies or change roles.  Thoughtful planning is required to ensure that you have a pipeline of quality candidates and a process in place to reach them.

Rigorous membership management is needed to track details such as industry, geography, and membership term lengths.  Doing this will provide a snapshot of when members may be departing from the group, as well as where you may have openings in certain industries or geographies.  A tracking process is especially important when the member vacancies are in niche industries or under-represented geographies, where it may be difficult to find the right candidates.

Once you know where the membership gaps will be, how do you go about identifying viable nominations?  Do you take a bottom-up approach or a top-down approach, or maybe a combination of the two?  In our work on executive-level customer advisory boards we have seen success (and challenges!) with both methods, and there is not one way to go about it.  If you try gathering potential nominations from the field but are coming up short, try the top-down approach and identify the “dream team” — if you could cherry pick members from the target industries and geographies for the board, who would they be?

In some cases, candidate identification is not the challenge.  Often times, the process falls down in the important vetting stage where a strong relationship is needed at the account team level and further up at the executive level.  In our experience, candidates with strong ties to a senior executive are more apt to engage on a customer advisory board than those that don’t have skin in the game with the company.  Once vetting is underway, consistent follow-up keeps the process moving forward to get to the end result of inviting the candidate and filling that board member seat.

Keeping the customer advisory board roster full takes time and work, but advance planning will ensure your board has a healthy and diverse membership that provides benefit to all.

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