Customer advisory boards require leadership from your strategy team to be successful.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but often companies begin a customer advisory board as a veiled marketing and sales event, in the hopes that they can extend share of wallet.
Here are some tips on how to gain the executive sponsorship you need to ensure success.
Think about advisory boards as non-fiduciary boards of directors.
This is an opportunity to bring together your most important customers (or partners or prospects depending on the type of board) and invite them to provide their best thinking on your biggest challenges.
If you do not have your strategy leaders in the room to hear that advice, you miss an enormous opportunity to drive internal change and to link that change to something bigger than internal agendas—customer-driven change.
Don’t confuse your user group with a strategy board.
We are often asked, “How do I elevate my current board,” referring to groups that are already advising on products, often at a user level. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it. Leave your product / user level board in place and let it operate in its current form.
Launch a strategy board as a separate, higher-level initiative that the product / user level board can connect to someday.
If the product or user-level board isn’t delivering value to the company or to your clients, dissolve it and start with a new approach.
Start with executive sponsorship and strategic impact in mind.
Confirm you have relationships with advisors.
Evaluate where you have relationships within your stakeholder groups that will serve on the board. If you do not have any connections with C-level executives then there is little chance that they will come to advise on your strategy. It is important to be honest about this before launching an initiative to have a strategic board.
Recruit executive sponsors.
Recruit your senior-most internal executives to chair the board and issue invitations. If you cannot get your senior leadership to be a part of this, then you will not get your most senior clients.
Spend time developing a clear purpose for the board and outcomes that you believe the board will achieve. It is critical with senior executives that the value proposition or return on their time invested is clear.
Consider the board’s value to your customers.
Finally, spend time re-evaluating with your clients the value delivered from each meeting—how are you meeting their expectations? Where are you falling short? (Our posts about reciprocal value and the power of the peer can provide further tips.)