How to Extend Your Customer Advisory Board’s Value

For those executives involved in leading a customer advisory board or council, the value is immediate and clear. They sit with their most strategic clients face-to-face and hear direct advice, key insights, and new ideas about how to make the business better. They also have ongoing access to what makes those clients tick.

But what about the rest of the organization?

How do you extend the value beyond those in the advisory board meeting room?

Here are a few of the most common challenges we see, and some recommendations to tackle them.

Sharing the learnings outside of the room

In many cases, the best nuggets of learning and insight rest in the heads of the sponsoring company’s executive leaders who sit in the room at the meetings. At the same time, the nature of advisory board interactions mandates the need to maintain confidentiality around individual clients’ input, and fulfill the promise of “no sales” coming out of those conversations.

Extracting the insights requires active effort and a careful balance when communicating out to the organization. Consider these steps:

  • Immediate Highlights & Analysis

Spend time right after the meeting to extract key higher level themes and translate them into how they are relevant to client conversations and interactions more generally. Document this synthesis in a format suitable for sharing internally with a broader audience.

  • Regular Debriefing Calls

Set up a regular debriefing call 2–4 weeks after each meeting to provide client representatives and account leaders with key insights and allow them to ask questions.

  • Clear Accountability

Communicate and clarify accountability for each the actions coming out of each meeting with the rest of the executive leadership team.

Taking action on the advice

At the heart of the value of a client advisory board is the advice your clients provide on the strategy, the business, and your go to market. The only way to extract that value is to find a way to act on the advice and embed the recommendations into your strategy planning, your communications, your sales approach, your service or product delivery.

This is the hard work but there are a few ways to hold yourselves accountable:

  • Regular Planning Sessions

Set up a regular planning session 1‒2 weeks after each board meeting with your executive leadership team to walk through the advice received, identify owners, assess priority and time line for action, or at least for report-back, and continue to meet regularly to discuss the progress.

  • Dashboards and Report Cards

Develop a dashboard or report card of the actions so you can revisit and track—make sure to keep a longitudinal view to ensure you are not dropping the ball on or failing to respond to earlier advice.

  • In-Meeting Progress Reports

Commit to a report out at each client advisory council meeting so clients see the progress, or at least get a response to what they have taken the time to tell you.

Connecting into the broader client relationships

Advisory boards create powerful connections with those clients who participate.  The trust and cohesion of the members that builds over time ensures deeper engagement and commitment to your company.

But it is also important to remember that these executives are part of a larger relationship, and to keep an eye on what is going on in the account at large, and its overall value to the company as you assess the council membership and its impact over time.

Good advisory board members do not all have to be large revenue generators, but you want to make sure they are strategic and healthy relationships if you are going to continue to solicit their input into the business.

  • Revenue Line of Sight

Maintain a line of sight into the revenue and the pipeline of advisory board member companies. While the advisory board itself is not a sales vehicle, it is important to calibrate the size and shifts in the relationship, and whether the potential for growth and innovation continues to exist.

  • Client Team Check-Ins

Check in periodically with the client teams to understand the nature of the relationship below the executive level participating on the council and make sure there are no disconnects between what you hear in terms of input and advice, and what the day-to-day client teams are experiencing.

  • Recruiting Pipeline

Keep a recruiting pipeline open for client advisory board membership, and don’t be afraid to roll off and refresh members as relationships change.

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