Customer Advisory Boards: Top 5 Tricks

In our years of convening and facilitating Customer Advisory Boards, we have come across a common set of questions such as: Should we compensate our customer advisors?  The following is a top 5 list for consideration in the early development of an Advisory Board (also known as CABs, Customer Advisory Councils).

  1. Make a Long Term Commitment.  While you are initially focused on getting them to come to the first meeting, it is critical to enter the commitment to an advisory board as something that is multiple year.  It takes two meetings to establish trust in a group and from there you start to really reap the rewards of your commitment to your clients.  If you consider advisory boards as one-off events, they will fail.
  2. Recruit a Valued Group of Peers.  Compensation isn’t required, and is difficult to deliver in a way that most customers can accept.  So forget about compensation and focus on the things that have longer term meaning to your customers.  First, a strong peer group that they cannot build on their own, second an ability to influence and impact your company’s strategy, third best practice sharing and new insights.
  3. Kill the Sales Pitch.  Recently a CIO told us that he was sick of companies hosting Advisory Councils and then talking at him for 2 days straight.  This is where a third party can help you out.  Find a neutral third party that can help you to shape the content for the board meeting and train the executive presenters so that the meeting is truly advice-seeking and not a veiled sales pitch.
  4. Listen and Change.  Clients do not want to tell you the same things over and over to have nothing change.  Work with executives  that can drive the change that your clients seek.  Your clients vote with their time and they will stop coming if they feel that your company isn’t listening.
  5. Extend the Insights Beyond the Council.  Through working with a third party or a strong internal content partner, use the insights shared from the meeting to develop new thinking for your broader client base.  An Advisory Board is a significant investment, and you need to make sure that you gain the return on that investment by leveraging the content to create a broader set of outcomes and discussions.

There are many other secrets to the success of an Advisory Board, please share your lessons learned below.

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