Help or Hindrance? Including Prospects in Client Engagement Programs

We are often asked by clients if they should include prospects in their recruiting and outreach to participate in their executive engagement programs. The answer is a resounding “it depends.”

And while this sounds like waffling, it does in fact matter what the program is and what you are trying to do with it to determine whether prospects should be added to the mix. We’ve put together a brief guide to think through the role of prospects in several types of programs.

Client Advisory Boards: Tread Very Carefully

What We’ve Learned

The purpose of Advisory Boards is to engage with key clients and stakeholders around your strategy and your business. They are deliberately not sales events and are not geared to that type of conversation.

While some see having prospects sit on a Client Advisory Board as beneficial to gain an outside or impartial perspective on you and your competition, we have seen that more often than not, prospects have no skin in the game with your company, and are much less committed to and interested in collaborating around your success than your client members. This can undermine your more committed clients’ participation, and these outside members often require more work to get them engaged than the value they provide in return.

Recommendations

One alternative is to funnel prospects into other programs that link more directly to sales.

Another perspective is to recast the program to be more of a peer network or working group. This shifts the focus to market issues and market needs, which requires less investment on the part of the participants, but can still help extract insights you can use.

If you decide to include them on your Board, monitor their participation and impact on the group carefully to keep momentum going.

Executive Events and Forums:
Create the Right Platform and Content

What We’ve Learned

Many companies use events and forums to bring in and talk to large numbers of prospects. While many such events can be successful sales tools, for executives, it takes a carefully orchestrated, content-rich program to get prospects to attend and engage. Prospects are even more likely than your executive clients to delegate invitations to vendor events to their more junior staff, and the principles that apply to engaging executive clients are even more relevant to success with prospects. At the same time, with their one-off or periodic nature, events can be an attractive way for prospects to get to know your company without longer term commitment such as with a Board or Council.

Recommendations

Focus on smaller scale events with a peer audience.

Create agendas that address high priority business issues, and enlist existing clients to speak and share stories on the agenda.

Take care with the mix of clients and prospects to ensure a balanced perspective and a strong dialog.

If you view this as an opportunity to educate your executive-level prospects and give them a sense of the value and the experience of being a part of your client network, it will help ensure the right approach.

Insight Research and Market Input:
Good Opportunity to Lay the Groundwork

What We’ve Learned

Many companies regularly tap their clients individually to provide feedback on satisfaction, strengths and opportunities, business challenges and priorities, and other important areas of the business relationship and strategies for growth. This is one place where we see that companies seem less inclined to include prospects, but one where prospects can deliver great value from the one-on-one connection. It can take more chasing to get prospects to agree to an interview than it might for an existing client, but it presents an ideal opportunity to solicit the objective feedback or the competitive analysis you would like to hear more about, in a lower risk and non-salesy setting.

Recommendations

Allocate a portion of your client research and insight gathering to target the prospects that you are most interested in engaging with.

These interviews can pave the way to engage the most interesting or strategic prospects in other programs as you learn more about their priorities, and they will become stickier, more engaged participants than they might have before.

Related Stories

Progressing Customer Advisory Board Advice

Posted on 09.6.2019 by in Customer Advisory Boards, Featured

‘Closing the loop’ is a phrase we use frequently at Farland Group. The point of this phrase is to emphasize that an engagement with a client is only as good as the action taken after the customer advisory board meeting.  

Continue Reading »

Why A Customer Advisory Board

Posted on 08.1.2019 by in Customer Advisory Boards, Featured

Good relationships are about honesty, trust, and a shared commitment to agreed upon goals and mutual success. For clients to trust you, or anyone for that matter, you need to make commitments and follow through on the promises made or  

Continue Reading »

Customer Advisory Board Recruiting: Why it is the Most Important Thing

Posted on 06.20.2019 by in Customer Advisory Boards

So, the great news is you just got approval from senior leadership for a Customer Advisory Board, but now what do you do? Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) are an integral part of an overall customer marketing program. However, they are  

Continue Reading »

Creating True Peer Networks through Advisory Boards

Posted on 05.16.2019 by in Customer Advisory Boards

It is clear to many what the value of a Customer Advisory Board might be for the sponsoring company – great advice and insight, new ideas and strategic direction, deeper relationships with high value clients leading to new opportunities. Additionally,  

Continue Reading »


Customer Advisory Boards

An advisory board is a powerful engine of engagement, insight, and business transformation. Make the most of yours.

A Board Success Factor: Business and Industry Expertise » Advisory Boards: How to Extend the Value »

Learn More »

Engagement Strategy

Like any good relationship, customer engagement is a long-term, reciprocal effort. When done well, meaningful engagement leads to better business results, faster.

Engage Your Customers to Help You Stop Pitching » Getting to a Customer Engagement Mindset »

Learn More »

Understanding the C-Suite

Want to improve your standing with your C-suite customers? Deliver what executives want: ideas, inspiration, innovation, influence.

C-Suite Insight: Digital Disruption » Looking to Engage Executives? First, Understand What They Want »

Learn More »