Membership Mix: Determining the Ideal Membership Equation for Your Customer Advisory Board

Membership recruiting is foundational to the success of customer advisory boards and careful selection of the right mix of members is imperative to standing up a solid board. The key word in “customer advisory board” is customer. The advising client members of your board should represent your top accounts or most strategic relationships—be it by revenue or other measure—with a vested interest in the strategies you plan to discuss and shape.

Balance the board as a whole

Match the composition of the board to its intended impact and the feedback you’re hoping to receive. You can consider its balance by:

  • industry
  • role
  • geography
  • value to and competition with one another
  • and more.

Consider their individual qualities

The ideal advisor has both the acumen and attitude to counsel you. You’re looking for top customers who:

  • are leaders, innovators, or thought leaders in their industry or profession
  • can advise beyond their own account issues
  • will consider each other peers

Should you invite prospective customers?

Careful consideration is required. Board meetings are not sales events; rather, an opportunity to engage key customers and gain their perspective on your strategy, business, and position in the market.

With little or no skin in the game, prospects:

  • are less committed to your success and a role in advising you.
  • cannot offer other members lessons from working with you.
  • often require more work to engage than the value they provide.

All of which can undermine your other advisors’ participation.

Should you invite external thought leaders?

All of the points about prospects also apply to external thought leaders, with two additional risks:

  • Customers will perceive them—rather than you—as more expert on key issues.
  • Confidentiality concerns may create a less candid environment.

Occasionally, a market watcher or researcher can provide a valuable industry perspective; consider limiting their participation to a guest role or occasional participant.

The above guidance represents just a few of the aspects to consider when planning your initial customer advisory board membership; and it also applies as you maintain your membership pipeline.

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