If there is one thing we have learned about Client Advisory Board membership it is that you are never done. While the initial blast of recruiting is the most critical and time consuming to get your Council off to the right start, sustaining that membership over time is a task that requires ongoing vigilance and attention.
Here are some of the common challenges we see when it comes to membership for you to consider when you are planning your efforts.
- Executive turnover – into new roles, new jobs within and outside the company – occurs with a fair amount of frequency. A stable, interactive group of 15 members can suddenly become 10 or 11 from one meeting to the next.
- Client relationship stability is harder to predict in these times of cost pressure and vendor scrutiny. Your executive member may still be a raving fan, but some other executive new to his or her company may come in with their own posse of vendor favorites, influencing purchasing across the board. Or you may encounter other relationship challenges, making that member’s participation in an advisory role much less desired or optimal over time.
- The schedule challenge experienced by most executives by nature makes it hard for them to take time away from the office, and there are always a few executives that cannot make Council meetings. This can turn into a permanent situation for some, which ties up valuable membership slots, and robs you of your chance to tap strategic advice and counsel. At some point you have to determine when they have de facto quit by virtue of their non-attendance.
- Keeping it fresh helps to reinvigorate the advice you receive, and the ideas that you hear. It is good to periodically bring in new blood even to a very stable group to make sure that both you and your client members benefit from innovative thinking and varied experiences.
- Lead time to recruit new members often gets overlooked, as companies scramble to fill suddenly vacant slots. It can take many more weeks – even months – than you expect to get your client reps and sales teams into the process and arrive at solid nominations that accept your invitation.
In the course of helping clients navigate these challenges, we have developed a set of guidelines to keep the membership fresh and vibrant.
- Maintain a live pipeline – actively solicit nominations and proactively target potential members among your client base, even if you have no open slots. Revisit the pipeline targets once a quarter with the client rep and in the revenue tracking system to make sure candidates are still viable.
- Systematize recruiting – embed the Client Advisory Board nomination process into your client and business leadership process. Make it part of quarterly client review calls, or integrate it into monthly leadership meetings so that it becomes part of the ongoing conversation, just like lead generation and nurturing or other key aspects of growing and sustaining the business.
- Enlist senior leadership support – Advisory Council recruiting happens most effectively and efficiently when your senior leaders make it clear that this is a top priority for the business. Getting your senior leaders to actually sponsor and propose nominations is another way we have found to amp up responsiveness and results.
- Set term limits – having explicit term limits for your Board or Council members helps to manage the flow and the expectations of members for their service on the Board, and create a cadence for keeping the recruiting effort alive. It also allows you to roll off less effective members without offense. You can always extend terms by mutual agreement for those who wish to continue, but it is a good discipline to keep you and your clients focused on getting value from their participation.
So don’t stop recruiting – there is always a good new member waiting to collaborate and keep your Client Advisory Board humming and on track.