The Value of Customer Advisory Boards

Customer Advisory Boards present very clear opportunities for the sponsoring company as they gain valuable insight from their most important customers. A recent article by Colgate’s CIO Tom Greene points out the reciprocal value of joining customer advisory boards for CIOs.

In the article Tom points to several areas of value that he has experienced in participating as an advisor to IBM. He also references the critical factors that he looks for in a customer advisory board that make it a good use of his time: access to a valued peer group, early market trends and innovation insight, deepening of a valued vendor relationship, and a professional and structured agenda developed by an outside third party.

I’d like to expand upon his point about agenda development by an outside third party since we are asked about the value that a third party brings to the advisory board experience. The following three points are mentioned by our board members as areas where a third party brings value that a vendor often struggles:

  1. Transparent and honest feedback
  2. Peer group buzz
  3. Facilitation and meeting experience

 

Transparent and Honest Feedback

It is an interesting human characteristic that we don’t feel comfortable sharing extreme feelings directly with others. Perhaps this isn’t true of all families – but in the context of Advisory Boards we find that Board members do not share with the vendor the things that they loved about a meeting. Similarly they don’t often share the things that they hated. But they do share those experiences with Farland Group. Our ‘trusted broker’ status puts board members at ease. We help remedy challenging situations and build on strengths for the next meeting.

Peer Group Buzz

“Everyone in the market is completely confused about what is being brought to market. No one is saying anything yet because we hope it gets better.”

A client board member shared the above quote with us and by doing so we could do two things very quickly: First, we could probe with other Board members to figure out if this was true across the group. Second, we could quickly take that feedback to the senior leadership of the vendor organization and fix it before the negative buzz became worse

Facilitation and Meeting Experience

Most Board meetings have actively engaged clients – like Tom – and executives from the vendor organization. This requires less facilitation on the one hand in pulling out particular perspectives and on the other hand, more active facilitation in ensuring that the critical areas requiring advice are put on the table. In addition, third party facilitators can help to stop overly active voices from clients or the vendor side to ensure that all are heard. Finally, executives are busy and keeping to a time clock is important to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time. While vendors can do this, it is more challenging and uncomfortable for a vendor to ask a client to stop speaking than for a third party facilitator.

It is important to think about the value that customer advisory boards bring to you as a vendor and to your clients. As Tom points out – most clients are invited to many advisory boards and finding a way to make yours unique and ensure that it is run professionally is critical to increasing the value of your board for all involved.

 

Related Stories

Taking your Customer Advisory Board Meetings Virtual

Posted on 04.13.2020 by in Customer Advisory Boards

As my colleague Camille Antonetti wrote in her recent blog, COVID-required social distancing and stay at home measures have necessitated organizations to shift their in-person events and meetings to virtual platforms. In our work at Farland Group, we have  

Continue Reading »

Customer Advisory Board Charter: Do You Need One?

Posted on 03.5.2020 by in Customer Advisory Boards

You’ve stood up your Customer Advisory Board (CAB), recruited your client members, completed a successful CAB meeting and are working through all of the follow-on activities. One of those activities should be to create a Customer Advisory Board Charter.  

Continue Reading »

The Value of Convening C-Suite Peers: Reaping What You Sow

Posted on 02.1.2020 by in Engagement Strategy, Featured, Featured, Understanding the C-Suite

In our work with Customer Advisory Boards and other executive engagement programs, we have seen firsthand the extent to which C-level executives seek and crave connection to real peers, where they can share stories and gain insights in a safe  

Continue Reading »

New Year, Fresh Start

Posted on 01.23.2020 by in Customer Advisory Boards, Misc

The beginning of a new year brings fresh starts, clean slates, and time to examine what works and what doesn’t work in any number of settings, be it your personal life or your work life. In our work on customer  

Continue Reading »


Customer Advisory Boards

Customer Advisory Boards are powerful engines of engagement, insight, and business transformation. Make the most of yours.

Meeting Facilitation: Virtual and In-Person Boards » Taking Your Customer Advisory Board Meetings Virtual »

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

Building C-level programs that are meaningful and bring value to you as well as to your c-suite customers is challenging. Veiled sales pitches won’t win the day with this audience. Deliver what executives want: ideas, inspiration, innovation, influence.

Building a C-Suite Client Experience Strategy » Do you Know What Your Customers Value? »

Learn More »