What is a customer advisory board — really?

Companies apply “customer advisory board”, “client advisory council”, and similar terms to almost any forum involving customer input and interaction. Such a broad definition—“a forum for customer feedback”—causes confusion. Which customers? Feedback about what? Who needs insight? How will they use it?

Customer Advisory Boards are Strategy-Level Sounding Boards

Consider three different levels for customer feedback—product, solutions, strategy. Do you have a clear consensus about which kind of forum you’re trying to create?

Farland Group’s Definition of a Customer Advisory Board

In our minds, a customer advisory board:

  • builds relationships between key, senior customers and stakeholders
  • meets multiple times a year
  • advises on and shapes strategy, product/service direction, and innovation
  • fosters an ongoing, collaborative dialogue about the market

It is a strategy-level listening tool and sounding board that offers equal value to both you and participating customers.

  • Your leadership team learns from your c-level customers.

AND

A customer advisory board IS NOT a:

  • Lead generation tool
  • Conference or event
  • Focus group
  • Research program

Conspicuously absent:

  • Any type of selling or pitching
  • In-depth product testing and discussion

Why?

Those discussions misuse your advisors’ time. They undermine the trust, energy, and engagement that are critical to get the most valuable, strategic advice.

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