In our latest research report, Key Drivers of High-Performing Customer Advisory Boards, we discovered some of the best practices from global B2B companies running successful customer advisory board (CAB) programs.
While there are numerous lessons to be learned in the report, here are a few key aspects that struck me as insightful, and that are ideal for any company that’s considering initiating a CAB program to learn from other businesses that are succeeding with their initiatives:
1. CABs are getting respect: In the past, some companies treated CABs as a side project, experiment or marketing “hobby” that they didn’t take seriously or invest the necessary amount of time, resources and personnel to manage. Not surprisingly, such poorly run programs tended to be unsuccessful, flame out quickly or, worse, backfire on ill-prepared companies. These days, businesses with successful CAB programs are taking CABs much more seriously — they’re taking a long-term approach and investing in the necessary resources to make them a strategic priority. As such, those guiding the programs are seeing more internal influence and getting the executive respect they rightfully deserve. In addition, attending CAB members recognize the investment of the attending execs, further elevating the importance of the program.
2. Host executives are invested: Speaking of executives, interviewed marketers with successful programs pointed to the support of their management teams as a key reason for their success. CEOs and numerous C-level leaders see the high value of CAB programs, and typically attend and lead discussions at strong CAB meetings. In addition, they are very familiar with the status of each account and invest the time to deepen personal relationships with the customers attending the meeting.
3. A balance of champion and unsatisfied customers: When it comes to CAB member recruiting, successful CAB programs do not only invite happy customers who will merely agree that everything the host company is doing is wonderful. Quite the contrary: Successful companies need to include the right balance of brand champions with accounts that may have some insights into needed improvements or who themselves need a bit more attention.
4. A focus on engagement: Successful companies managing CABs do not use their in-person meetings to hold their customers hostage and subject them to hours of sales pitches, product demos or boring, one-way PowerPoint presentations. On the contrary, strong CAB programs utilize their customers to collect real, unvarnished input through engaging breakout sessions, brainstorming roundtables and well-designed and entertaining games.
5. Significant impact delivered: While solution and service desires are always a part of any CAB discussion, impactful insights go way beyond this for most successful CAB programs. The marketing leaders we interviewed said their CAB also impacted aspects like their R&D efforts, go-to-market strategies, acquisitions and global partnerships.
Companies continue to derive high value from their customer advisory board programs and strong returns on their investment in these initiatives. But to do so requires a strong commitment from the top of their organizations, the participation of myriad stakeholders within their organizations, and the investment of the time, resources and experienced professionals to deliver the desired results.