We attended a Customer Advisory Board roundtable meeting with fellow CAB.org members, all program managers…
A customer advisory board (also known as a customer advisory council) can provide an abundance of key industry knowledge and insight to the host organization. Collected during in-person meetings, all-hands member calls, and offline discussions with individual members, this intelligence has the potential to significantly alter the way your company does business moving forward.
A customer advisory board can help guide your company and product development road map, as well as its entrance into new markets, partnering strategies, merger and acquisition targets, marketing initiatives, branding and messaging, service and support feedback, and much more.
The outcome of your advisory program is to capture these actionable business recommendations, prioritize them and act on those that make the most sense for the business.
1. BUSINESS STRATEGY
You sometimes hear of companies taking their senior executive team off-site for some sort of secret strategy session to devise the company’s overall direction moving forward. A properly run client advisory board can significantly augment these sessions—or even make them unnecessary. Your strategic customers should be able to better advise you on the products and services they desire, what they would pay for them, and how they want them delivered.
After all, everything you do is designed to appeal to their needs, so there really is no one more qualified to council you on how to best target, approach, and serve your client base.
Your council can provide invaluable direction regarding which markets to pursue, what big customer pain points to address, which companies to partner with or acquire, how to best capitalize on competitors’ weak points, and how to position your company for optimal competitive advantage.
2. PRODUCT ROAD MAP
A customer advisory board is perhaps most often associated with providing feedback and desired direction on the host company’s offerings. Your advisory council can offer an insider’s view of what your target buyer needs and wants from your products and/or services. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on inadequate and questionable market research from firms with a poor grasp of your technology. Your council will offer much more targeted and relevant insight.
A council also serves as a great platform for securing beta testers of your new offerings, helping you introduce your solutions to the market and providing immediate validation before you go to market.
3. INCREMENTAL REVENUE
The often unspoken, yet highly desired, benefit from your council is the positive impact you will see in incremental sales revenue. Your members’ organizations in particular will likely increase their overall spend with your business over time. This is because they are privy to your growth strategy, are early testers of your solutions, and feel closer and more dedicated to you and your offerings.
Whether this is a subconscious sense of obligation or an overt feeling of goodwill, this increase in purchases occurs more often than not. In fact, Ignite’s experience shows that B2B companies that have active and successful customer advisory boards enjoy a 9% increase in new business among advisory members starting in year two of advisory programs above non-advisory council customers.
4. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION AND LOYALTY
An additional benefit to running an advisory council is that you are building a close-knit group of company advisers and brand champions.
By bringing members into your company’s “inner circle” as trusted advisers, you are also transforming them into even bigger raving fans of your company. In our experience, this almost always happens with council members. As they take on the responsibility of helping to guide your business, they inherently become professionally and emotionally invested in your success, and their enthusiasm and passion tends to permeate their immediate team and sometimes beyond it.
The result is a group of highly loyal customers who have a vested interest in sticking around—and not defecting to your competition.
Furthermore, your members will likely refer other customers to you as they talk about you with peers at conferences, events, and throughout their day-to-day business operations.
5. MARKETING AND MESSAGING
Another often less recognized area of value a client advisory council delivers is in how your company markets itself. You will gain the rich insight necessary to understand how to position (or re-position) the company against the competition.
Your advisory board will advise you as to what makes your business unique and what differentiators you should highlight. Just as important, the council can guide you on which marketing activities and media are the most viable in terms of reaching your desired audience.
Members can also serve as wonderful client references for testimonials and case studies. Likewise they may also be willing to develop and publish joint articles or white papers with you. This lends industry validation and credibility to your advisory board program and your own organization, and it serves as a means of promoting the member and bolstering his or her own company and career.
As you can see, a well-run customer advisory council will undoubtedly provide your organization with seminal value that will put your company on a better, more targeted and profitable course for years to come.