We attended a Customer Advisory Board roundtable meeting with fellow CAB.org members, all program managers…
Customer advisory boards can be useful strategic approaches for business-to-business companies to engage senior decisionmakers. CABs invite executives, particularly CIOs and other IT leaders, from top customer firms to create a forum to offer unvarnished guidance and insight to the sponsoring company. They also review industry trends and debate forecasts that can help members strategize and plan purchases. Customer advisory boards can be ideal for collecting feedback on the host company’s corporate plans, gathering input into its product road maps and deepening relationships with its best customers. “The core value proposition for a customer-driven advisory program is mutually beneficial collaboration that results in reciprocal value for both the host company and the participating members,” says Eyal Danon, president and founder of Ignite Advisory Group. Below he offers 10 reasons for participating on CABs, based on Ignite Advisory Group’s experience helping companies manage and optimize their customer and partner advisory board programs.
INFLUENCE VENDORS’ PRODUCT ROAD MAPS
By participating on vendors’ advisory boards, CIOs gain first-hand insight into their product and solutions road maps. They can learn about upcoming products ahead of the market and provide feedback to product managers. If implemented, their suggestions can benefit their operations.
GAIN INSIGHT INTO VENDORS’ STRATEGIC INITIATIVES
As CAB members, CIOs can gain forward-looking insight into—and offer opinions about—their vendors’ strategic initiatives. These initiatives include bets on technology development or investment, strategic partnerships, and even merger and acquisition targets.
LEARN BEST PRACTICES FROM PEERS
Exchanging best practices with peers ranks as one of the top benefits of participating on CABs. These interactions often result in insights that CIOs can immediately implement in their own companies.
HAVE A CHANCE TO BETA TEST NEW PRODUCTS
Companies often select beta users from CAB members. Participating CIOs test drive the latest products and provide feedback. Vendors sometimes offer financial incentives, such as discounts, on the released products.
INTERACT WITH VENDOR EXECUTIVE TEAMS
CIO CAB members observe leaders firsthand as they explain their strategies and rationales for business decisions. Because the setting often offers interaction over meals or other activities, CIOs can become acquainted with vendor executives on a personal level.
IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SUPPORT
CIOs’ feedback can drive product services support. Their input typically comes from experience, which the CAB forum may tap as a real-world case study and craft improvements that could significantly benefit many CIO members’ operations.
LEARN ABOUT INDUSTRY TRENDS
CABs provide CIOs with a rare opportunity to learn about developing industry and tech trends, and to see to what extent they affect similar companies. This enables CIOs to benchmark trends against their own organizations and plan ahead.
HELP SOLVE ISSUES AFFECTING THE BOARD
CABs are an opportunity to invite experts to solve business problems or leverage a business opportunity shared by all. Participating CIOs collaborate to think up solutions, processes or technologies to help themselves, the host company, and others in their fields or industries.
OPPORTUNITY FOR THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
Host companies can turn CIO collaborations and the solutions they generate into innovative thought leadership. Resulting whitepapers and articles can communicate findings and be used for marketing and publicity. These reflect the positive outcome of the initiative and shine a positive light on the participating CIOs.
NETWORK FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
CABs enable CIOs to interact with their peers and other executives to benefit their companies, as well as to network for personal and professional growth. It’s not unusual for advisory board members to join host companies or other member organizations.