Customer advisory boards can be useful strategic approaches for business-to-business companies to engage senior decisionmakers.…
With Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meetings being conducted online, you may be considering whether or not to send any gifts to your CAB members in advance of your next online meeting. Although member gifts are certainly not required, it’s a nice touch to send them, and can add some prestige to your CAB program – especially in these more distanced pandemic times.
As such, here are 6 ideas for managing virtual Customer Advisory Board meeting gifts:
1. Get the correct address: Don’t forget that, due to the pandemic, your Customer Advisory Board members may not be working in their normal business office, and are likely working mostly from home. As such, before you send anything to them, be sure you have the right address for where you’re sending your items. Needless to say, sending perishables to the wrong address can make for a messy surprise if and when they come back to the office.
2. Include the proper meeting materials: Before you even think about gift items, be sure you’re planning to send the important Customer Advisory Board materials your members will need to participate in the upcoming meeting. These should include the meeting kit (booklet including the meeting agenda, program charter and bios of all participants), the meeting presentations (which they will likely ask for), and any helpful background materials. While these can be sent electronically in advance of virtual meetings, you might consider sending hardcopies, perhaps along with a pen or notebook, if you plan to send additional gifts.
3. Consider refreshments: With everyone working from home, I’ve had a couple clients send refreshments to their members to consume during their virtual Customer Advisory Board meeting. One sent a Harry & David snack box with crackers, cheese and nuts. Another client that is starting a new CAB is sending wine as a way to welcome new members and facilitate introductions. You might also consider sending coffee and/or tea along with a mug with your company name on it, or perhaps dried fruit, gum, mints or chocolate.
4. Get creative: Unlike an in-person meeting, you don’t have to worry about members having to take their gifts home via an airplane, so you might take the opportunity to get a bit more creative. One client of mine sent their members a “phone scrubber” that removes any germs (e.g. COVID) from mobile devices while charging them at the same time. Other ideas here might include a water bottle, mini diffuser, blue-light blocking glasses, a blanket, a motivational, development or other book related to your central topic, or perhaps even a plant for your members’ home office. Remember to not spend too much on these, as many organizations may have dollar limits on how much they can receive.
5. Watch the timing: In line with above, If your company is in the midst of an important contract renewal or significant upgrade, the optics and of sending a nice gift might not be good. You never want to give the impression that you are attempting to influence a sale inappropriately at any time. If this is the case for any Customer Advisory Board account, you may want to skip the gift until the dust settles on the sales front.
6. Don’t forget the follow-up items: Like any Customer Advisory Board engagement, you’ll want to send your members a survey immediately following the meeting to capture their thoughts and feedback while it’s fresh in their minds. You can also send the meeting presentations (if not sent previously), materials or any other follow-up items that came up during the discussion. In addition, within a week or two, you’ll want to send your members a detailed meeting report, highlighting the ideas discussed, input gathered and possible action items on the part of your company. Lastly, it might be a nice touch to send an old fashioned, hand-written, snail-mailed thank you card from your Customer Advisory Board executive sponsor, thanking your member for their time and dedication to your program.
You should always plan to provide your members with all the materials they need to maximize their participation in your CAB meetings. Sending incremental gifts can also add a nice touch to make your members feel really appreciated – especially during the current distanced circumstances.
Don’t allow such gift ideas to take a lot valuable planning time of your executives – maintain their focus on necessary strategic elements of your meeting. And if such discussions turn into a quagmire of ideas or an advanced science project, remember that gifts are not mandatory, and your Customer Advisory Board program should be strong enough to keep your members engaged and satisfied without them.