Every customer advisory board or partner advisory board is different and so is the value it generates. Regardless, however, every board ought to provide certain foundational benefits to the host organization independent of focus, membership profile, meeting cadence, etc. To achieve this, there are several imperatives for every board.
1. Appoint a clear, highly supportive and engaged executive sponsor who is willing to fund the board’s activities, advocate its needs and allocate the necessary resources. Without such a person, the board is far less likely to succeed. Your board will struggle to survive if its success is left solely to the advisory board manager or marketing team. The executive sponsor’s involvement also demonstrates to members the company’s commitment to the board, which helps with recruitment and member retention.
2. Create a clear direct line of communication between members and the board’s executive steering committee (senior members of the host company who are responsible for driving the board’s direction and strategy). This means, provide sufficient email and phone contact information for even your senior-most executives so members have the green light to reach out to them if they have something important to say/share.
3. Keep the recruitment campaign active at all times. Recruitment efforts should continue at all times because members come and go when they leave companies, change job roles, etc. When this happens, you want to already have potential new members on standby. The last thing you want to do is to start your recruitment efforts right when a member leaves, because recruitment can take months and you want to fill the spot ASAP.
4. Treat members as advisors, not customers – Your members are your trusted advisors and you should treat them as such. Be sure to share freely with them, even otherwise-confidential things like impending announcements. The more you share with your members, the more they will feel like an extension of your organization and the more insightful they can and will be.
5. Keep all members in the loop on all board activities – Not all members will attend every in-person event or conference call. It is, therefore, important to document all discussions and takeaways and share them with every member, even those that didn’t participate. Your board is a collective brain trust and all members must have access to the same information to be most effective.