While a customer advisory board (CAB) can deliver a slew of benefits to both CAB members and your company, many organizations fail to take full advantage of opportunities with this group of highly-engaged customers. They may underestimate CAB members as advocates and, as a result, miss out on significant value from this group. Furthermore, they limit customer engagement efforts to their CAB alone, ignoring the hundreds or even thousands of other customers who may also be willing advocates.

Advocates are raving brand fans who are happy to promote products they love wherever they go. They’ll gladly share product feedback and help an organization refine its ideas and priorities. Why? Because they want to become more invested in brands they admire.

They sound a lot like CAB members, don’t they?

There are many similarities between CAB members and advocates. They both will go the extra mile for a brand by providing referrals, acting as references, creating content, providing testimonials, contributing to marketing campaigns, and more.

If your company is like most, your CAB is likely limited to a small group of customers who make the majority of their contributions to your organization during meetings and subsequent engagement.

However, if you want your CAB program to generate more genuine acts of customer advocacy, aligning it with a larger engaging advocate marketing program that allows you to consistently connect and interact with members (and potential advocates that are not on your CAB) is a solid strategy.

Think of an advocate marketing program as an exclusive online community where members are given helpful resources and content alongside requests like writing a review of your product, sharing your content on social media, or giving product feedback. Then they are recognized for their contributions. By giving customers a valuable and rewarding experience, they’ll be happy and eager to answer your advocacy requests.

To help you get started, I’m sharing five ways you can dovetail your CAB program with an online advocate marketing program to manage acts of customer advocacy and expand the scope of advocacy activities your CAB members do.

  1. Expand your list of advocates. The majority of companies cap their CABs to a select group of 10 to 20 members. While this makes meetings manageable, it inherently limits the scope of perspectives. With an advocate marketing program, your organization can solicit opinions from a wider group of customers throughout the year. Imagine creating multiple advisory boards, perhaps by geography, industry, and company type, and encouraging cross-pollination by allowing members to share their ideas across groups.
  2. Use advocacy to help recruit future CAB members. If you award advocates levels or points based on community participation, you can then handpick your top contributors to potentially join your CAB program. This can help you find your top members and encourage participation and engagement in your program with some friendly competition. The reward is greater access to and impact on your organization.
  3. Share CAB meeting topics with your advocate community. Before the next scheduled CAB meeting, share the planned agenda in your advocate community. By soliciting feedback on the topics that will be covered, your company can zero in on the ones that resonate most. You can also encourage CAB members to discuss pressing topics and debate top-of-mind issues with non-CAB members. By doing so, you lay the groundwork for even richer in-person meetings that serve as a continuation of these conversations.
  4. Keep CAB members looped in between meetings. It can be difficult for busy CAB members to attend every engagement, and lots can happen in the interim from one meeting or call to the next. To get the most from their participation, it’s smart to keep them updated with the key moments from these meetings. Rather than reach out with one-off updates—an onerous task—share all updates and meeting decisions in the online community. This takes the burden off your team to follow up individually with absentee members and also builds a centralized repository of meeting highlights and follow-up plans.
  5. Make an extra effort to recognize the advocacy contributions of CAB members. Like any activity you ask a customer to participate in, continual encouragement and recognition go a long way towards ongoing engagement. Shine a spotlight on CAB members for standout acts of customer advocacy. This is great to do in person during the CAB sessions in front of all the members, but it can be equally powerful to recognize contributions between meetings. For example, if a member drove lots social media shares to your content, give them an award or a shout-out on social media. Recognition is the key to keeping your online advocate community thriving.

There are many good reasons organizations launch and maintain CABs and advocate marketing programs alongside one another. By identifying areas where the two programs intersect, companies can deliver a richer experience to CAB members and even more customer advocacy from members.

Chris Newton is the VP of Business Development at Influitive. Chris has 15 years of experience in marketing leadership roles, and loves helping companies strengthen their relationships with customers, partners and employees. 

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