Our clients frequently ask us about the locations to hold their customer advisory board meetings. Customer advisory board hotel selection is a somewhat subjective category, as some companies and executives are very particular about them, others are not at all. While this dynamic will inevitably make your CAB meeting location an individual choice, one that should reflect your company’s culture, image and values, there is some general advice we can offer about identifying the right hotel property for your program:
1. Select an easy-to-reach city:
Consider member locations, and shoot for something in the middle, or rotate east coast and west coast to minimize cross-country travel. Choose a centrally-located city with major airline presence — Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles or Miami.
2. Go as nice as you can afford:
Your customer advisory program is an exclusive, members-only committee made up of high-level executives representing your very best customers or partners. You’ve invested a lot of time and resources to ensure a professional, polished experience. This will inevitably be diminished if you pick a marginal property or location. If your budget doesn’t support The Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton, select top brands that your company sanctions – be it Hyatt, Westin or Marriott.
3. Pick a convenient location:
Members appreciate arriving on a non-stop flight and convenient travel from the airport. While a remote location may be dramatic, customer advisory board members are busy people and appreciate efficient arrival and departure schedules.
4. Check with your CAB sponsor:
Alternatively, the hotel you select can be one that your own executives often use, or a company partner. A good barometer is to simply ensure your CAB’s executive sponsor is satisfied with the location you select.
5. Don’t price out your members:
Many host companies absorb or reimburse hotel expenses for their CAB members. However, if this is not the case for your CAB program, you don’t want to overextend those who are paying for their own accommodations by selecting a super-expensive hotel chain. Some member companies may have limits as to where employees are allowed to stay — no matter who pays the bill. Ensure your selection is appropriate.
6. Avoid vacation destinations:
Ignite doesn’t recommend exotic locations in the Bahamas, Aruba or Hawaii. Your CAB is a strategic committee, not a boondoggle. Member companies’ budgets are tight and travel is often, if not always, highly scrutinized. Do not send the wrong message about the customer advisory board program by choosing a venue that raises questions.
7. Ensure natural light in meeting room:
A terrific setting for your meeting can be lost if the meeting occurs in a lower-floor cave or dungeon. Natural light access for the room counters fatigue and keeps the meeting more active and lively.
In the end, it is the valuable, stimulating meeting content that your customer advisory council members will remember, not necessarily the meeting location itself. A compelling and convenient location does add to the member experience, and paves the way for maximum success for your customer advisory board program.