Occasionally, Ignite Advisory Group encounters companies that want to leverage industry analysts firms (e.g. Gartner, Forrester, etc.) for their customer advisory board programs. Some might use a particular analyst as a one-time or occasional guest speaker at their customer advisory board meetings. Other companies, as strange as it sounds (to us anyway), say they plan to have an industry analyst help plan a meeting agenda, or even help manage their overall advisory program itself.
We believe that while industry analyst programs can be important, we caution use of such analysts in directly leading or managing your customer advisory board program. Some thoughts to consider:
Running customer advisory boards is not an industry analyst’s core competency:
- Industry analysts essentially publish research and provide buyer and vendor guidance specific to a particular subject, technology or industry. They can provide tremendous value to those who leverage their keen insight, and many analysts are the leading experts – even rock stars – in their respective fields. Their opinions are relied on by the largest of companies, and they’re quoted extensively in the media. Some industry analysts I’ve worked with are the smartest, most engaging and most likeable professionals I’ve ever met. However, managing a customer advisory board is not their primary skill set, and most have only a cursory knowledge of what running a customer advisory board is all about. They are likely unaware of the myriad steps required to initiate successful customer advisory board initiative, and most would not be interested in being engaged to project manage such activities.
Customer advisory board members should plan the meeting agenda; not industry analysts:
- Any well-run customer advisory program is member-driven, meaning that it’s the members’ insight that drives the meeting content – not (just) the host company. Extensive interviews with members before each meeting, to understand their priorities, pain points and desires, informs the planning. Customer advisory board agendas that are primarily one-way communication targeted at members (or worse, pre-cooked corporate, sales or industry analyst presentations) are doomed to fail.
Invite industry analysts to speak at your own risk:
- In our experience, industry analysts are happy to speak at length about their research, guidance or opinions about a particular topic. Early in my career, an industry analyst presented at my customer advisory board, never pausing to gather input or test his conclusions with the attending members. The session was unengaging and boring; not surprisingly, members rated it the lowest segment of the day. Such one-way communication is the antithesis of what an advisory program is all about: gathering input from your best customers.
Industry analysts could be excellent SMEs:
- So how might you constructively involve industry analysts in your advisory board program? They could be good subject matter experts (SMEs) for gathering information on a particular topic or trend that may impact the board and all the members. Such investigation in advance of a meeting could be beneficial to ensure the host company thoroughly understands a particular topic and its impact on the members. You could then verify the information with the members during the meeting, seeing if they agree with the industry analyst’s conclusions and recommendations. You could also survey members’ opinions on analysts’ recommendations and guidance provided to your company.
Industry analysts certainly have a beneficial place in technology and business. Their information, findings and recommendations could help drive content or discussion points in your upcoming advisory board meeting. They may (or may not) be insightful speakers in an upcoming meeting. However, we would be skeptical of – and advise against – any leadership or organizing roles for industry analysts in your advisory board program.