There are two numbers customer advisory board managers fret over.  How many members can we recruit and what’s the quorum for a meeting?  If the sponsoring company hopes to gain an outside-in perspective about its business and customers, gaining the critical mass participation is essential.

Customer Advisory Board Membership Scale

Customer Advisory BoardLet’s start with the membership scale that’s important to unlock customer collaboration.  That begins with a look at the customer base of candidate firms.  If you have 50 to 75 candidate firms, it’s easy to anticipate 20 to 25 members, especially if recruiting from a horizontal base of customers.  If a vertical focus is targeted from a cross-section of customers, you may need to trim expectations on acceptances.

Two norms Ignite has encountered in managing over 200 customer advisory board meetings are to be noted:

  • Inaugural CABs may take more asks to gain acceptances by members.  Sometimes it’s 2-to-1, sometimes higher if a vertical.
  • Once a customer advisory board has been operating for a year or longer, the acceptance rate is much closer to 1-to-1.

Customer Advisory Board Recruitment Never Ends

Another important Ignite mantra is that customer advisory board recruiting never ends.  Even though you may have achieved or even exceeded your target slate of members, as soon as the first meeting is over, members change jobs and companies.  As your candidate list of companies is built, it’s always a good idea to think through the bench, if any, for target companies.

Customer Advisory Board Quorum

As you plan for your meeting that will unveil your well-developed customer-driven agenda, the events and program team focus on how many members will actually attend.  The answer is rarely 100% of the members will be able to make the meeting, whether it’s due to urgent business demands or long-planned family gatherings.  That leads to questions about the quorum – what’s the minimum attendance required to hold the meeting?

While Ignite’s experience in this area has varied with client preferences, there are some norms that have emerged and we’ll also mention some of the outliers.

  • 80% RSVP rate
  • 90% attendance of RSVPs

Whatever the board size, most companies want double digit attendance.  At least one board reported a successful meeting with only 7 members present.  Another board cancelled its meeting on Monday before the Thursday meeting when a late flurry of member cancellations fell to 9 members attending.  While that might seem dramatic, members expressed gratitude that the sponsoring company was concerned about maximizing use of the member’s time.

To improve attendance, Ignite recommends sending calendar invites to the executive and their assistant as early as possible to block their calendars.  Add venues and meeting times so that it’s easy to plan time away to attend the customer advisory board meeting.  Introduce registration URLs around 60 days before the meeting when members are finalizing travel itineraries.

How many sponsoring company participants attend?

One other size note. With the goal to create reciprocal value, Ignite recommends 2 members for every 1 sponsoring company executive.  That is a daunting challenge because who doesn’t want to learn firsthand the outside-in perspective customers share?  Successful boards balance company attendees in favor of enriching the member experience with a more intimate conversation between members and the company’s senior leadership team.

Your customer advisory board members are spending time and effort to provide guidance for your business.  Your company is expending considerable resources – money and Leadership Team commitment.  Attending to the detail steps to right size the board and ensure strong attendance increases the probability to think outside-the-box and drive a return on the investment for all.

eBook: Delivering a World-Class Customer Advisory Board

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