After your company has hosted your initial (or recent) customer advisory board (CAB) meeting and followed up by sending the important meeting materials to members, you may be thinking that your program is FINALLY completed. These accomplishments are significant, no doubt warranting well-deserved praise from your superiors. And the work is, alas, not over.

The next phase of your CAB program is about ongoing engagement. Keep the momentum generated at your recent successful face-to-face meeting going until the next in-person meeting. Hold the next meeting in six months (ideally) or perhaps even a year from now. After all, you don’t want the very good input received and relationships initiated to go silent or you’ll lose your program inertia. And you’ll risk having participants forget about their ideas, follow-ups and goodwill.

As such, here’s some advice for keeping CAB momentum going in-between in-person meetings.

1. Hold interim conference calls.

These calls (or “virtual meetings” as they will likely include presentations via online meeting platforms) should be prepared for in the same way as your recent in-person meeting. Have a strong, member-driven agenda and session owners. Think through the desired questions to be addressed and desired potential outcomes. Hold content review sessions. Use expert facilitation. Make a plan for the resulting meeting report and assigned action items.

2. Address recent and forward-looking topics.

Content for your interim conference calls can address topics raised at your recent in-person meeting. These topics warrant additional follow-up or deeper dives. Or you have strategic topics that could not be completed or discussed. In addition, you can review the input heard at the last meeting and plans to accomplish resulting action items.

Finally, you can include updates from your company (e.g. recent news, product launches, partnerships, etc.). You can preview upcoming plans, releases and announcements to run by members and get their reactions ahead of the rest of your customers.

3. Keep the discussion lively.

Your interim conference calls should not include canned presentations or one-way conversations. CAB members should be told the call participation ground rules. Set the expectation that they should jump in with their reactions, thoughts and guidance just as a face-to-face meeting would.

Your facilitator may also want to address members directly who may have a particular insight or perspective on your company’s fork-in-the-road challenges.

Finally, make a plan to get away from boring PowerPoint presentations. Keep your members actively participating!

4. Don’t over (or under) whelm.

Interim conference calls do not need to be day-long marathons nor quick, 30-minute briefings. They should have a central strategic topic that allows communication of challenges. And give ample time to gather all member perspectives. A good rule of thumb is around 2 hours, depending on the call agenda and the desired outcomes.

5. Send materials ahead of time.

Meeting participants may not have an abundance of input and feedback if they are seeing your materials online for the first time. In order to ensure optimal input, send the meeting materials and presentations in advance (perhaps a week or two) to the members. Ask them to review the materials and bring their questions and suggestions. This is especially true of product roadmaps that may require input from multiple product users.

In addition, sending other background materials such as articles or whitepapers may provide the information needed for the best discussion.

6. Gather maximum attendance.

The interim conference call will lose credibility if just a few members (or worse, host-company attendees) show up for it.

As such, ensure maximum participation. Send multiple meeting invitations, reminders, and collecting confirmed RSVPs for the call. You may have to call those you haven’t heard back from.

Your CAB executive sponsor could also send a reminder expressing the importance of the meeting discussion. That reminder should go a long way to ensuring full participation.

Lastly, include all call items (presentations, call-in numbers, WebEx link) in the meeting invite so participants don’t have to hunt for these.

In Conclusion

Interim conference calls are an important part of a strong CAB initiative. Putting in the time will ensure a positive experience for your CAB members. Making sure your customer engagement program doesn’t lose momentum is key to keeping CAB members informed and engaged. And your CAB members will be please with the overall program and looking forward to attend future CAB meetings.

Ignite Advisory Group is the leading global authority on Customer Advisory Boards and Customer-Led Boards. Ignite’s proven methodology for managing and evolving Customer Advisory Boards includes a 4-stage process, encompassing 48 deliverables and measured by 20 metrics to deliver a clear ROI. To learn more about Ignite, visit our website, read our blogs, and follow us on LinkedIn. To find out how your company can benefit from Ignite’s CAB methodology and process, contact us today.

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