The annual Customer Advisory conference took place December 4, 2018 in Boston.  At the annual gathering, over 40 customer advisory board and marketing professionals came together to hear and share customer advisory board strategy and best practices.

Here’s a recap of what the speakers shared…and some tweets we posted. The speakers included Iron Mountain, U.S. Bank, Citrix, Ignite Advisory Group, Smartsheet, and Sagitec.

How do you ensure a Customer Advisory Board’s longevity? It’s all about building value beyond the board

David Coates, Director, Customer Marketing, Iron Mountain spoke about the building blocks for driving value from your advisory board program:

  • Stability allows for stronger relationships with key stakeholders and more candid engagement and alignment on key priorities. Stability comes from creating a customer advisory board charter, recruiting the right CAB members, engaging key stakeholders to define shared value and ongoingly evaluating CAB membership and rotating members off and refreshing the membership as necessary.
  • Alignment is critical to ensure focus on key business and industry priorities. On the CAB member side, Iron Mountain creates industry guides based on CAB member feedback. Implementing the board’s feedback on Iron Mountain’s roadmap, account scorecards, value propositions, whitepapers and more, drives internal alignment cross-functionally with various team like marketing, product management, IT, and sales operations.
  • Impact and amplification – Measuring and quantifying the board’s results and impact helps to engage CAB members, maps the CAB back to the business, and ensures executive support and funding. David spoke about results from a series of webinars with CAB member presenters and the impact on their sales pipeline and renewals.

What I learned in the first year of managing a Customer Advisory Board

U.S. Bank’s Dan Skaggs, Group Product Manager, Middle Market, Corporate Payment Systems, shared lessons learned from managing their mid-market Customer Advisory Board. Here are some of the lessons Dan mentioned:

  • Identify key resources – need to get internal resources aligned and consulting help where needed. Key stakeholders include the executive sponsor, program manager, event contact, marketing contact, relationship manager leadership, and consultant (Ignite)
  • Recruitment is the lifeblood – create the ideal persona and member profile, extend invitations in waves, expect ongoing member churn (you must refresh the board ongoingly)
  • Members drive agenda topics – the key to a successful CAB is to co-create the customer advisory board agenda with CAB members and pre-meeting interviews are critical to achieve a customer-driven agenda.

Leveraging a Client Advisory Board program to drive Customer Advocacy

Throughout the Citrix Advisory Board’s ongoing touchpoints with CAB members, Melanie Gomez, Program Manager, Global Advocacy Programs at Citrix, focuses on these items: engage, exchange, advise, learn.

  • Providing an exceptional experience during all stages of interaction with CAB members is important, as is gathering the member’s feedback on the CAB, measuring the program’s success, and improving the program based on member feedback.
  • Customer advocacy is a cornerstone of the Citrix Advisory Board. Melanie has been able to leverage CAB members to participate in video interviews for Citrix, and presentations at the global Citrix employee meetings and at industry conferences.
  • A few of the CAB members have also joined Citrix—and they are valuable to Citrix because they understand the customer’s perspective very well.

Proven Approaches to Facilitating Customer Advisory Boards

Eyal Danon, President, Ignite Advisory Group shared various key elements required for effective Customer Advisory Board facilitation:

  • Effective customer advisory board facilitators listen without judgement or preconceived notions. Are you comfortable with conflict and not knowing all the answers? Basic skills of facilitation include: be very observant, observe body language, what’s the meaning behind what someone says, listening, and asking the right question at the right time. And a good facilitator ensures the 80:20 rule, the members are speaking 80% of the time.
  • The facilitator must be able to deal with common challenges like dominant members, low engagement, silent members who say nothing, aggressive members, and multiple members speaking at the same time. Facilitators employ a variety of techniques like paraphrasing, clarifying, active listening, summarizing, and more. Watch our webinar on demand on customer advisory board facilitation strategies and techniques.
  • The facilitator drives session planning well before the actual meeting. Never allow sales execs to run the show. The facilitator helps design each session: What are the objectives? Is it a good topic? Who speaks? When? For how long? What will the outcome of the session be? Will we include gamification and how will it fit into the session flow?

How to manage a Client Advisory Board more efficiently with technology

While most of Ignite’s customers experience challenges with any kind of CAB member engagement in online communities, Smartsheet is fortunate to have their advisory board members engage with them on their own online collaboration and work management solution. After attending Ignite’s CAB Training, Adam Smith, Senior Manager, Customer Connections, at Smartsheet launched their first CAB in 2018. Adam shared many screen shots from Smartsheet showing how he manages their advisory board and enables internal alignment around the advisory board program:

  • Internal member nomination and recruitment phases – all the CAB member nominee information is on one screen/dashboard, with their photos, contact info, recruitment status, waves, assigned recruiters.
  • Member interviews and agenda development – the pre-meeting interview discussion guide and the member interview summaries are all in one place as well. The agenda is placed on a sheet that is collaborative with all internal stakeholders able to view updates and add any comments or feedback.
  • Program plan and pre-meeting logistics – preparation is key, and success is in the details. Adam uses a separate file for meeting planning and logistics and the overall CAB program plan. A pre-meeting logistics survey sent to CAB members is also online and integrated into the online sheets.
  • Post-meeting survey and ongoing engagement – Adam creates the post-meeting survey online and the results from the meeting are tallied and displayed on another sheet–along with action items and key takeaways from the meeting.

How a consulting organization uses a CAB to drive Employee Effectiveness

Stephanie Schrankler, Director of Customer Advocacy at Sagitec shared a fascinating case of how their Customer Advisory Board is driving employee effectiveness. Their organization made up of IT consultants that each work with their clients independently and don’t focus on the overall voice of the customer outside of their own individual project. Sagitec is a global technology company that provides IT solutions that are transaction heavy and complex software implementations.

  • The voice of the “business” is driven by customer and employee experience and the voices (inputs) need to determine the solutions (output). Stephanie reinforced and emphasized the need for both employee experience and customer experience to internal stakeholders using a one-slide visual “voice of the ‘business’” framework at meetings.
  • Pre-meeting customer advisory board member interviews were invaluable to understand members’ perspectives on industry topics
  • Example of a specific customer challenge and employee experience results: CAB members said the Sagitec IT consultants didn’t understand the Sagitec technology roadmaps enough to help them better align it to their own technology roadmaps. Stephanie rolled out series of internal webinars to ensure that all internal and external stakeholders understand the Sagitec technology roadmap and its importance. Internal feedback for product enhancements has increased and employee attendance and engagement has been high.

Breakout Groups: Top 3 challenges in managing Customer Advisory Board programs and solutions to overcome them

At the end of the day of the conference, attendees broke up into small groups and discussed the following:

  • What are the top 3 challenges you face managing Customer Advisory Board Programs?
  • What are the top 3 solutions to these challenges?

Below are the top Customer Advisory Board challenges and solutions the six breakout groups shared. Common challenges include: executive alignment, recruitment, agenda creation, measuring success / ROI, and creating ongoing engagement and value.


1) Recruitment (nominations and level)
  • Evangelism, pre-seed market, do your research
2) Data management
  • Integrated, collaborative program management too
  • GDPR? Integrations? Internal approvals?
3) Continuous Engagement and closing the feedback loop
  • Topic based webinars/ virtual calls
  • Scheduled communications
  • Community/forum (even if it just serves as a repository)


1) Measuring success
  • Align to company challenges
  • Review impact/ influence
  • Member engagement
2) Executive alignment
  • Internal awareness / business case
  • Identify executive sponsor
3) Agenda Creation
  • Capture customer feedback and executive yearly priorities


1) Executive buy-in and participation
  • Buy-in is a prerequisite to launching a CAB
  • At least 1 executive sponsor identified and is committed
  • Internal value proposition with documentation (internal charter)
2) Quantifying ROI
  • Total revenue in room “Revenue Influenced”
  • Client retention rate
  • Share of wallet
3) Communicating value proposition to CAB member candidates
  • Peer networking
  • Standardized templates
  • Highlighting additional possible collaborative opportunities
  • Charter for members


1) Recruiting CFOs that we have limited relationships with
  • Leverage our CFO and key executives from acquired companies to help recruit
2) Agenda creation
  • Pre-meeting interviews
3) Internal alignment
  • Educate on best practices of other successful CABs


1) Session owner delivery
  • Google slides / collaboration tools
    Executive support
2) Executive alignment
  • Definitive protocols with authority
3) Internal curation, debrief and communications
  • Continual reinforcement


1) Proving ROI for ongoing budget
  • Track pipeline influence / CAB touchpoints to closed deals
  • Track quotes, references, pics, press – make it a personal story
  • Renewals for higher value and added solutions
2) Operationalizing feedback that comes from CAB
  • Simple, prioritized dashboard to keep feedback visual and in front of people
  • Tap into an executive sponsor or sponsors from other lines of business
  • Closing the loop on feedback / consistency
3) Session / agenda development
  • One-on-one interviews pre-CAB meetings (What do you want to hear about? Do you want to hear about X, Y, Z?)
  • Include members as presenters/session owners
  • Balance session type

See you in 2019 at the next Customer Advisory Board Manager Training and Customer Advisory Board .org Conference

We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the annual Customer Advisory Conference in 2019! Join us and your peers at our upcoming Customer Advisory Board Manager Training, February 27-28, 2019 in Miami. The CAB Manager Training is comprehensive and highly interactive, the perfect place to learn new tools, best practices and tips you can implement to maximize the value of your customer advisory board program.

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