Client Advisory Board Best Practices and Overview
What is a Client Advisory Board?
A client advisory board (CAB) is a group of your most important and strategic clients who meet regularly to discuss industry trends, product development, emerging needs, and problems that need solving.
The client advisory board provides insights and guidance to the host company that can inform everything from your product development and business campaigns, to long-term strategic decisions.
At Ignite, we have spent over a decade continuously tweaking and improving our original client advisory board process model, incorporating all the best practices learned from 200 successful engagements. Ignite’s proven methodology for managing and evolving client advisory boards includes a 4-stage process, encompassing 48 deliverables and measured by 20 metrics to deliver a clear ROI. Each of the 48 deliverables is part of a well-defined process managed by an experienced Ignite consultants.
How Can a Client Advisory Board Help Your Company?
A client advisory board can greatly benefit your company by:
- Deepening relationships with top accounts
- Uncovering new opportunities, closing product gaps
- Getting early feedback on strategies, new product ideas
- Aligning more precisely with your customers’ perspective
- Improving customer satisfaction
- Getting intelligence on competitors
- Gaining more customer advocates
- Building thought leadership and market status
Types of Client Advisory Boards
While client advisory boards can support a wide range of missions and business objectives, most boards fall into a few broad categories. When designing your own CAB, it’s helpful to understand the options.
- A Customer Satisfaction Advisory Board is focused on the customers’ overall use of the product or service — with the goal of assuring that they remain satisfied with its performance at a ground level.
- Board members are: directors or managers responsible for choosing and administering your product or service (not necessarily end-users at the desktop level).
- A Product/Solution Road Map Board has a longer-term purpose, which is to help shape the development and evolution of products and services.
- The discussions are mostly about where customers’ operations are headed, what needs are arising, where existing solutions may fall short, how customers see their businesses one or two years out.
- Board members are: senior-level managers, directors and VPs who use the product on a regular basis.
- A Strategic Customer Advisory Board is concerned mainly with high-level, longer-term strategic issues that potentially affect both you and your customers. Naturally this type of board is best suited to situations where you and your customers’ fates are intertwined, where your product/service/relationship is a critical part of their business. These boards also tend to provide the most value and impact to the host company.
- Board Members are: SVPs and C-level execs who have strategic responsibility within their companies. Meetings and discussions center on questions about industry trends, major shifts in technology, regulatory climate, responding to major challenges
What Do You Need to Have a Successful Client Advisory Board?
- Strong executive sponsorship
- Clearly defined board objectives, theme, and program metrics (documented in a charter)
- The right board members (and committed employees/ internal team)
- Client driven agenda with compelling and mutually beneficial topics and issues for board member discussion (interview all board members prior to each in-person meeting on agenda topics)
- Expertly guiding discussions (facilitating the meeting)
- Plan for ongoing board engagement, executing on action items and reporting back to the board
- Reminder that the CAB is all about them – keep the CAB program client focused and let board members speak 80% of the time
Client Advisory Board Best Practices
Watch this video below to gain more best practices and learn what it takes to create and manage a successful board that delivers ROI.
The CAB works at a whole different level from executive briefings, user groups, or focus groups, and on a different time scale. Your CAB will even offer intelligence over and above what your sales and account teams already gather from daily dealings with customers; those contacts usually focus on more immediate and tactical issues.
That’s precisely why more and more B2B companies are adopting client advisory boards in a big way — especially companies in highly specialized or technology-based businesses.