The annual conference took place December 5th, 2019 in Boston.  Over 50 customer advisory board and marketing professionals joined the annual conference to hear and share customer advisory board strategy and best practices.

Here’s what each presenter from Ryder, Forcepoint, Ignite Advisory Group, Wolter Kluwer, and BNY Mellon | Pershing spoke about, with some feedback from the twitterverse.

The Journey to Becoming Customer Obsessed Through Customer Advisory Boards

Stephanie Wicky, Group Director, Marketing, Supply Chain Solutions & Dedicated Transportation, Ryder System, Inc., shared Ryder’s journey from the 1930’s with one truck to becoming the leading provider of outsourced solutions in transportation and supply chain. Ryder has been focused on growth and becoming customer obsessed, with their customer advisory boards driving this mission forward.

A strong customer advisory board starts with executive leadership. Ryder’s CEO Robert Sanchez and CMO Karen Jones are executive sponsors and several executive leaders are committed to the advisory board program. Ryder has 3 customer advisory boards that meet throughout the year (virtually and in-person). The advisory boards have helped drive new product innovation in terms of advanced vehicle technology, asset sharing, and e-commerce.

Executive Advisory Board Member Recruitment – How to Aim High and Better Engage EAB Members?

Forcepoint’s Ben Tao, Vice President – Corporate Marketing, spoke about advisory board recruitment. He manages the Forcepoint Executive Advisory Board that helps guide the company’s strategy and influence their cyber security solutions. Critical steps to aiming high in recruitment are being specific on the ideal member criteria and ensuring executive sponsor commitment. Forcepoint recruits the most strategic and senior level roles – Forcepoint only recruits senior cybersecurity leaders (CISOs) of Fortune 500 companies. Forcepoint’s advisory board executive sponsor is the CEO Matt Moynahan, and he personally connects with any EAB potential member via phone call to extend the invitation to join their advisory board. Ben emphasized that maintaining membership is all about engagement. As a best practice, member recruitment happens throughout the year – always think about recruiting some new members, retire non-engaged members, and several members will naturally drop off due to company or role changes. Other best practices for the annual in-person meeting include to interview members on potential meeting topics prior to the meeting and leverage a 3rd party facilitator as an integral part of the board. Finally, the overall meeting experience is important. Forcepoint focuses on providing a white glove experience for their clients at EAB in-person meetings.


The Secret Sauce of Customer Advisory Board Session Design

Eyal Danon, President of Ignite Advisory Group, shared about customer advisory board session design and best practices to run successful CAB meetings. Before thinking about session design, some pre-requisites for a successful CAB include executive sponsorship, establishing meeting objectives and metrics, getting the right people involved (CAB members, employees, facilitator), creating a mutually beneficial agenda, and ongoing engagement with CAB members.

A facilitated session begins with a structure and focus on “what are your desired outcomes?” and “what are the desired outcomes for the members?”. The goal is to design a session that is mutually beneficial and keeps the 80:20 rule in mind – enable the CAB members to speak for 80% of the time (and the host company speaks 20% of the time). It’s okay to flip the 80:20 rule in some types of sessions like educational sessions, e.g. the host company is presenting a product strategy.

A breakout session is an ideal session to have the CAB members split into smaller groups and collaborate on a topic. Breakout session best practices include to provide 75-90 minutes for the session, ensure the topic is relevant to CAB members and will have an actionable output, pre-assign members into teams, provide a clear deliverable and keep it simple. At the end, allow time for readouts from the CAB members.

Driving Tangible Business Value through Customer Advisory Boards

Wolters Kluwer’s Angela Nichols, Senior Manager, Global Advisory Boards, Clinical Effectiveness, UpToDate, has effectively evolved the Wolters Kluwer Clinical Effectiveness CAB program to a more strategic level, since its inception in 2013. As background, Wolters Kluwer Clinical Effectiveness is a part of the company’s health division and delivers solutions for healthcare providers across the world. To uplevel the CAB and reach strategic alignment, Wolters Kluwer focused on various aspects of managing a CAB: 

  • increasing the level of internal commitment,
  • aiming higher to recruit c-level executives at the healthcare providers (e.g. Chief Medical Information Officers),
  • improving the ratio of discussion vs one-way presentations,
  • better preparing and training the internal employees to lead sessions,
  • running country-specific CABs for high priority markets globally,
  • focusing on CAB ROI, and more.


The CAB program drives value for the company (impacting sales, product, and marketing) and for the CAB members. And Angela has leveraged the CABs to develop stronger customer advocates for the company.

Customer Advisory Board Best Practices for Planning an Annual Strategic CAB Meeting

Elyse Begleiter, VP, Corporate Events, BNY Mellon | Pershing, talked about all the planning that happens for their strategic advisory boards that meet 2 times annually in person and 2 times virtually. Pershing provides global financial solutions to financial services firms, institutional investors and investment advisors. Like other best-in-class CAB programs, Pershing has strong executive sponsorship for their CABs – the Chief Relationship Officer is the executive sponsor and the Head of Global Clients Relationships is executive lead. Allowing enough time to plan and prepare for the CAB in-person meetings are key. Creating a compelling agenda starts with interviewing each CAB member on proposed meeting topics. The agenda is created 6 weeks out from the in-person meeting, allowing time for session and content development. Hosting a dry run the day before the in-person meeting to review the agenda, account profiles, facilitation guidelines and logistics is critical. Keys to a great meeting experience start with picking the right venue and attentive onsite management. Convenient location, natural light, and 30-minute breaks are essential. In the meeting, ensure seating is assigned at the u-shaped table and make sure session owners manage sessions from their seats, enabling maximum discussion among CAB members in the U.

  We are looking forward to the 2020 Customer Advisory Board Conference! See everyone next year at the largest annual gathering of CAB practitioners.

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