Most sponsoring companies embrace the notion of a customer-driven agenda for their Customer Advisory Board meetings. They may even use these phrases when describing how they want the meeting to flow.
- No talking company heads
- PowerPoint-free zone
- Members talk 80% of the time
- Company Leadership Team talks 20% of the time
You may have noticed a violation or two of these principles at a Customer Advisory Board meeting you’ve attended. Why do these good intentions derail? And, what are the best practices to remedy the situation to craft a customer-driven Customer Advisory Board agenda?
Since it’s truly all about the customer, start by unlocking customer collaboration with advance member interviews as they are vital to a productive Customer Advisory Board meeting and a beneficial best practice. Set a schedule to contact every member and complete a 30-minute interview via phone.
- Sampling a few members, as some companies do, could build in biases that have unintended consequences
- By contacting everyone, you make a positive statement about the value of every member and reinforce the intention for all members to be heard
And, be sure to check your active listening techniques. These member calls should generate hot-spots of interest and reciprocal value that can be leveraged as the agenda is developed and refined.
- When you find a member who is passionate about one of your candidate topics, you have found a member that can lead off the discussion, perhaps with a germane real-life example
- When you find someone who has already taken a unique approach that’s been successful or another person that did the same thing but it was a big flop, you just found a point-counterpoint framework for a challenges autopsy
- More importantly, when the majority of members talk about a subject that wasn’t even on your radar screen, you have a chance to get in front of the parade and add a deeper dive discussion during the Customer Advisory Board meeting
Advance interviews tee up members that can lead, frame and challenge the discussion. That means your agenda is infused with an outside-in perspective. And, that’s essential to having effective dialogue in which members recognize that their ideas are being heard.
After the advance interviews are complete, many companies actually produce a heat map of member interest and intensity. This technique helps tune-in the Leadership team to the topical interests of the members before the Customer Advisory Board meeting.
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 find out what’s on Customer Advisory Board member minds before your agenda is set enables an engaging, active discussion and a return on the investment for all.