A Customer Advisory Board or Customer Advisory Council is a unique and effective platform to gather your top strategic customers for their input and guidance to shape your business.

If you have a very small customer base generating over 80% of revenue, is it worth it to create a Customer Advisory Board? If your company is global with diverse business units and many strategic customers, is it worth it to gather only a small portion of them into a CAB? The answer is yes and yes–we have managed successful advisory boards with 5 to 25 CAB members at a face-to-face meeting and with large global firms and smaller sized companies.

What is the ideal number of Customer Advisory Council members?

Time and again, we find that the ideal number of Customer Advisory Council members is 12 people at a face-to-face meeting. Why? Because each member will have ample time to engage in dialogue, express opinions, and provide input and ideas. Recruit 15 to 17 council members to get to 12 members in attendance at the face-to-face meeting.

At any size, focus on creating value-add discussions and relationship building.

The value of advisory councils comes from the face-to-face and year round interactions and discussions between your company and customers and between the multiple customers themselves. Whether we have 5, 12 or 25 CAB members in attendance at a face-to-face meeting, we create opportunities and an agenda allowing for engaging interactions and dialogue with various sessions and networking activities. If there are 25 CAB members, the face-to-face meeting agenda will have more breakout sessions, visuals, and gamification to foster insightful feedback.

Ongoing recruitment is required to refresh your Customer Advisory Council.

While starting with a small number of members (less than 10) for an advisory council can work, it is not ideal. Out of all the advisory council engagements I’ve worked on, only one face-to-face CAB meeting had 100% advisory council member attendance. With very low attendance numbers over time, it may be challenging to continue justifying the resources, expenses, and time needed for managing the advisory council.

No matter the size of your advisory council, year round recruitment is necessary to refresh the council and bring in new ideas and perspectives to the mix. For a board with less than 10 members, I recommend increasing the number of members over time through ongoing recruitment. Look beyond the top, tier 1 customers to tier 2 and 3 for target members as an opportunity to create sales and revenue growth in those accounts.

Start by creating a target member profile or review your existing target member profile, and then gather nominations from your internal account management or sales teams. (Of course, this is all dependent on that you’ve already established a charter, mission and objectives for your advisory council.) Vet all the nominations and create the recruitment campaign documentation to extend invitations.

Check out these other blog posts on recruitment and advisory council membership: tips on recruitment and 3 ways to improve Customer Advisory Council member management policies.

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