Do you have a customer advisory board charter?
If not, we suggest you take a moment now to start creating your customer advisory board charter.
If yes, awesome. When was the last time you reviewed or revised the charter? Is it up to speed with your current customer advisory council?
The customer advisory board charter is the most important document that will guide your customer advisory council. The charter lays out (in writing) the board’s mission and objectives for clarity, internal alignment and buy-in with your executive team. The client advisory board charter also serves as an external facing overview document for CAB members, and describes the benefits they’ll receive and what (exactly) they’re committing to: number of planned meetings, their expected tenure, etc. This information is critical in recruiting them to join the board.
What’s in a customer advisory board charter?
Here at Ignite, we have templates for the charter that we use to complete the document for our customers (we also have 100+ templates for all phases of a CAB). We facilitate a strategy and planning workshop with our customer to extract the objectives, mission, and design—with this information, we fully create the charter, including these major elements:
- Mission, Scope, Objectives
The customer advisory council mission defines your company’s overall strategy and focus for your customer advisory board and how it aligns to what matters most to your company and your customers. Here’s one example:
“To bring together our top customers to solicit feedback and guidance on our offerings, solutions and service levels in order to better meet our customer needs while co-defining the future of scalable and cost effective Wireless Area Networks.”
The scope may seem similar to the mission but further narrows down into the type of program the CAB encompasses. For example:
“To provide a forum to share information and gain consensus on enterprise software and IT infrastructure topics. The XYZ Advisory Board will improve our competitive advantage, and serve as a sounding board for XYZ on subjects including company business strategy, new and potential products and services, marketing strategies, etc.”
Internal alignment on CAB objectives and goals is critical. Download our beginner’s guide eBook covering more details on CAB strategy and objectives. An example of objectives:
1. Discuss opportunities and challenges around enterprise software & IT.
2. Analyze the impact of new technologies and services.
3. Guide the direction of XYZ’s existing and future solutions.
- Length of Membership
The other day, a CAB program manager from a Fortune500 SaaS company was telling us about her top advisory board challenges. One challenge was that a group of CAB members have been on the board for 9+ years and it was time to refresh the board with new faces — and the company felt awkward kicking these folks out after so much time. We told the CAB program manager to specify a member tenure period, put it in writing in a charter and share the charter with the board members. CABs require ongoing recruitment and member refresh. The most common tenure periods are 12 months, 18 months or 24 months.
- Customer Advisory Board Member Benefits and Participation
A primary reason your customers will join your board is due to the many benefits they receive. Peer networking and access to your company’s executive team are two benefits that keep members coming back to your CAB. Spell out the benefits in the charter. Here are 17 member benefits from advisory boards.
Specify member participation cadence by outlining the number of virtual and face-to-face meetings per year. We also include a note about providing detailed meeting reports within certain time frames.
- Board Member Responsibility, Costs, Nomination
Further clarify board members’ requirements to join and participate, including attending face-to-face meetings, actively participating and allowing for a 30-minute member interview call prior to meetings to help craft the agenda. We highly recommend inserting a note that membership isn’t transferable and the CAB is an exclusive invitation-only board. Include costs covered – airfare, travel costs to and from meetings, lodging, meals and ground transportation?
- Host Company Roles and Responsibilities
An advisory board will fail without an executive sponsor and executive commitment. In this section, write the names of the executive sponsor, program manager and external consultants (if working with a company like Ignite to help manage or facilitate your board).
One final tip – while creating the charter in a simple word file works, we work with our customers to create branded graphic design files of the charter. Not only is the charter critical for internal alignment and CAB member recruitment, but it also becomes a marketing and PR piece that is visually appealing and in line with your brand. For more CAB recruitment strategies and tips, watch our webinar on recruitment best practices.
Looking for templates or more information about how to design, implement or manage a customer advisory board? Join us at our next Customer Advisory Board Manager Training to learn all the best practices and tools to effectively create and manage an advisory board.