As we’re well into the final quarter of calendar year 2015, many customer advisory board (CAB) managers may be steeped in making plans for 2016. Since many managers may be looking back and examining customer advisory board return on investment (ROI) and success, this blog offers some customer advisory board best practices on CAB performance measures. After all, while measuring CAB success can be less than an exact science, doing so doesn’t have to be rocket science either.
In Part 1 of our blog dedicated to quantifying the success of your customer advisory board program, we focused on measuring revenue, loyalty and new customers that may be tied closely to – or outright driven by – your CAB program. This blog post will focus on the qualitative and marketing measurements you can apply to your CAB program, which may offer just as much value as those tied to revenue.
Product feedback and direction
One of the top benefits of any advisory board program will be valuable input for your existing products – how they’re implemented and used and the sometimes surprising benefits they provide. Your members will also provide critical feedback on your product roadmap – new features and capabilities they’d like to see, and maybe those that are a lower priority or not even necessary. While such prized information can focus or save untold amounts of product development cycles, such benefits can be difficult to specifically quantify.We recommend CAB managers create product goals tied directly to their CAB programs – e.g., uncover one (or more) new product feature(s) that are added to the roadmap. You could even take this a step further by making a goal of uncovering an entirely new product concept that addresses your CAB’s largest unmet need. One of your customer advisory council members could volunteer to be a beta tester of this new product. You could then track the sale of these features or products, and attribute this revenue directly to your CAB program.
In this age of social media and pervasive product and vendor reviews, product or service recommendations by colleagues or peers carry more weight than ever. Consisting of your best, most dedicated customers, your CAB members represent firms that are not only successfully using your products, but may be doing so in innovative ways that add incremental value to the rest of your customers, and to your company’s P&L.Make a goal of procuring one to three testimonials from your CAB program, either by a written blurb on your website or, even better, a video testimonial that you can share in many places. Furthermore, as your CAB members are typically high-level executives, you stand the best chance of getting their company’s approval on these and any other marketing activities.
We’ve seen CAB members come back to present their successful or novel use of a product at subsequent CAB meetings, industry events and/or the host company’s user conference. Attendees at such events will respond much more positively to “one of their own” as compared to (yet another) vendor presentation. In addition, such customer speakers can be equally impactful at internal meetings, such as annual sales kickoffs. Here, the customer can not only describe their successful use of your product, but why he or she selected it over a competitor, and how the company will be growing with it in the future, uncovering valuable intelligence for your account teams.Set a goal for your customer advisory board program to identify one to three members who would be terrific spokespersons for your product or service. Go the extra step to integrate them into your marketing program, and then track their speaking engagements as well as the audience in the sessions in which they present.
Press releases/case studies/webinars
Similar to the solo or co-presentations with your customers, use (but not abuse!) your best CAB members to issue press releases on their successful use of your products – such as a key milestone achieved or as a beta purchaser. Case studies can provide richer details around their situation, actions and results of using your solution, and serve as valuable sales tools to your prospects. Perhaps your customer would be willing to participate on a webinar in which they communicate their trials, failures and ultimate triumphs with your solution. Create a goal to include a CAB member in one (or all) of these marketing initiatives. Be sure to track press release impressions or clicks, case study downloads and webinar attendees. Your customer advisory board program ROI will zoom if one or more of these prospects turn into paying customers!
Many boards we manage end up creating impressive collateral that reflect the collective results of the board’s work streams. Such thought leadership might be guidance on an industry challenge that effects many companies (beyond merely customers), suppliers and vendors alike. Best of all, such thought leadership can garner industry-wide attention from press, analysts or bloggers, and positions the host company as a sought-after expert resource on a particular issue.
Since your CAB members are most likely your company’s most ardent fans, encourage them to friend/follow your social media activities, and add to the conversation. CAB members can be especially helpful if you are just getting started with your social media activities, as their colleagues and contacts will see their participation, listen in, and hopefully join as well. There are many methods for tracking social media activities, but be sure to track the CAB members that are participating on your pages.
CAB managers should create a quantifiable scorecard for their programs, meticulously track any and all action items that come from meetings and other member engagements, and measure their program’s performance relative to their desired metrics. When done thoroughly and consistently, CAB managers will almost certainly create impressive program success stories to promote internally to their management team. Such success will surely set their programs – and themselves – up for success in 2016 and years to come.