Visualize this scenario: you’re a top executive of a major technology firm or service provider. You’re about to walk into a meeting with your very best customers and/or partners—the revenue from whom will absolutely make or break your company’s business plan for the year.
As a senior leader, you understand the value a strategic customer advisory board (CAB) or partner advisory board (PAB) can bring to your company. But are you confident that the meeting will be well organized, properly attended and expertly facilitated? Will it uncover priceless, insightful input to your corporate, product and service strategies? Or are you now second-guessing the long ago-made decision to have your internal team assign a junior associate—someone with minimal insight into corporate priorities and worse, no experience managing CABs—run the program part-time as part of her other daily responsibilities?
What could possibly go wrong? A lot.
Indeed, a poorly run customer or partner advisory board can do more harm than good. After all, nobody “majors” in customer advisory board management in college, not everyone has attended CAB management training, and many well-intentioned professionals simply learn—often the hard way—as they go on the job.
And with your best customers and partners as the guinea pigs.
With all that’s at stake, a better alternative is needed. And long overdue.
Simply put, outsourcing management of customer or partner advisory boards is an idea whose time has come. Today, there are experienced, battle-tested consultants, who leverage a formalized set of proven best practices to establish, manage, facilitate and measure CAB/PAB programs.
Challenges to managing a customer advisory board internally
Outsourcing management of customer advisory boards or partner advisory boards is a natural alternative to any company that wants the benefits of a world-class CAB/PAB, but is challenged with:
- Limited internal resources: as described above, asking marketing, event, sales or product management personnel to establish and run a CAB/PAB as a hobby to their “day jobs” can lead to inferior—or disastrous—results.
- Short timeframe: Maybe your CAB or PAB is a key component to your current customer-focused business strategy. Perhaps you need immediate feedback to your product roadmap in order for such input to be incorporated into the next version coming out next year. Maybe you need feedback from your partners to ensure they’re aligned for revenue generation within the current fiscal year. You need a CAB/PAB meeting NOW. However, a properly designed, recruited and managed CAB/PAB takes months of prep work to ensure optimal results. Rushing the process will only lead to a disappointing outcome—for you and your board members.
- Lack of in-house experience: Effective management of a CAB or PAB can take years of experience and “seasoning” to balance the science and art such initiatives require and deserve to be successful. Too often, management of boards is assigned to talented, but inexperienced, junior associates whose training or experience lies in other disciplines.
Benefits of using third-party consultants to manage your customer advisory board
Other benefits of outsourced customer advisory board or partner advisory board management include:
- Perceived neutrality: The impartiality of third-party operations and facilitation creates an environment of open sharing and trust with CAB members. And do you want your marketing director, who’s acting as the meeting facilitator, cutting off your EVP of sales or the CEO to keep the meeting on track?
- Ensure optimal experience: Expert CAB consultants ensure CAB programs operate the most effectively as possible to deliver maximum benefit and value to their client companies—and participating members.
- Skilled CAB experts bring extensive CAB knowledge: CAB consultants provide proven CAB processes and best practices. Being former internal CAB leaders themselves, third-party CAB consultants specialize in B2B technology or business services and have a deep understanding of technology, software, banking, cyber security, insurance or other business realms. As such, their learning curves are minimal and their impact is immediate.
Indeed, leading technology and business services companies recognize the advantages of outsourcing management of their CAB or PAB programs to the proven experts.
With all that’s at stake and the benefits such programs can deliver, outsourcing allows companies to reduce risk and use internal resources more effectively.
Something to think about as you walk into your next CAB or PAB meeting.
Ignite Advisory Group is the leading global authority on Customer Advisory Boards. Ignite’s proven methodology for managing and evolving Customer Advisory Boards includes a 4-stage process, encompassing 48 deliverables and measured by 20 metrics to deliver a clear ROI. To learn more about how your company can benefit from Ignite’s CAB methodology and process, contact us today.