Customer advisory boards (or partner advisory boards) are living, breathing initiatives that need to be fed continuously in order to survive and thrive. No time is more important in this regard than in between board meetings when activities may otherwise be slow. Many customer advisory boards ebb and flow from meeting to meeting, with momentum building up to the next in-person or virtual meeting and then dying down again soon thereafter. This is not, however, how to run a burgeoning board. You need to find ways to sustain activity levels throughout the year.
To keep the pace moving, and to keep your members engaged and interested at slower times, there are a number of customer advisory board best practices that Ignite Advisory Group recommends, from occasionally interviewing each individual one-on-one to take a pulse of their evolving business challenges and topical interests, to writing a joint business piece in concert with several members.
What follows is a more complete list of the many activities you can and should consider:
- Topical article – Pick a hot topic germane to your company and your members and develop a non-promotional, industry leadership article along with the input of several members. Jointly publish the piece in a relevant industry publication under the byline of your organization and your members. You can also send it out to the host company’s customer/prospect base.
- Topical webinar – Similar to the topical article, pick a relevant and important topic and talk about it along with a member during an open (to the public) webinar. Include case studies and research when possible.
- Member interviews – Take the pulse of your members and what’s on their minds occasionally through one-on-one phone interviews. Ask them for their top-of-mind topics to get a sense for what’s changing in their environments. You can use this insight as fodder for your next meeting, in an industry article, in your next newsletter and so on.
- LinkedIn polls – Find an important topic with relevance to the board and take a poll on LinkedIn to gauge the industry’s pulse. Share those findings with your board.
- Workstreams – While your membership is often made up of individuals from varying industries and with unique perspectives, many times select topics resonate with a handful of members. When this happens, and the topic is an important one, form an independent customer advisory board workstream to further develop that concept and/or explore that area. Workstreams take on a life of their own, with their own charter, agendas, and dedicated calls.
- Analyst webinar – Commission some relevant research by an industry analyst and have him or her present the findings during a members-only webinar. You can then share the complete report with the members to review more comprehensively on their own.
- Research review discussion – Take the same research above and host a call with all members to discuss the analyst’s findings in an open-forum discussion (with or without the analyst present).
- Case studies – Interview a board member on their use of the host company’s solutions and develop and publish the customer success story.
- Tradeshow presentations – Secure a speaking slot on the agenda of a relevant tradeshow and jointly present a topic along with a member or two. You can then record the session and use it for lead generation.
- Webinars – Conduct an open webinar with the host company’s customers and/or prospects along with a member. Discuss a hot topic of the day.
- Quick updates – Develop a set cadence of member communication and try to stick to it. A good rule of thumb is no more than two touches a month (which in itself can be too much). Use these opportunities to share quick updates on company developments (new strategic hires, new solutions, M&A activity…).
- Meeting/call summaries – Take copious notes during every board event and/or call and develop a succinct but thorough summary. You can then share the summary with all members soon after the event.
These are just some of the many ideas you might consider in between meetings or all-hands calls to sustain the momentum of your customer advisory board or customer advisory council and keep your members engaged and interested. This helps ensure their ongoing participation and a healthy and successful customer advisory board that will generate a positive return on investment for your organization.