When creating and designing a customer advisory board (CAB) initiative, one aspect that tends to get overlooked or undervalued by CAB managers and executive sponsors is the creation of the program theme.
In fact, many companies simply name their customer advisory board itself after themselves, calling it the “Company ABC CAB” or perhaps instead focus on a specific product offering (e.g. “Solution XYZ CAB”), and ignore any thought about setting a theme. But doing so creates a self-focused, short-sighted outlook that members will pick up on eventually, if not immediately. After all, your client advisory board should be about the members and their challenges; not (just) about your company or products. Your CAB may even recommend you create additional products you haven’t even thought of yet! In addition, naming your customer advisory board after yourself or products and ignoring the creation of a theme will likely hinder your ability to attract valuable, strategic executive members, and likely attract more junior, tactical product users with limited insight into other business operations or opportunities.
Your client advisory board theme should reflect the journey or transformation your members and company aim to go through as part of the CAB initiative itself. It should be unique, compelling and aspirational enough to help attract members, fueling what we call the “power to convene.” Read more about the “power to convene” in our guide to establishing a world-class customer advisory board.
Here are three tips for setting a powerful CAB theme:
- Convey your value: Start by considering your own company’s value proposition to your customers. This might include your company tagline or mission statement, but should not simply convey what your product does. Instead, think of why your customers came to you in the first place – what challenge they have and why they selected your product over your competition. Think about new products and capabilities under development, and what additional value they provide or other industries or markets they may support. If you don’t have this information at the ready, or different departments have varying opinions here, you might convene a meeting led by your marketing or strategic management to come up with this messaging – not only what this might be today, but where it is heading in the future.
- Elevate your mission: Think of a higher purpose beyond the immediate benefits of your company or products. For example, while you might sell IT security software, your elevated mission might be to protect your customers from ever-expanding external threats that grow in complexity and sophistication every year. Or perhaps to rid the world entirely of hacking dangers forever! Thus your customer advisory board theme might be, “proactively guarding against evolving technology threats.” Other CAB theme ideas:
- Banking: Streamlining corporate payments with innovative electronic technologies
- Fleet management: Enabling safe, efficient product transportation
- Biotechnology: Accelerating the approval of drugs to help patients
- Financial services: Ensuring your employees a secure retirement
- Think ahead: Check out industry articles, blogs, videos or analyst reports that talk about the future of where your market is headed, and aspire to be an influential part of this future. What technologies, solutions, capabilities and people will be needed to make this future happen? How will your company play a role, and enable your customers to be successful in it? Perhaps, for example, if you’re a trucking company, everyone knows autonomous vehicles are coming. How will this impact transportation as a whole, and how can you help your customers be proactive and come out ahead?
Once created, your theme should be used in all your client advisory council communication materials, including your CAB charter, recruiting and meeting invitation materials, and meeting content.
Creating a robust, successful customer advisory board program is about delivering mutual value for your company and, more importantly, your members. Thinking about the bigger picture and creating a strong, aspirational theme will not only elevate the importance of your board, but help you attract strategic, executive-level participants.