10.The idea of a Customer Advisory Board has become increasingly popular, especially with technology companies that want to connect to their executive customers and gain market insight and credibility. An advisory board is a team made up of an organization’s most respected customers. It is not a simple task to create a Customer Advisory Board, but the benefits of establishing one make it well worth the effort. Here are the top 10 mistakes to consider in managing and running your Customer Advisory Board (CAB).

  1. Starting with a clear product orientation. This strains any potential relationship building and all but certainly ensures the attendees come to no further meetings. The customers need to feel a sense of shared future with your company rather than becoming an extension of your product management team.
  2. Preaching to your customers why you are the best. Customers hate to listen to sales pitches in this passive, non-sales environment. If you like to drink your own Kool-Aid, talk to your colleagues about it, not to your executive customers.
  3. Monopolizing the podium. Restrain yourself from speaking for any extended period of time. The main reason executives flock to these meetings is to hear and be heard by their peers, not by you.
  4. Not following-up on comments and suggestions. This is a surefire way of alienating a dedicated group of customers who are taking time out of their busy schedules, only to find out that no one is taking their comments seriously, or worse, that they are cynically used for marketing and PR purposes.
  5. Inviting anyone from your company who wants to attend the meeting and then have them present at the event. If you choose to placate your colleagues who insist on being part of this meeting, you risk the success of the entire event.
  6. Trying to close new business at the advisory board meeting. Here we are talking about employing strong and aggressive sales tactics. Nothing will turn-off executives more than a thinly veiled sales effort.
  7. Issuing a one sided press release about the advisory board, with customer names and photos included without asking for any customer permissions. Again, executives do not want to feel like they are being used for your own PR activities.
  8. Inviting customers that are at completely different position/career levels to the board – e.g. a CEO and a junior product manager. If the CEO of one of your customer organizations must interact with someone in this capacity that is much less experienced and has that much less to offer, the CEO will most certainly be irritated and may abstain from future participation.
  9. Treating the advisory board as a focus group, and resist any initial attempt to raise the bar to the more important and strategic discussions. A focus group is convened to help a company make a decision on a given product or service. Executives are interested in high-level, ongoing dialogue on strategic issues and challenges.
  10. Discontinuing the board after the first meeting. This will send a message that the board is not really that important and will also convey the notion that your company is not truly interested in soliciting and embracing customer feedback and insight.
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