A customer advisory board (aka customer advisory council) can provide a wealth of industry knowledge and insight to the host organization. Garnered during in-person board meetings, all-hands member calls and offline discussions with individual members, this intelligence has the potential to significantly change the way your company operates moving forward. A customer advisory council can help guide both your business and product strategy, as well as its entrance into new markets, customer acquisition strategies, marketing initiatives, branding/messaging and much more. The outcome of the advisory program is for you to take these actionable business recommendations to heart and act on those that make the most sense for the business.
You often hear of big companies taking their senior executive team off-site for some sort of secret strategy session to devise the company’s overall direction moving forward. A well run client advisory council can make these sessions unnecessary, as your strategic customers can better advise you on how to more effectively and profitably run your business. After all, everything you do is designed to appeal to their needs, so there really is no one more qualified to council you on how to best target, approach and serve your client base.
Your council can provide invaluable direction on which markets to pursue, what big customer challenges to address, which companies to partner/merge with or acquire and even how to position your company in your industry for greater competitive advantage.
Products and Solutions
A customer or partner advisory council is perhaps most typically associated with providing direction and feedback on the host company’s offerings. Your council can offer an inside-out view of what your target buyer needs and wants from you in terms of your products and/or services. You no longer have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on inadequate market research. Your council will offer much more targeted and relevant insight. A council also serves as a great platform for securing beta testers of your new offerings, helping you introduce your solutions to the market (think webinars, joint articles…) and providing immediate market validation before you go to market.
Another often less recognized area of value a client advisory council provides is in how your company markets itself. You will gain the rich insight necessary to understand how to position or re-position the company against the competition. Your council will advise you as to what makes your business unique and what differentiators you should hang your hat on. In parallel, the council can guide you on which marketing activities are the most viable in terms of reaching your target audience. Members can also serve as wonderful client references for testimonials and case studies. Likewise they may also be willing to develop and publish joint articles or white papers with you. This lends industry validation and credibility to your organization and serves as a means of promoting the member and bolstering his/her company and career.
Customer Satisfaction and Stickiness
A derivative benefit to running an advisory council is that you are in essence building a close-knit group of company advisors and champions. By bringing members into your company’s “inner circle” as trusted guides, you are also transforming them into bigger fans of your company. This almost always happens with council members. As they take on the responsibility of helping to guide your business, they inherently become professionally and emotionally invested in your success, and their enthusiasm and passion tends to permeate their immediate team and sometimes beyond. The result is a group of highly loyal customers who have a vested interest in sticking around and not defecting to your competition.
The often unspoken, yet highly desired, benefit from your council is the positive impact you will see on your sales revenue. Your members’ organizations in particular will likely increase their overall spend with your business over time. This is due in large part to the fact that they are privy to your growth strategy, are early testers of your solutions and they feel closer and more faithful and dedicated to you and your offerings. Whether this is a subconscious sense of obligation or an overt feeling of good will, this increase in purchases occurs more often than not. In fact, Ignite’s experience indicates that B2B companies that have active and successful customer advisory boards (CABs) enjoy a 9% increase in new business among CAB members starting in year two of CAB programs above non-CAB customers.
In addition, your members will likely refer other customers to you as they talk about you with peers at conferences, events, and throughout their day-to-day business operations.
As you can see, a well-run customer advisory council will undoubtedly provide your organization with seminal value that will put you on a better, more targeted and profitable course for years to come.