A top challenge customer advisory board program managers experience is how to create an engaging and compelling Customer Advisory Board or Customer Advisory Council meeting agenda–that doesn’t end up being a glorified sales meeting or death by PowerPoint with your company talking at customers all day long. One solution we implement with each customer advisory board engagement is to conduct personal interviews with customer advisory board (CAB) members and create the agenda based on their input.
Here is a process and some best practices that work for conducting personal interviews with Customer Advisory Board members.
- Determine top of mind topics and an overall theme for your advisory board. Begin with the overall theme and most important issues to discuss with your customer advisory board. What business value can you derive from your advisory board? What kinds of questions can it help you answer? How can the board help with your growth and business development? What is the compelling business reason for your customer advisory council? What big issues and needs are your customers most concerned about? Maybe your company needs guidance to develop a new business or product, or your customers are facing strong industry challenges like new regulations or your company is facing a long-term decision about a business model or product mix that must be aligned with where your customers are headed.
- Interview executives and SMEs. Conduct internal key stakeholder interviews with your executive sponsor, executive team and internal subject matter experts to align on the most pressing and important topics and theme. Validate the key issues that are of mutual interest to your company and your customers to solve.
- Create the interview discussion guide. Formulate a customer-facing document that serves as the guide for interview with each customer advisory council member. Include at the most 6 key topic areas with a few discussion points per topic to frame the personal interview conversation. Include the purpose or theme of the customer advisory board.
- Conduct interviews. Schedule 30-minute phone meetings with client advisory council members at least 2 to 3 months in advance of the face-to-face meeting and send the discussion guide prior to the interview. Find out the advisory board member’s top preferred topics and take detailed notes. We stick to the 30 minutes no matter what — the advisory board members tend to be busy executives and we value their time by keeping to the 30 minute conversation.
- Summarize interviews. Provide the key highlights and comments including the highest 3 priority topics for each customer advisory board member.
- Create executive report with key insights. Compile the top topics and key points into one executive summary from all advisory board member interviews to enable your executive team to easily view the most important issues and items.
- Create agenda. Develop a draft agenda and craft at least 3 discussion questions per session. Make sure to leave plenty of time for internal agenda review. In our experience, the process can take at least a month to complete internal reviews, followed by individual prep meetings with each session leader.
Although the personal interview process can be time consuming, you will have a customer-driven agenda, based on the shared priorities and challenges advisory board members are facing and what will benefit your company the most. Customer Advisory Board members will appreciate the planning of the agenda and will be more engaged during the face-to-face advisory board meeting and in ongoing calls and webinars in between face-to-face meetings.