Proof of Concept for a Customer Advisory Board?

Proof of Concept for a Customer Advisory Board?

Ask anyone who’s launched a customer advisory board and you’ll hear a range of conversations about how the journey to the first meeting carries inherent risks.

  • Either a long runway for executive buy-in or an executive mandate to make it happen in 10 weeks
  • We spent so much time on recruiting, we didn’t focus as much on the agenda
  • Top customers wanted to join but had schedule conflicts
  • A mad dash for advance materials meant members didn’t feel prepared for the meeting

It is hard work and takes serious commitment by the sponsoring company to unlock customer collaboration via a customer advisory board or partner council.  That’s why some companies test their way to a customer advisory board program.  These companies would say they don’t shy away from the hard work or commitment – they just want to know that their customers have some skin in the game too.  After all, reciprocal value should be the beneficial outcome for all parties.

So, how do you float a proof of concept for a customer advisory board?  Approaches that Ignite most often sees are these two:

  1. Base a formative meeting on internal account team and leadership team agenda views, promote as a one-off meeting, and ask for a go-no-go decision on a formal customer advisory board program at the end of the meeting.
  1. Treat a formative meeting exactly like a customer advisory board – with a charter and advance customer interviews to shape a customer-driven agenda – as well as make participants aware that a longer-term commitment may arise with customer consensus, and ask for a go-no-go decision at the end of the meeting.

The first scenario most often develops when there’s a hurried timeline imposed by the leadership team.  This is often driven by a desire for urgent, in-quarter learning.

It won’t surprise you that the first approach is also the least effective.  Treating a formative meeting exactly like a customer advisory board or council works because it addresses the risk head-on with appropriate company-wide preparation and a much higher level of customer engagement in advance of the meeting.

In some sectors, formative meetings that started as a proof of concept have endured.  More often, we have seen a peer board or council – either vertical or horizontal – evolve from a formative meeting.  In fact, when a company already has a single board, the members being recruited are often aware of the peer board and that awareness accelerates recruiting.

Ignite encourages all companies to vet their roadmaps and strategies with an unvarnished outside-in perspective about its business and customers.  Don’t be left wondering about how to deepen customer relationships – a highly effective customer advisory board delivers real results that shapes your company’s offense and defense to improve your bottom line.

Your Customer Advisory Board members are spending time and effort to provide guidance for your business.  Your company is expending considerable resources – money and Leadership Team commitment.  Attending to the detail steps to begin your journey and form your advisory board increases the probability to think outside-the-box and drive a return on the investment for all.

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