Client Advisory CouncilsOn our blog, we at Ignite Advisory Group have communicated the many benefits of running a robust client advisory council (also known as client advisory panels or customer advisory boards), as well as guidance for making them run as efficiently as possible. And while managers and executive sponsors of successful client advisory board programs fully understand and enjoy the value they provide, we sometimes encounter those without strong customer engagement programs who have certain misconceptions of what an advisory council is or what it can provide.

As such, here are several things client advisory councils are NOT:

  • Sales Engagements: Executives (especially representing sales) may get excited at the opportunity of trapping a dozen or so of their best customers in a room and subjecting them to hours of sales PowerPoint presentations and product demos of the latest and greatest features of their new solutions. On the contrary, strong client advisory councils should be established to address shared strategic challenges, address various business trends and successful best practices, and uncover valuable strategic guidance. A client advisory council is certainly not a sales engagement, and those companies that treat it as such will find their members dropping in short order.
  • Focus or User Groups: A client advisory council is also not the forum to conduct product feature feedback sessions or surveys, or discuss moving a button on the user screen or making it green instead of blue. In fact, if established correctly, your client advisory board members will be high-ranking executives and likely not product users themselves (who may be several levels below them). Client advisory councils should focus on high-level business strategy; not tactical-level product feeds and speeds.
  • Marketing Events: Strong client advisory councils require the support of a company’s executive management team and the participation of numerous stakeholders and participants representing numerous departments. Although marketing may be tasked with driving the program, other departments cannot sit back and view the initiative from afar and hope to see benefits; they themselves must be active participants and committed to contributing their own resources and personnel to ensure the overall CAC is successful. Even the word “event” itself can be misinterpreted to mean meeting attendees take an audience-like role in their participation, when, quite to the contrary, they must all be active, engaged participants.
  • Junkets: A client advisory council is a serious, focused meeting with member-driven content front and center in the meeting agenda. In addition, a social activity that encourages networking can also be a part of the meeting. This is not, however, the opportunity to plan long golf tournaments, hunting outings or other exotic adventure excursions. In addition, client advisory boards should not be held at resorts at tropical locales (e.g. Hawaii, Tahiti, the Caribbean), around big sporting events (e.g. The Masters Golf Tournament, the Indianapolis 500, etc.) or anything that would imply the meeting is more of a vacation than a serious engagement.

Strong client advisory councils offer companies the opportunity to review industry trends, address mutual challenges or opportunities, and uncover unvarnished insights and guidance. Those who “dumb down” or view their client advisory board initiative as an opportunity to “schmooze” will likely see an inferior program that doesn’t create much value – for themselves or their client participants.

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Ignite Advisory Group is the leading global authority on Customer Advisory Boards and Customer-Led Boards. Ignite’s proven methodology for managing and evolving Customer Advisory Boards includes a 4-stage process, encompassing 48 deliverables and measured by 20 metrics to deliver a clear ROI. To learn more about Ignite, visit our website, read our blogs, and follow us on LinkedIn. To find out how your company can benefit from Ignite’s CAB methodology and process, contact us today.

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