As fans of college and NFL football know, it takes a team effort to be successful. Team executives need to ensure the best people are in place to perform their proper roles. Coaches need to create the game plan, organize and choreograph all activities, and make changes and adjustments as the game unfolds. Players need to know and understand their individual roles, execute the game plan and perform with maximum effort.
A winning customer advisory board (CAB) program must also have executives, coaches and players, be organized, and perform well in order to be successful. Here are the key roles in creating a championship customer advisory board team and program:
The general manager: the customer advisory board executive sponsor
The executive sponsor of your company’s customer advisory council or partner advisory board is the leader of your overall customer engagement initiative. Like an NFL general manager, he or she is tasked with the program’s success, empowered to procure and align the proper resources and personnel, and report the program’s status, success, or roadblocks to the CEO, management team or board of directors (similar to an NFL team’s ownership). The general manager provides high-level direction, dictates the key areas of focus, and is the executive “face” of the customer advisory council program to his peers and within your company. As such, he must be a loyal steward for the program, protect its best interests, and sentinel for the rest of the team members involved. See this blog post for suggestions on what makes a strong customer advisory board executive sponsor.
The coaching staff: customer advisory council subject matter experts
Your customer advisory council program should be driven by a team of experts representing a range of functional disciplines – product management, sales, service/support, marketing, etc. Subject matter experts make sure the client advisory board meets its individual discipline needs, contributes relevant content, and uncovers important information effecting its planning and roadmaps. It furthermore makes sure the proper players are in position to best serve its interests in moving the program forward, and ensuring that discovered recommendations and actions are prioritized and accomplished within its organization, and regularly reporting back to the rest of the team on its progress.
The players: customer advisory board steering committee
Your CAB steering committee is the team players who will actually execute the game plan – and get the job done. The steering committee represents those who create and present content at the advisory council meetings, and will likely oversee the follow-up and completion of the recommendations and actions collected at the meeting. The steering committee should meet weekly to ensure their actions are on track for customer advisory council engagement and meetings, develop meeting content, execute deliverables, and ensure action items are on track for completion.
The quarterback: the CAB program manager
The CAB program manager is the most important player on your client advisory council team. He/she is the daily operations driver of the CAB program, ensuring the rest of the players are aligned, understand their duties and are executing as planned. The CAB program manager ensures that the program is well-designed for success, performing as needed, and is in constant communication to the steering committee, subject matter experts and, most importantly, the executive sponsor on any issues or roadblocks. The CAB program manager is a key player to avoid the most damaging customer advisory board pitfalls.
The player specialists: event planning, design and administration
Specialist roles may have a smaller part of the overall game planning, but still play an important part when their numbers are called. Like a punter, kicker or long-snapper, each has a specialist role without which meetings and engagements will likely sputter. Your event planner should research and procure the best location possible for your meeting, and be present on-site to ensure the hotel property is fulfilling its deliverables. Your graphic designer will create and print all the meeting materials – the meeting kit, signage, name tent cards, etc. – to ensure all participants have the necessary provisions for the meeting. Finally, your administrator can not only help establish the proper meeting cadence, but also ensure all meeting supplies – flip charts, markers, whiteboards, etc. – are present at the meeting, and may help coordinate CAB member travel issues, questions or special needs before the meeting.
Do you have the players in place for a winning CAB program?
To be successful, a winning customer advisory board program takes the effort of a well-trained and coordinated team who understands their roles and responsibilities, executes to perfection and supports the efforts of the rest of their team members. When the executives, coaches and players are all on the same page and pulling in the same direction, a championship season can surely be achieved.