Customer-centric Info-Tech Strategies

Customer-centric Info-Tech Strategies

Lesson 06: Customer Advisory Board Institutions

How can a product team effectively leverage a customer advisory board?

Assembling and running a customer advisory board requires strategic thought and planning. Here are a few best practices your product team can use to get started.

1. Set specific goals for your CAB(s)

A customer advisory board should consist of a carefully selected group of customer representatives, gathered with your team to discuss specific topics. With that in mind, you need to both think through which customers you’ll want for these discussions and what your customer advisory board agenda will be.

In fact, as you go through the strategic planning stage, you might discover you have several objectives for your CAB. If so, you might be better off assembling several advisory groups, each representing a specific market segment (large customers, small customers) and/or to discuss specific topics (product direction, company positioning, the competitive landscape, etc.).

2. Seek out your ideal advisory board members.

Some representatives of your customer companies will be thrilled you’ve asked them to join your advisory board and will do so eagerly. But for many, committing to participate on a CAB is a difficult decision because it requires time and effort.

So you will want to create a list of ideal candidates for your advisory board, probably a list far greater than the number of actual participants you will want for your CAB. Then you’ll need to contact those people with your invitation. As CIO Magazine has written, there are several benefits to joining a customer advisory board. It’s a good idea to include some of these in your invitation, so your potential CAB members will know what’s in it for them. Some of those benefits include:

  • You’ll have a chance to influence the vendor’s roadmap
  • During CAB meetings, you can learn best practices from your peers
  • You could get an opportunity to beta-test new features and new products
  • CAB meetings are a great opportunity to network and to increase your profile as a thought leader in your industry

3. Prepare a detailed agenda.

A customer advisory board forum is a great opportunity to let your advisory members speak freely about their experiences with your product and your company. But that does not mean you want a completely unguided and directionless meeting.

If you are going to the trouble of assembling a group of key customers, you need to plan for that time so you can derive the most strategic value from it. That means preparing a customer advisory board agenda that will keep you on track. For example, your customer advisory board agenda might look like this:

  • Introducing your team to your advisory board members
  • Asking your advisory board members for an overview of their own companies’ strategic goals and plans
  • Discussing the challenges your CAB members face in performing their work — challenges related to the solutions you offer
  • Discussing how your advisory members view the competitive landscape for your offerings
  • Sharing your product roadmap, backlog, or other elements of your team’s planned development work
  • Opening the discussion up to your advisory members’ thoughts about your products, what they’d like to see prioritized, any issues they have with your solutions, etc.

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