Most of the time, when your product development team is too involved in creating the software, they tend to lose sight of its overall usability. They get involved in building the product so much that they often misjudge how it would appear to a first time user. Launching a product could be a daunting task if you are not aware of the users’ feedback. This is where a customer advisory board (CAB) comes into picture.
So, what is an advisory board? It is a group of your devoted customers whom you can invite for a meeting, or a series of meetings, to provide you with the feedback on your product. They try your product and give you honest feedback of it along with an impression of your brand. Customer advisory board definition also includes gathering the champions for your brand to validate the product ideas. The role of advisory board is to help you guide the product roadmap and provide you with the marketing message that would work just right for you.
An excellent CAB serves as a representative sample of your customer base that you would aim for marketing your product. Hence, the more varied customer segments they represent, the more foolproof your marketing strategy would be.
What forms a good customer advisory board?
When you are in the process to build a board, there are few things you must keep in mind. These points would help you define CAB for your organizations.
You must select the right group of customers who fit your requirements of ideal customers. These are the people for whom you would be solving their pain points, challenges and helping them succeed in their business. This group largely depends on the nature of your product.
E.g. if you have built a marketing intelligence software then you would want to invite marketing managers, sales executives, Director of marketing and VP of sales and marketing to try the product. These are the personas for the large group of prospects to whom you would be pitching your product.
The member of CAB who is a customer must give you candid feedback. They must tell you on your face what is good and what is of least value to them. Tell them in advance that you have built the product based on your hunch. You wouldn’t know if it is serving the purpose unless they tell you. They are your frontline customers. The more direct feedback you get from them, the more helpful it would be to amend your product design.
Different Market Segments
Your client advisory board must consist of different representatives of the various market segments. It won’t be useful if all the members are from a SMB segment. It would nullify your chances of targeting enterprise customers. Hence, there should be a good mix of members from all the segments.
Benefits of having a Customer Advisory Board
Apart from understanding what does an advisory board do, there are many benefits to it that you must look at. These benefits are the reasons why companies often appoint a board such as this one. But it’s not just the companies but the customers too who are benefited from this board. Let’s look at each of them individually.
Giving customers a chance to get involved in the development of the product is a purpose of advisory board, among many.
- This way customers feel more integrated with your company and it expands their thoughts and perspective through CAB products.
- The customers feel more privileged to give their voice to your brand for the product evaluation. They would feel more elated while being a part of the board that listens to their feedback. This is a great way of raising customer satisfaction.
- For greater benefits, you must share these feedback on social media, newsletter or any other platform. This will create a positive impression for your brand.
Similar to customers, businesses have their own benefits of having an advisory board. Few of them could be as mentioned below.
- Listening straight from your customers would help you align your strategies to the right direction. This would allow you to take better decisions from your customer’s viewpoint.
- They would give you a thorough understanding of how your product is used by the end user. What features they like most and what should be nice to have. Knowing this information would help you plan your product roadmap ahead.
- Members from this board are your most loyal customers. If not yet then they would definitely become one. They would stick with your brand and drive more business with you while being a member of your advisory board.
- Companies can also identify new markets through their customer board members. Each member represents a certain market segment. Extrapolating their views on a larger target audience would help you align your marketing strategies for that group.
How to set up a CAB?
Before approaching your customer base randomly or the most chosen ones, you must have a plan to form a customer advisory board. That plan must go like this:
Timing should be right
The most appropriate time of forming an advisory board is never better than when you are starting out. You must identify 5 to 10 of your early customers who would give you honest and useful feedback on your product. Later on these members can change as you evolve in your business. Few might leave or others might step in. It all depends on your growth path and change is a part of it.
Align your objective
Aligning your objective would be the next step. You must have clear goals with this advisory board. Is it for product enhancement or setting up your marketing strategies or is it for long term customer retention. It can be one or two or all of it or may be more.
Set up in-person meetings
There should be in-person meetings scheduled every few times in a year. This can be quarterly or semi-annually. Customers love to interact with their peers in such meetings and this would bring more loyalty towards your brand. Make sure to have proper agendas of such meetings and keep it as engaging as possible.
Sending a survey prior to in-person meetings is a great way to align all your customers to the agenda. It will present you with the right data you need. And it will also give your customers a heads-up before they attend your meetings. Then you can dig further in the meetings which would bring more clarity on insights gleaned from the survey.
Track advocacy efforts
You must track regularly the advocacy efforts these board members are making towards your brand. To keep them happy, you must show them occasional appreciations, either verbal or through customer gifts, for being a part of CAB. These members would be the first ones who would recommend your product to others.
As we have seen in this article, having a customer advisory board adds immense benefits to your business. First it would give you the voice of your customers in a more detailed manner. The ones whom you can question back and dig in deep to understand the nuances. Second, it will create a more loyal customer base for your business. 18
The members of CAB would always feel special knowing their voices are affecting your business strategies. This would make them perceive themselves as your partner rather than just a revenue source. It is a great benefit to have as it will not only make them loyal to your brand, but also drive more business through them.
Rohan has over 11 years of experience in client services, marketing and hospitality field. Previously, he was head of digital marketing for a hi-tech mobile application. Rohan is driven by new challenges and the possibility of making an impact on individuals and businesses.
Published August 03, 2020, Updated March 01, 2023