Customer advisory boards are a great way to get high-quality feedback from customers while making them feel special and heard. But they require some care to be successful. Here are 7 common failure points–and solutions!
1. You’re not clear on your goals
There are two kinds of advisory boards: what I would call ceremonial boards, whose main purpose is to recognize important customers, and working boards, who purpose is to get input from customers on strategy and product. Of course even ceremonial boards ask for input, and working boards lavish attention, but be clear on your main mission. It will guide all other decisions including how many members to invite, what kinds of activities to offer, and how often to meet.
2. You did not invite the right members
Board members want to work with others they consider their peers. So if you mix top-level execs with first-line managers, or line-of business executives with CIOs or CFOs, you’ll likely get pushback. If you need input from various levels or departments, consider creating separate boards.
3. You picked an awkward schedule
Especially if you want executives to participate, consider their other commitments. Avoid quarter-end periods, for instance. If your target members normally show up at your user conference (many executives do not), make it easy on them and schedule a meeting at that time. It will be tough on your team but well worth it.
4. You went too long (or, perhaps, not long enough)
Few executives will commit to more than a full day of meetings. On the other hand, with many participants, a one-hour discussion will not allow enough meaningful discussion.
5. You talk too much
Customer advisory boards are a forum for customers, not for the vendor. Of course, you will present your roadmap or share some success stories, but aim for customers having the floor, to present their own stories or to give input, at least half the time.
Appoint an MC and give them full power to shut down overly chatty internal attendees.
6. You let the members go stale
If some members are not showing up, or not contributing, find others that will (unless the board is purely ceremonial, per #1, above). Consider appointing members for fixed terms so you have an easy way to transition them out if needed.
7. You expect instantaneous results
Especially if your Customer Advisory Board is a working board, allow time to establish a spirit of teamwork and collaboration. The very first meeting may be tentative and a tad awkward. Don’t give up!
How are you managing your customer advisory board? Tell us in the comments.
[And if you need help organizing a customer advisory board, or running sessions, do reach out.]