3 common Customer Advisory Board mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Customer Advisory Boards have become a common tool for B2B marketers. Unfortunately, companies continue to fall victim to three common mistakes that hurt there efforts. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Rush to execution. “How difficult can it be to run a CAB? It’s just another meeting, right?” Wrong. The most effective CABs take 10 – 12 weeks to prepare. Agendas that are thrown together at the last minute don’t work. The two steps an executive team should take when planning their CAB are 1) to define and confirm their objective for the CAB initiative as well as for the upcoming meeting, and 2) to prioritize a small set of key questions they are eager to ask the group. Creating the agenda should also involve some level of CAB participation, either through a survey or in one-on-one interviews. And most importantly, the agenda should focus on topics that will yield recommendations for action – action that you can take that will affect your mid/long-term roadmaps. At first glance it may seem a simple activity to decide on the agenda, who to invite, and how to facilitate the meeting.  It’s often not the case if this process is rushed. CABs are a strategic investment worthy of some critical thinking and cross-functional discussion and alignment. Rushing the process will result in a poor quality CAB discussion that both you and your customers will notice. See The Flipchart Guide to Customer Advisory Boards, Volume 2: How to execute a world-class CAB meeting for a detailed timeline that will ensure your success.

Mistake #2: Talking too much. It’s ironic but very true: the CAB (although hosted by you) is not about you. It’s about your customers. Consider that the CAB is a senior-level strategic focus group. They are used to explore trends and drivers shaping the customers’ businesses, and then discovering the implications for your business and how you can help them succeed. Thou must avoid “death by powerpoint”. Follow the 80/20 rule: allow customers to talk 80% of the time. That means your job is to listen 80% of the time. Actually, when I see company executives talking too much, it is because they “rushed to execution.” Because they weren’t focused on what they wanted to learn, their presentations looked more like a “back to school night” where the students showed their parents everything they were doing.  Going down this path leads to a disappointing experience where customers won’t want to return.

Mistake #3: Let’s invite everyone. Hosting a CAB is not like hosting an event. Getting “butts in seats” is not the right approach. It is more important to have the right people in attendance than it is to fill every chair. Consider that the CAB is an invitation-only meeting where delegation should not be allowed. Imagine what a CIO must feel if he is sitting next to a first-line manager. When this happens, the CIO delegates his future attendance to his new college hire. Also, do not mix prospects, partners, customers, and industry experts in the CAB. The CAB is about customers. (Why will they come?) The flipside of this mistake is how many company attendees you invite. Yes, everyone in your organization will want to sit in the back to listen. But no, they cannot attend. The CAB is designed to be a small, intimate group of decision makers focused on strategic topics. The host company should never outnumber the customers. Having said that, sharing the discussions and the recommended output and priorities is critical to your organization. You will want to produce a CAB “plan of record” that can be shared internally after the CAB meeting concludes.

Volume 2For more information: see The Flipchart Guide to Customer Advisory Boards, Volume 2: How to execute a world-class CAB meeting.

Mike Gospe offers a variety of CAB services ranging from “CAB mentorship hourly services” to a full-service option to guide you every step of the way. 

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