6 Tips to Hosting a Successful Customer Advisory Board
Director Corporate Communications & Customer Marketing
November 30, 2016
As we enter the holiday season and people start talking about their favorite time of the year, I also like to reflect on my favorite work time of the year - GoodData’s biannual Customer Advisory Board. It’s so energizing to get a small group of thought leaders and visionaries into a room for 2 days to show off what they’ve built, talk about their plans for the future and discuss how in partnering together we can see those ideas to fruition.
I’ve overseen Customer Advisory Boards for the past 15 years with various companies I’ve worked with, and they’ve always been a highlight. This year’s CAB was no different, so without further ado and here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned.
- The product team owns the content. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to attend a CAB and have a speaking slot because it’s not often that multiple customers are in one room for 2 days at the same time. And really important information is shared. AND it’s also a chance to meet customers face to face. AND it’s a LOT of fun. But, other groups have a regular cadence of discussion with customers and this is the product team’s opportunity to hone in on the product roadmap. Customer’s want to share their visions and goals and influence how the product can help them meet those goals. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve shared a roadmap only to learn that the one ‘big’ thing we thought customers wanted was a lower priority than we thought. Prioritization exercises are great learning experiences.
- Have specific goals and agenda that will help you meet those goals. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to get every question answered and show off what you’re building and planning. In order to have an effective CAB you need to focus. After the CAB you’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue the conversations now that a relationship has been established.
- Keep it small. The urge to invite every ‘important’ or ‘big’ customer to join is one that needs to be curtailed. Every customer is important but that doesn’t mean that all customers are comfortable sharing in groups, or will have interest in the particular product features you will be discussing. Smaller allows for more in depth discussion and participation. There is nothing worse than having members that don’t participate. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
- Invite customers based on your goals - not based on name, size or previous participation. This goes back to number 3. Every CAB has a different focus or goal and that might mean that some people who have participated in the past won’t for this particular meeting. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important anymore, it means that their use case isn’t one you will be discussing this time and it wouldn’t be a good use of their time. It’s hard to not see the same faces as you’ve built a rapport but hopefully you are still engaging them in feedback.
- Allow enough time for networking and sharing of ideas. It always surprises me how much time our customers want to spend seeing what others have built and sharing ideas among each other.
- Don’t talk - LISTEN. This is the HARDEST lesson of all but the most important. You are a facilitator of conversation and sharing of ideas. Customers do not want to be talked at - they could listen in to a webinar if that’s what they wanted. This is their opportunity to share their ideas with you. It’s important that you hear them and not feel the need to always respond. I’d also encourage you to consider inviting customers who may not currently provide a glowing reference. Some of the best ideas come from brainstorming together with a less than happy customer. And what better way to get them re-invigorated about the relationship than to have worked together to find solutions to their visions?
Frankly, I could go on and on about the benefits and joys of hosting Customer Advisory Boards. So I’ll end with a great big thank you to our current and past CAB members. Without them, we wouldn’t have built the amazing company that we have.