Marketers are giving a lot of attention of late to the topic of customer engagement. Indeed, optimizing interactions with top clients and maximizing ROI from customer programs seem to be a universal desire for companies. The more challenging aspect of achieving these outcomes seems to be how marketers are supposed to do so. In my experience as VP of Marketing at Ignite Advisory Group, customer advisory boards (CABs) are the most effective and impactful way to engage with key customer executives.
Customer advisory boards (also known as a customer advisory councils) are customer forums designed to review industry trends, address mutual challenges or opportunities, and offer unvarnished insights and guidance. For vendors, these councils are ideal for validating corporate strategies, gathering input on product development, and deepening relationships with key customers. In turn, there is just as much to be gained by the participating customers. CABs usually consist of a couple live events per year, but the most successful ones also leverage a digital community (like Influitive’s AdvocateHub) to enhance the experience, and keep the conversation going year-round.
In this blog, I’ll share the top 5 benefits your company can get from a well-run customer advisory board program.
1. Unparalleled insight into your business strategy
Your customers are the best (and surprisingly most often overlooked) resource to provide input on your company’s overall direction and business strategies. Customers should be able to advise you on the products and services they desire, what they would pay for them, and how they want them delivered.
After all, everything you do is designed to appeal to their needs. There really is no one more qualified to counsel you on how to best target, approach, and serve your client base.
Your council can provide invaluable direction regarding matters such as:
- Which markets to pursue
- How to best capitalize on market trends
- What customer pain points to address
- Which companies to partner with or acquire
- How to best exploit competitors’ weak points
- How to position your company for optimal advantage
2. Feedback on your product roadmap
A customer advisory board is ideal for providing feedback and desired direction for the host company’s offerings. Your advisory council can offer an insider’s view of what your target buyer looks for in your products and/or services. A council also serves as a great platform for securing beta testers of your new offerings, helping you introduce your solutions, and providing immediate validation before you go to market.
3. Increased sales revenue and customer retention
The often unspoken (yet highly desired) benefit from a customer advisory board is the positive impact you will see on incremental sales revenue. Your council members’ organizations will likely increase their overall spend with your business over time. This is largely due to the fact that they are privy to your growth strategy, are early testers of your solutions, and feel more dedicated to you and your offerings.
In fact, Ignite’s experience shows that B2B companies that have active and successful customer advisory boards enjoy a 9% increase in new business among advisory members starting after one year of advisory programs compared to non-advisory council customers.
4. Guaranteed customer approval and brand champions
Another benefit to running an advisory council is that you are building a close-knit group of company advisors and brand champions. By bringing customers into your company’s “inner circle”, you are transforming them into even bigger fans of your company. In our experience, this almost always happens with council members.
As they take on the responsibility of helping guide your business, they become professionally and emotionally invested in your success. Their enthusiasm and passion tend to permeate to their immediate team and sometimes beyond. The result is a group of highly loyal customers with a vested interest in your success—and not defecting to your competition. Your members will also likely refer other prospects to you as they talk about you with peers at conferences, events, and throughout their day-to-day operations.
5. Validation for marketing campaigns and messaging
Another often less-recognized value of customer advisory boards is the opportunity to get feedback on how your company markets itself. You will gain the rich insight necessary to understand how to position (or re-position) your company against the competition. Your council will advise you as to what makes your business unique and what differentiators you should highlight. The council can also guide you on which media are the most viable in terms of reaching your desired audience.
Members can also serve as wonderful client references for testimonials and case studies. Likewise, they may also be willing to develop and publish joint articles or white papers with you. This lends industry validation and credibility to your advisory board program and your organization. Promoting member-generated content also serves as a means of bolstering his/her own company and career.
Better insights through CABs
In our experience, customer engagement and brand loyalty are all the rage with marketers these days. Customer advisory boards are the best method to deliver these—and much more. A well-run customer advisory board will undoubtedly put your company on a better, more targeted, and profitable course for years to come. Pair your CAB with the right customer community technology, and you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.
For those who want to launch, or already manage a customer advisory board program, IgniteAG is offering CAB Manager training in Miami on February 27-28, 2019. More details here.