A customer advisory board (also known as a customer advisory council) can provide an abundance of knowledge and insight to the host organization. Collected during in-person meetings, all-hands member calls and offline discussions with individual members, this intelligence has the potential to significantly alter the way your company does business moving forward.
A customer advisory board can help guide your company and product development roadmap, as well as its entrance into new markets, partnering strategies, merger and acquisition targets, marketing initiatives, branding and messaging, service and support feedback, and much more. The outcome of your advisory program is to capture these actionable business recommendations, prioritize them and act on those that make the most sense for the business.
Here then are the top 5 business benefits your company can derive from a customer advisory board program:
1. Insight into Business Strategy: Your customers—the consumers of your products or services – are the best (and surprisingly most often overlooked) resource to provide input to your company’s overall direction and business strategies. Such 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, so 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 which markets to pursue, how to capitalize on market trends, what customer pain points to address, which companies to partner with or acquire, how to best exploit competitors’ weak points, and how to position your company for optimal advantage.
2. Feedback to the Product Roadmap: A customer advisory board is ideal for providing feedback and desired direction on the host company’s offerings. Your advisory council can offer an insider’s view of what your target buyer needs and wants from 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. Incremental Revenue: The often unspoken (yet highly desired) benefit from your council is the positive impact you will see in incremental sales revenue. Your members’ organizations will likely increase their overall spend with your business over time. This is due in large part to the fact that they are privy to your growth strategy, are early testers of your solutions and feel closer and more faithful and dedicated to you and your offerings. In fact, Ignite’s data shows that B2B companies that have active and successful customer advisory boards enjoy a 9% increase in new business among advisory members starting after year one of advisory programs above non-advisory council customers.
4. Customer Approval and Brand Champions: An additional benefit to running an advisory council is that you are building a close-knit group of company advisors and brand champions. By bringing members into your company’s “inner circle” as trusted advisors, you are also transforming them into even bigger raving fans of your company. As council members take on the responsibility of helping to guide your business, they inherently become professionally and emotionally invested in your success, and their enthusiasm and passion tends to permeate their immediate team and sometimes beyond. The result is a group of highly loyal customers who have a vested interest in your success – and not defecting to your competition. Furthermore, your members will likely refer other prospects to you as they talk about you with peers at conferences, events, and throughout their day-to-day operations.
5. Marketing Campaigns and Messaging: Another often less-recognized area of value a client advisory council delivers is feedback to how your company markets itself. You will gain the rich insight necessary to understand how to position (or re-position) the company against the competition. Your advisory board will advise you as to what makes your business unique and what differentiators you should highlight. Just as important, the council can guide you on which mediums 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, your own organization, and serves as a means of promoting the member and bolstering his/her own company and career.
Companies that host well-run customer advisory boards see myriad benefits in addition to the above. For example, one company used its customer advisory board to increase customer referrals by 12 net new engagements, leading to 3 new sales. Another increased customer advisory board member account values by 16%. Finally, one company leveraged its CAB to find 3 new speakers for its customer conference.
Research is pointing to the ROI of such executive customer engagements. According to a recent Gallup poll, “A typical B2B company has an optimal relationship with fewer than one in seven of its customers… and only 13% of B2B customers are fully engaged.” However, such “fully engaged customers deliver a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.”
A well-run customer advisory council can provide organizations real value that can help put them on a better, more targeted and profitable course for years to come.