Planning an advisory board agenda can be a daunting task. There is often a lot of pressure to include every new program or tool that has been developed for your product. After all, it is not very often that you get your top customers into one room. But wait. Great care must be taken not to turn your advisory board into a “show and tell”.
In fact, many of the people we spoke to were quick to point out how offended they are when a company they decide to help with their opinions turns it into a product showcase.
But it sure is tempting to take an advisory board in that direction: you have your best customers all in one place; you have their undivided attention; and you probably have shareholders who feel like you’d be wasting a perfectly good opportunity to increase revenues.
In this case, you’d be wise to tell your shareholders that hard selling will have the opposite effect they’re looking for. Advisory boards are about capturing honest feedback and useful insights to help your brand or service. Can you put a price on that? Not specifically. But if you’d like, you can figure out what it would cost to lose the customer altogether to a competitor who values them and their opinions, and wants to make them part of their team.
So here are three things you can do to keep your advisory board on the up and up:
Think them versus you
Keep the focus of your activity on what your advisors bring to the table instead of what you bring to the table. Ask them for their opinions. Get them to share their insights and stories. Make them feel like what they have to say has value.
This isn’t to say that you should avoid talking about your product and service altogether ⎯ quite the contrary. But when you do, frame it in a way that makes them the hero. So instead of, “How will our new product change the way you treat your patients?” you might phrase it like, “Is there something missing in the way you treat patients now, and how do you think our product can help you fill that gap?” It’s a subtle difference, but note how the second question makes them the subject of the inquiry.
Think benefits versus attributes
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists are in the business of helping their patients get well, and medication is generally how they do it. If the quickest way to wellness was to do a tribal dance wearing a wooden mask, they would do that instead.
So when you’re talking about your product or service, focus on the end result instead of the way it gets there. Again, it’s a subtle nuance, but it makes a big difference.
Consider the following statement:
“The new pharmacological design has been demonstrated to improve efficacy by 25%.”
It’s true, but it’s an attribute. Instead, consider leading with what it can do for them:
“Your patients will feel better faster (up to 25% faster) because of the new pharmacological design.”
By making the benefit the hero, you’re demonstrating that you know what your customers want.
Think opinions versus facts
You’ll no doubt be providing your advisors will all the facts they need to inform themselves (through a Campaign of Interactions™, you can even control the release of those facts so as not to overload them too quickly). So when you engage them, keep the conversation about the interpretation of those facts.
Your assignments should be guiding them to add to the conversation instead of proving to you that they read through the material.
So, instead of asking your advisors to comment on a set of facts, ask them why they feel the facts are important. Not only will you get a much wider range of answers, but you may wind up uncovering issues you may not have thought of when you went through the facts ⎯ thus getting maximum value from the advisors you chose.
Again, these are subtle nuances, but they make a big difference in how effective your advisory board is, how respected your advisors feel and how likely it will be that they stick with you year after year.
Photo: Compliments of Google