Keeping Customer Advisory Board Momentum Going Through Interim Conference Calls


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After your company has hosted your initial (or recent) customer advisory board (CAB) meeting and followed up by sending the important meeting materials to members, you may be thinking that your program is FINALLY completed. While these accomplishments are significant, no doubt warranting well-deserved praise from your superiors, the work is, alas, not over.

The next phase of your CAB program involves keeping the momentum generated at your recent successful face-to-face meeting going until the next in-person meeting held in six months (ideally) or perhaps even a year from now. After all, you don’t want the very good input received and relationships initiated to go silent, or you’ll lose your program inertia, and risk having participants forget about their ideas, follow-ups and goodwill.

As such, here’s some advice for keeping CAB momentum going in-between in-person meetings through interim conference calls:

1. Hold interim conference calls: These calls (or “virtual meetings” as they will likely include presentations via online meeting platforms) should be prepared for in the same way as your recent in-person meeting, with a strong, member-driven agenda, session owners, desired questions to be addressed, desired potential outcomes, content review sessions, expert facilitation, a planned resulting meeting report and assigned action items.

2. Address recent and forward-looking topics: Content for your interim conference calls can address topics raised at your recent in-person meeting that warrant additional follow-up, deeper dives, or perhaps additional strategic topics that were not able to be completed or discussed. In addition, you can review the input heard at the last meeting and plans to accomplish resulting action items. Finally, you can include updates from your company (e.g. recent news, product launches, partnerships, etc.) and preview upcoming plans, releases and announcements to which you would like to run by members to get their reactions ahead of the rest of your customers.

3. Keep the discussion lively: Your interim conference calls should not include canned presentations or one-way conversations. Members should be told the call participation ground rules and the expectation that they should jump in with their reactions, thoughts and guidance just as a face-to-face meeting would. Your facilitator may also want to address members directly who may have a particular insight or perspective to your company’s fork-in-the-road challenges. Finally, make a plan to get away from boring PowerPoint presentations and keep your members actively participating!

4. Don’t over (or under) whelm: Interim conference calls do not need to be day-long marathons nor quick, 30-minute briefings. They should have a central strategic topic that allows communication of challenges and ample time to gather all member perspectives. A good rule of thumb is around 2 hours, depending on the call agenda and desired outcomes.

5. Send materials ahead of time: Meeting participants may not have an abundance of input and feedback if they are seeing your materials online for the first time. In order to ensure optimal input, send the meeting materials and presentations in advance (perhaps a week or two) to the members asking them to review and bring their questions and suggestions. This is especially true of product roadmaps that may require input of multiple product users. In addition, sending other background materials such as articles or whitepapers may provide the background needed for the best discussion.

6. Gather maximum attendance: The interim conference call will lose credibility if just a few members (or worse, host-company attendees) show up for it. As such, ensure maximum participation by sending multiple meeting invitations, reminders and collecting confirmed RSVPs for the call. You may have to call those you haven’t heard back from. A reminder from the CAB executive sponsor, expressing the importance of the forthcoming discussion, should go a long way to ensuring full participation. Lastly, include all call items (presentations, call-in numbers, Webex link) in the meeting invite so participants don’t have to hunt for these.

Interim conference calls are an important part of a strong CAB initiative. Putting in the time to ensure a positive experience for your members will ensure your customer engagement program doesn’t lose momentum, and keeps the members informed, engaged and pleased with your overall program.

Rob Jensen
Rob Jensen has spent over 20 years in marketing, communications and business development leadership positions with leading enterprise business-to-business (B2B) software and technology companies. Throughout his career, Rob has successfully overseen groups that generated global awareness, increased lead generation and enabled sales teams for EMC/Captiva, Kofax, Anacomp, TRW, HNC Software and AudaExplore. In addition, Rob has specialized in initiating, managing and facilitating customer and partner advisory board programs for several of these companies in the U.S. and abroad.


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