Why You Need a Customer Advisory Board

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I recently came across a very poignant article written by Josh Patrick in the Huff Post entitled “Why You Need a Customer Advisory Board“.

As B2B Online Customer Advisory Board experts, we have experienced many of the observations that Josh has experienced in his own entrepreneurial journey. He has been an advocate of customer advisory boards for over 30 years and has used one in every business he has ever owned.

In this article he shares some pearls of wisdom about successful advisory board management:

Don’t do surveys.

Josh suggests that these are a waste of time. Although they might make you feel good that you have reached out to your customer for advice, the “pick a response from this drop down” just doesn’t cut it when it comes to establishing deep insights. We also see this with our customer advisory board portals and programs. Although online questionnaires is a digital tool Impetus uses for some of our client’s online assignments, we usually suggest that these only be used when trying to elicit very detailed or granular feedback on a very specific topic or issue. For example, getting refined comments about marketing messages, positioning or promotional materials. The other good time to use questionnaires is if the topic of discussion is controversial or risky to the company, brand, service or franchise. In this situation, you may not want your customer responses to be seen by others. We find online discussion forums that we help our clients create to be one of the best digital tools to allow more robust discussions between customer advisors.

There is synergy in a group.

Just like Josh, we are often told by clients “I don’t need an advisory board, I talk to my customers all of the time”. This may be true, but often these conversations are brief, informal conversations over the phone. Because of the “casual” nature of these interactions, companies may not always get a well formulated response from a customer. The responses are usually knee jerk and off the cuff remarks at best. Also, as Josh suggests, ideas are best when they are built together with other people. People feed off each other and “synergy” in a live group setting is a real, tangible thing. Group synergy can also occur equally well online in things like discussion forums.

Prepare for your meetings.

As Josh suggests, good board members are busy and in demand. They have lots of competing activities that call for their attention and if you don’t properly engage these board members, they will drop out. We have seen this with many of our client’s online customer advisory boards. This is one of the key reasons we help our clients to create Campaigns of Interactions. This is basically an advisory board plan or “roadmap” for the year which details out the timing of the advisory board contact points online and the content for each touchpoint. Touchpoints need to be “meaty” and have substantial relevance to compel good board members to participate and engage. If you are not truly asking for advice and simply disguising your board as a promotional venue, many advisors will see this and pull out. The secret to effective advisory boards is to come into them with a mindset for true partnership and authentic collaboration.

Have your advisory board meet regularly.

Josh suggests that familiarity between advisors promotes comfort, trust and more robust conversation. Relationships take time to cultivate. Josh suggests meeting at least twice a year. We suggest even more. Logistically, this becomes difficult for most companies due to the amount of time it takes to plan live meetings. Most companies also do not have the budget for multiple board meetings. Hence the reason for the Impetus InSite Platform and the digital tools that we have created to help engage advisors online over multiple touchpoints over the course of the year. Not only does this allow companies to engage with advisors on a continuous basis in a cost and time effective manner, but it also improves the customer “experience” by allowing advisors to conveniently participate without disrupting their normal routine. This is because many of the online assignments created are “asynchronous”, so advisors can login on any device and at any time that is convenient for them.

Keep your board in the loop.

Josh suggests sending your board updates from time to time to explain how the ideas that were generated by the board have been implemented. People love to see that their advice is actually incorporated and better still, to see an idea succeed. There is nothing worse then being asked to help and then not getting any feedback on where the ideas went. That is definitely demotivating and frustrating. Yet, this is something that we often see with companies who get too busy to do the appropriate follow up. At Impetus, we help our clients to use the Impetus InSite Platform to keep advisors updated by sending meeting proceedings or summary reports. Advisors love this and really appreciate feeling like they are part of the “build” process.

At the end of the day, good customer advisors truly want to partner. They want you to succeed becbuild-advisory-boardause your success will have an impact on their lives and what they do. If you show a little “weakness” every once in a while and truly engage them in problem solving, they will rally for you. And this is where true brand advocacy starts.

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