Building a Customer Advisory Board for Product Managers

3 minute read

May 25, 2016

Building a Customer Advisory Board for Product Managers

Essentially, a customer advisory board acts like a marketing research panel of loyal super-users that provides you with constant customer feedback. Information that’s critical to nurturing a growing and constantly evolving business. Best yet, you stand a chance of learning more that you were initially expecting.

Understanding the customer journey

Successful marketing is about understanding your customers, their:

  • Segment
  • Industry
  • Values
  • Geography

And this is where an online Customer Advisory Board (CAB) comes in.

A CAB is a great way to fully understand your customers and find ways to improve your products and services, so they can better meet your customer’s needs. By bringing together some loyal customers:

  • They provide some feedback and fresh insights
  • You can vet new ideas
  • You get to understand them better
  • You strengthen your relationship with your customers

Given its importance, building a customer advisory board enables a company to be more agile and customer-centric. There are many ways to engage with your CAB including in-person roundtables, virtual hangouts and phone interviews. But these are dependent on having all the stakeholders being available at the same time. To continue the conversation and open up the feedback process, we recommend the creation of a virtual CAB with an online component such as community.

Identifying the best advisors within your customer-base

One of the difficult parts of starting a CAB is recruitment. You have to convince your customers the benefit of joining the advisory board – what’s the value? Remember, they are sacrificing their time to participate and are most likely to expect something in return.

To recruit the best customers, start by creating your ideal customer persona or buyer profile. Through that exercise, you’ll be able to understand their pain points and the value that they will get from participating.

Here’s a few benefits that you could offer Customer Advisory Board members:

  • Being involved and influencing product development in particular industry.
  • Insider knowledge that no one else knows. Great for passionate fans and B2C businesses.
  • First-look and access to new products.
  • Peer-to-peer networking opportunities . Great in B2B companies or industries.

Your CAB meetings should not always be about your happy customers. You need unbiased feedback and should be looking for a diverse group who would guide your company and product ideation process. This should include not only positive feedback but also what you’re not doing right.

Managing the feedback gathering process

Once recruitment is taken care of, managing the process becomes a bit difficult, especially when you want a large board (for statistical significance). Usually that means, a hundred or more customers.

This process undoubtedly calls for a significant investment of both resources and time not to mention the fact that compiling documents into something that can be shared across the company takes much longer. This delay can give your competitors time to act before you do.The only way to stay ahead of the game is to synthesize the info you gather from your CAB as fast as possible.

A good solution is to either work with your CAB members on an as-needed basis through a community forum. By bringing your CAB community online, you will get results faster and make information-driven decisions faster.

Today’s customer is empowered,knowledgeable and expects a meaningful and understanding relationship with the companies they are affiliated to. You can stay ahead of the curve by social listening where you get to learn what your customers are saying and what they need. Focus groups and customer summits are also great for sharing info or learning more about what your customers are saying.

To successfully achieve this, you need to engage both the decision makers and the end users of the product.

While CABs are traditionally small, there are examples of more and more companies expanding their CABs to get a better understanding of the end users.

Using an online CAB platform makes it easier to talk to your customers regularly without worrying about the logistical dilemma of selecting a date and location that’s convenient for all your customers. And when you need to change the dynamics of your CAB in the future, an online community platform will help you scale your needs.

Companies are using CAB communities to slay their competition, don’t be left behind!

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Alok Chowdhury

Written by Alok Chowdhury

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