person's hand wrapped in measuring tape
PHOTO: Jennifer Burk

You've hosted your initial customer advisory board (CAB) meeting, followed up by sending the important materials to members, and kept your program going in-between meetings by hosting interim strategy calls — what's next?  

You’re now ready for the final step in your CAB program — measuring your success.

Measuring and communicating the success of your CAB program will be important for two audiences: 1. your CAB members themselves, so they can see you have heard them and have taken action on their ideas, input and suggestions, and 2. your own company executives, so they can see their invested time, budget and resources towards your CAB program have yielded positive results.

Signs Your Customer Advisory Board Is Succeeding

Here are the top 10 aspects of your CAB program you can use to measure its overall success:

Incremental Revenue

Begin monitoring the revenue of your CAB members and existing customer base as a whole before and after the start of your program. If your CAB initiative is successful, you should see an increase in spend by both groups. Having put their “stamp” on your products and services, your CAB members are now emotionally invested in your success and should show this with increased business. 

In fact, our research shows that companies with effective customer advisory boards enjoy a 9 percent increase in new business among members after one year of advisory board participation, above non-advisory board customers. For your overall customer base, you should also see incremental spend or higher average selling prices after you've addressed the unmet needs uncovered through your CAB.

Retention 

If you’re tracking customer attrition, you should see your CAB members are sticking with your company. Our analysis shows that companies benefit from a retention rate of 95 percent among advisory program participants, due to their connection to your leadership team and their input to your product and service roadmaps. In fact, if customer attrition has been a previously negative issue at your company, your CAB should help uncover why this is happening, and the steps you can take to mitigate it.

Product Improvements

Your CAB members almost certainly provided a plethora of input, ideas and suggestions for your products and services: what they like about them, how they’re actually implemented and used, prioritization of your product roadmap, desires for new capabilities, concepts for new products, etc. CAB managers should capture and track all of this, as well any suggestions that turn into new capabilities or products — and the revenues they deliver.

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New Markets

Your CAB might potentially identify an entirely new, previously unknown application of your products and services that may lead to targeting new users or markets. If your company is already considering such expansion, your CAB can help identify target prospects or even contacts through their professional network.

Competitive Intelligence

Your CAB members may be telling you about the approaches, programs, costs or incentives your competition is using to woo their business away from you. By understanding and getting ahead of this, you may be able to take steps to beat the competition by mitigating their tactics for your entire customer base.

References and Referrals

With a full understanding of your products and services and coming roadmap, your CAB members would make ideal references for prospects who want to purchase your offerings, but would like to talk to an existing customer. Your CAB may even know some colleagues at other companies who could use your solutions to solve business problems as well, so be sure to ask for and track these. (One sale here might pay for your entire CAB program!)

Related Article: B2B Marketers: Identify and Mobilize Your Brand Advocates

Recommendations and Speaking Engagements

These days, testimonials can provide more value to prospects than company marketing messaging. Make a goal of garnering, say, three CAB members to provide a blurb on your website or a video testimonial on their successful use of your solutions. In addition, consider having a CAB member speak about their innovative use of your solution at an industry trade show, your user conference or even a sales kickoff to describe how your sales rep successfully landed their account.

Marketing Materials

Leverage your CAB members to issue press releases on their incremental use and sale of your solutions, key milestones achieved, beta programs, etc. Create case studies that describe their challenge, solution (your products) and results from which other prospects can learn. Host a webinar addressing industry challenges with your CAB member as a guest speaker to describe her unique approach and solution. Count clicks, site visits or attendees of these items, and track if they lead to new sales —all attributable to your CAB program.

Social Media

Encourage your CAB members to friend/follow/share your social media activities, and contribute to the conversation. Track and reward members for their participation, as well as those they bring into your company social circle.

Related Article: 5 Steps to Creating a Robust Customer Advisory Council Program

Thought Leadership

CABs often determine innovative solutions to industry challenges as a result of the collective brainstorming and work streams. Why not publish these recommendations for all of your industry to benefit? Such thought leadership can generate interest from media, analysts or bloggers, and positions your company as an expert resource in solving a shared industry challenge.

CAB Success Benefits Everyone

It’s important that CAB managers create, track and measure quantifiable results of the performance of their CAB program. Done correctly over time, they can then point to the success generated by their initiative to CAB members, their superiors and position themselves for success in their own careers.