While customer advisory boards (CABs), by their very definition, are intended to consist of your company’s customers, we are often asked whether inviting a few prospects to the program or next meeting is a good idea.
We can understand the desire to develop a deeper connection with a company and potential buyer or user that you hope to convert to a customer. After all, CABs are ideal mediums to build relationships, bring your customers into your “inner sanctum,” address shared challenges and expand your business with them.
However, bringing prospects into your CAB comes with some inherent issues.
Why You Shouldn't Invite Prospects to Your CAB Meeting
Here are the top reasons why it’s likely not a good idea to invite prospects to your net CAB meeting:
They’ll Have Limited Ability to Guide Your Company
Prospects do not (yet, hopefully) have experience with using your product, not to mention going through the purchase, implementation, training and support processes that your other customers have. As such, they don’t make good advisors as they simply don’t have the knowledge of your products and services to provide any helpful feedback, insights and guidance.
Much of the Meeting Will Not Apply to Them
As strong CAB programs often involve reviewing product capabilities and roadmaps, your prospects will have no frame of reference on which to provide insights and suggestions. Worse, their basic or uniformed questions may hold back the meeting for your other seasoned and advanced customers who have some valuable guidance to contribute.
They May See Some Negative Aspects
As CABs are forums for honest feedback, there may naturally be some aspects of your company your customers are not as happy about or would like to see some improvements. If, for example, they had a less-than-ideal experience with a product capability, user interface or your support team (either real or perceived), they may (and should) communicate this as part of the discussion.
However, one of these issues may be a critical or sensitive “red flag” for your prospect, leading them to not want to purchase your product based on this single opinion — and their presence at your CAB meeting completely backfiring.
Related Article: 5 Things to Accomplish After Your Customer Advisory Board Meeting
Sales Is Not a Focus
While CABs engage your best customers and organically lead to expanded or renewed purchases, this should not be a stated goal of your program; meetings are not forums to move prospects through the sales pipeline.
They are certainly not an opportunity to trap your customers and prospects in a room and expose them to sales pitches and boring product demos. In fact, any CAB member who feels they are being “sold to” will likely leave your program.
Conclusion: Leverage Your CAB Members Elsewhere
While CAB meetings are not ideal for prospects, your CAB members themselves may be able to interact with your prospects elsewhere on an individual basis. That’s because CAB members are usually your company’s biggest fans, most successful product users, and have success data to show. As such, they make the best customer references and are usually eager to support testimonials, case studies, videos, webinars, etc. These are the mediums that would be most influential to your prospects — turning them into customers.
While CABs are proven mediums for engaging with customers and expanding their business with your company, inviting prospects to your program can be problematic. Not only will your prospects be of lesser value in meetings, but their presence may water down your program among your best customers.
A better strategy may be to tell your prospect about your CAB program, engage with your members offline and invite them to join after they have used your product successfully and are in a position to provide some insights and guidance later.