With the pandemic dragging on, most companies have chosen not to plan any in-person meetings for the foreseeable future. Despite this, customer advisory board (CAB) managers should not let the momentum they have created through their programs lag or — worse — go dark. There are still plenty of benefits to be gained by your company and CAB members themselves through staying engaged and keeping the conversation going.
Here are six ways to keep your CAB program momentum going during the current pandemic:
1. Hold Virtual Meetings
Even though you are unable to meet with your CAB members in-person, you should still hold well-planned virtual CAB meetings that include goals and objectives, questions to be addressed, a member-driven agenda and ample collaboration time. In doing so, you can learn and share the challenges your members are facing during the pandemic, and ways your company can help navigate and mitigate them. Furthermore, by proactively checking in on and engaging with your members, your company takes an industry leadership position by providing solutions and alternatives to help guide them through to the other side of the pandemic — and establish you as a trusted resource afterward.
2. Track Internal Progress and Coming Initiatives
While you continue engaging with external members, you should also be doing the same with your internal CAB stakeholders and executive management teams as well. This would include tracking the status of any actions taken from previous CAB meetings, and ensuring progress is being made and the relevant parties remain committed to completing them and reporting back progress to your members. In addition, consider the changes your company may be undertaking as a result of the pandemic, what the future state may look like, and any other corporate developments and initiatives in the planning stages for the coming year. What input and guidance do you need from your CAB members on these?
3. Continue Work Streams and Subcommittees
Your previous CAB engagements may have created a need for member-driven outputs, work streams or subcommittees to follow-up on raised initiatives or published research. For example, perhaps your members face particular IT or physical security challenges due to the pandemic, which they are addressing in unique and innovative ways. A collection of these might make an excellent video or webinar to share with all your customers, which will likely take some engagement with your customers and production work on your end.
4. Publish Thought Leadership
In line with above, consider interviewing select CAB members on their perspectives regarding current market trends or the ever-changing business environment, and then publishing these insights to a wider audience. Ensuring the completion, publication and promotion of this during the pandemic will position your company as a leader in your industry.
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5. Interview Your Members
In planning for your next CAB engagement, interviewing members individually is not only a great way to prioritize the agenda, but it will also uncover previously unknown pain points and potential new topics. Doing so enables you to check-in on your customers and learn other challenges they may not be sharing with their account reps.
Although one-on-one interviews are best, a fallback could be sending out a survey to prioritize or gather desired topics for your next meeting. In addition, interview any new members to your CAB program to get them involved and invested in your program from the get-go.
6. Plan Your Next Meeting
While in-person meetings are on hold, you should have a robust communication plan for upcoming virtual meetings heading into next year. But at some point — hopefully soon! — the pandemic will end and there may be a race for meeting and hotel space. Why not get ahead of this rush and have your desired city, hotel, restaurants and social activities identified and approved by your management now? In doing so, you’ll avoid the process of review and approval, and be in a position to procure your first choices before facilities fill up again.
While business operations may be different and uncertain during the pandemic, companies should keep their CAB program momentum going strong heading into 2021. By doing so, they will stay ahead of their competition, top of mind with their best customers, and in the best position to succeed once the pandemic is over.