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Editorial

Keep the Customer Advisory Board Meeting to Customers

4 minute read
Rob Jensen avatar
Considering bringing in a third-party speaker to your next customer advisory board meeting? Don't.

We are sometimes asked by our clients or prospects about the notion of inviting an external, third-party speaker to come present at a host-company’s upcoming customer advisory board (CAB) meeting. After all, there are many wonderful subject matter experts, authors, industry analysts, consultants or influencers out there that can provide research or data that could be of interest to your CAB members. Inviting a well-known speaker might even add some exclusivity or prestige to your next meeting and impress your prized CAB members.

Unfortunately, in our experience, use of third-party speakers tends to disappoint or underwhelm CAB members and the host companies who brought them in. It turns out that CAB meetings are just usually not a good environment for their participation, and they can actually be better applied as a resource to other areas of your marketing messaging.

As such, here are the top five reasons why inviting a third-party speaker to your next CAB meeting is not a good idea:

They May Be Costly

First off, bringing in an outside expert to your next CAB meeting may not be free, and may even be quite expensive. Such costs may burden your overall meeting budget, or force you to skimp in other areas that your CAB members may notice, such as the hotel, food, travel reimbursement or social activity. Such fees for such “hired guns” are usually not worth the expense, and the money could’ve been better spent elsewhere.

Related Article: Don't Invite Prospects to Your Next Customer Advisory Board Meeting

They Don’t Know Your CAB

While your expert speaker may have a general understanding of CABs, he or she will likely not know your customers, their roles and their specific challenges. While you can certainly hold a prep meeting to review these, your CAB program and your meeting goals, in my experience, such a discussion is more a formality and such insights will have little bearing on the information the expert will communicate.

They Will Show Up and Leave

In line with above, outside experts usually have their content, report, data or presentation, in which there is little effort made to tailor it to your CAB members, despite whatever promise is made to do so.

They will not participate in the overall meeting planning or prep meetings, and will, essentially, show up for their planned session and leave without any further interaction with you or your customers, which is not in the spirit of a strong CAB program.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Create the Ultimate Customer Advisory Board Meeting for 2022

Learning Opportunities

They Won’t Engage

The biggest problem with third-party speakers at CAB meetings, in my experience, is that they will merely present their content for the (entire) time they are allotted, with very little (if any) engagement with your CAB members.

While they may pause for questions or even allot for Q&A at the end, they usually feel compelled (especially if you are paying them) to provide their extensive data as quickly as possible. This leaves little time for vetting their conclusions with the present CAB members, making for a boring, one-way session.

You Are Wasting an Opportunity

CAB meetings are an (all-too-rare) opportunity for your management to discuss the challenges shared by your best customers and come up with solutions that will benefit everyone. You’ve likely flown them all (and your own company executives) to a location for such focused engagements, to learn more about process bottlenecks and opportunities to serve customers better or uncover new products and services. An outside speaker rarely advances these important discussions, and, as such, their sessions are usually rated lower by CAB members in their post-meeting surveys.

This is not to impugn expert speakers. I’ve met many over the years, and they are some of the smartest and/or most interesting professionals I’ve ever had the pleasure of engaging.

However, their expertise is simply not a good match for CABs and would be better employed in other messaging mediums. These might include a webinar in which you could invite all your employees, or a report of theirs you could offer to your customers or prospects. You could even provide such a report to your CAB members in advance of your next meeting, with the idea that you will want to gather their opinions of the research’s conclusions when you are together.

Instead of the outside speaker, host companies should use their precious CAB member face time planning engaging sessions, learning from members and collaborating on new ideas to improve their businesses and daily lives.

About the author

Rob Jensen

Rob Jensen is vice president of marketing for Ignite Advisory Group (www.igniteag.com), a consultancy that helps B2B companies manage their customer and partner advisory board programs. Rob has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and business development leadership positions with leading enterprise software and technology companies.

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