The Gist

  • Engaging customers: Most companies use salespeople and ad-hoc methods, but CABs involve strategic discussions with executives for higher value input.
  • Product feedback: CABs formalize the process for gathering and prioritizing product feedback, leading to the discovery of new product uses, bottlenecks or desires.
  • New product launches: CAB members can provide feedback on product messaging, test new products and provide insights into wider business operations, increasing the chances of a successful launch.

Customer Advisory Board (CAB) Launch: Who Needs Convincing

When it comes to launching a customer advisory board (CAB), a hurdle we often hear from companies is how and where to start. Indeed, building a business case for initiating such a program and communicating this to executive management — who may need to be convinced that a program is needed in the first place — is often square one for getting a CAB program off the ground.

Related Article: 5 Reasons You Need a Customer Advisory Board

Top 10 Questions for Creating a CAB Case

While I recently presented a webinar on the topic of creating a CAB business case, often the impetus for such a program lies in the answers to basic questions around what your company is currently doing to engage with your customers. Addressing how your company answers these top 10 questions (or perhaps just a few of them) may uncover why your need for a CAB program should be evident — and perhaps even urgent:

How Do We Currently Engage With Our Customers?

While some companies may have formal programs to interact with their customers (surveys, NPS scoring, online reviews, etc.), most firms we talk to admit such efforts are primarily done through their sales people and/or ad-hoc means (i.e. complaints). As such, the input received is usually from product users, is tactical in nature and is low value.

CABs, on the other hand, involve much more strategic discussions, as they involve executives with more broad exposure to their company’s operations, challenges and needs.

How Do We Receive Product Input and Feedback?

Often, product development will add capabilities to your solutions merely because they can, or think such new features will be desired (and purchased) by your customers. In addition, features may be prioritized based on account size, input from sales or by “squeaky wheels.”

CABs establish a formal process for gathering and prioritizing such features, and, more importantly, often uncover previously unknown product uses, bottlenecks or desires.

Are We Launching Any New Products?

In their desire to grow revenues, companies will often create new products or attempt to apply them to new applications or industries. Doing so blind or on hunches often leads to failed launches.

CAB members have insights or experiences in wider business operations to provide feedback, as well as guidance to product messaging that can make such launches a success.

How Do We Test New Products?

Does your company have an active beta testing program to gather product insights before they hit the market? CAB members make ideal product testers, as they are invested in your company’s success, they may have suggested the new product, and have a network of colleagues who may also be interested in your product’s capabilities.

Do Our Customers Renew Purchase of Our Products and Buy Our Other Ones?

If customer retention or cross-selling your product suite are challenges or desires, CAB members usually use most of your products, often for the longest time. They can convey issues of which your sales team may not be aware, competitive offerings and recommend ways to better communicate your value proposition to deliver product expansion.

Learning Opportunities

Do Our Customers Act as Referrals?

You may be missing revenue opportunities if you don’t have an eager, vetted group of happy customers who are prepared to recommend your solutions to your prospects. CAB members know your company and products, are often most skilled, savvy and successful with them, are invested with your company and happy to share their experiences with your prospects.

Related Article: Looking Ahead: Top 5 Resolutions for Your 2023 Customer Advisory Board

Do Our Customers Appear in Our Marketing Materials?

Do you have ample customer case studies, video testimonials, articles and social media visuals? CAB members are usually eager to support such efforts, are able to get past any legal objections, and often will go “above and beyond” by speaking at your company conference or sales kickoff meetings.

Does Our Company Communicate Thought Leadership?

Publishing unique solutions to industry challenges positions your company as a trusted leader and a go-to resource for your prospects. CAB programs often uncover such unique solutions, and companies can create and promote these as an industry leader.

How Do Our Leaders Learn About Market Trends?

While industry information sources might vary (trade publications, analysts, the field, etc.), information can be ad-hoc, inconsistent or biased. CAB programs deliver a wealth of trends directly from actual customers — what they’re seeing, what your competitors are doing and recommend who your company should partner with or acquire.

Are We Aware of the ROI a CAB Program Can Bring?

Studies show that CABs have increased sales 66% higher after being in place three years, and increased overall productivity 18% on average.

Asking your own company these 10 questions should elicit very telling responses that may justify the initiation of a CAB program.

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