• Customer advisory boards (CABs) have long existed in B2B but are now getting a fresh look
  • Successful CABs have clear ownership and a common mission/agenda – and leverage technology to main continuity
  • Executive commitment is the driving force of successful (and lasting) CABs

The expression “What’s old is new again” is an appropriate description of the revitalization of an age-old engagement strategy in B2B: the customer advisory board (CAB). While many organizations have had an advisory board (or boards) in place for years, these stalwarts in B2B engagement are taking on new meaning as companies look for greater sources of customer insights to drive company actions. WhosDrivingYourCAB

If you don’t have a CAB, perhaps it’s time to explore how this vehicle could complement your existing customer interaction options. If you already have a board in place, here are five strategies to re-energize this powerful source of customer insights:

  1. Ensure clear ownership of the CAB. With the rise of the customer marketing leader, we see CAB ownership increasingly falling into this role’s list of responsibilities. This is logical with customer marketing taking the lead role in many, if not all, the other key customer-facing activities such as user groups, online communities, customer events and partner groups. The empowered customer marketing leader has the ability to look across these activities and see where the CAB fits and where it complements the other customer interaction channels.
  2. Plug other post-sale functions into the CAB. While customer marketing can take the lead, CABs can certainly be critical sources of valuable insights for other internal functions impacting the post-sale customer experience.  This can include customer success, customer support, customer experience, professional services and others.
  3. Create an executive-level agenda mapped to the key concerns of the CAB members. Set the CAB’s agenda by conducting a survey of the members to understand what is driving their interest in participating in the CAB.  As you go forward, leverage this survey to set the course for the CAB, and revisit /refresh regularly to ensure your agenda retains relevance.
  4. Leverage technology to keep the continuity alive.  A common challenge facing CABs is maintaining some sort of momentum, as most meet once or twice a year in person. Successful CABs tap into technologies (e.g. community platforms) to keep the threads alive in between in-person meetings. Technology also allows members to strengthen their networking efforts among other CAB members.
  5. Get your executives engaged and hold them to it.  Easier said than done, right?  Well, this really is the key to the kingdom of CAB success. Effective CABs are characterized by company executive participation and active use of the outputs from the CAB. 

Too often, advisory boards are created because companies are “supposed” to have them. The same is often true of other interaction channels such as online communities, user groups, etc. However, in today’s B2B landscape, where the drivers of B2B decisions are increasingly reliant on customer experience, companies are wise to double down on the investments they’ve made in tapping into customer sentiment. CABs have the potential to unlock a rich vein of customer insights that can drive organizational strategies. Start by understanding who’s driving your CAB and understand how you’re leveraging CAB insights to map your strategic initiatives.