As companies resume in-person customer advisory board (CAB) meetings, it may have been a while since you’ve seen your CAB members face-to-face. A lot may have changed for their companies and even themselves personally. Their businesses may have been hammered by the pandemic, or perhaps even benefitted. Whatever the case, there will be much to catch up on during your meeting.
But whenever (or however) your next meeting takes place, there are certain elements your members will be looking for, and even expecting.
Here are the top five:
Follow Your Charter
If you haven’t met with your CAB in a while, you might go back and revisit the charter document you created when you initiated your program. (You did create one, right?).
Has anything changed? Are the topics still on point, or do you need to adjust? Are your members still a collection of colleagues of like roles, or a mixture of executives and product users? Your members will expect your program remains what you promised them, and what they signed up for.
Provide an Executive Experience
As your CAB is a collection of leadership representing your best customers, your program should be well-run, extremely organized and provide an “executive experience.”
That means not only high-end hotels, meals and social activities, but outstanding communications, strong meeting content and expertly-facilitated engagements. Your own company executives, including your CEO, should actively participate in the preparation, meeting and post-meeting activities as well.
Create a Member-Driven Agenda
Your CAB is not the forum for sales pitches, product demos or canned corporate PowerPoint presentations. Instead, you will want to engage your members before the meeting to ascertain the topics they are most interested in, and create an agenda that is prioritized to these desires.
Focus on a shared industry challenge that everyone is working through, and minimize your company messaging. In meetings, members should speak 80% of the time, the host company merely 20%.
Keep Things Engaging, Interactive
You don’t want to gather your best customers and executives only for everyone to sit through boring presentations. You want to listen to and learn from your CAB members to tackle a challenge your own company may be struggling with.
This may be around budget constraints, product feature priorities, marketing messaging or another pressing issue. Get your members moving: hold breakout discussions, brainstorming and voting sessions. Your members will not be happy if your meeting could have been done virtually (or worse as a one-way webinar!), and there was no need for them to travel to it.
Follow-up on Previous Input
If it has been a while since you’ve met, you likely were given an abundance of ideas and suggestions from your last meeting that warrants follow-up. What was done with previous CAB member input?
While you don’t have to have everything completed, you need to provide a status on where their ideas stand. If members feel their suggestions are not leading to material changes, they will get frustrated and lose interest in your program.
Conclusion: Is Your CAB Program Fit for 2022?
While not ideal, you may also have to consider a hybrid meeting if a large part of the CAB is only available virtually. At hybrid meetings, you must ensure the necessary technology is set up, and you need to have dedicated staff for managing virtual engagement.
While your personal New Year’s resolutions may include getting physically back in shape, now is the time to ensure your CAB program is fit for 2022. Your members will be expecting a top experience, so be sure you are providing it to them. Otherwise, your program may do more harm than good.
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.