Oh, No... Customer Advisory Boards!
(Part 1 of 2)
Customer. Advisory. Boards.
I've spent a lot of time in both traditional marketing and product management roles and know of no other topic (maybe besides tradeshows!) that elicit so many "oohs" and "ahhs" as well as groans - your truly, included. Here is the secret reason why....
Most companies do a terrible job of constructing and executing customer advisory boards!
Oh sure, the concept is simple. Let's pull together some of our top customers and bounce product ideas and strategic direction possibilities off of them. That way, we can continuously validate our tactical and strategic plans and ensure we're aligned with our customers. Hey, who can argue with that? We know our top customers, we know what we want to share with them, so let's "giddy-up", as a former manager of mine would often say.
Well, there are a couple of important issues and nuances that many companies overlook:
What is in it for the customer? How are they getting value? What real insight are we delivering?
Do our customers really want to engage with us strategically or are they happy just to have us as a vendor/supplier?
How do we ensure we're not just talking to the customers who like us?
Are we talking to the right people or just the people that are available and RSVP?
How do we ensure the customers are doing at least 2/3 of the total talking?
Are the topics we're discussing relevant to each of the attendees? Is it too technical or not technical enough?
Most organizations skim over these issues and rush to assemble an advisory board. The first meeting is somewhat successful but then it dies a slow, painful death and tarnishes the advisory board concept for years.
In Part II of my blog on Customer Advisory Boards, I'll share some lessons-learned on how to avoid all of this.