CAB Dynamics: Member Value

Customer Advisory Boards can be extremely valuable. But when you’re planning one, it’s easy to get caught up in the anticipation and only focus on how your organization is getting value.

Building a CAB program that offers strategic insight to your team over the long term, means incorporating serious respect for your CAB member’s time as well as their strategic priorities.

In this blog we’re going to explore:

Let your members do the talking

One way we see CAB hosts inadvertently diminish the impact of their program is by simply talking too much.  It’s easy to do.  You’ve gotten senior executives from some of your most important customers together in one room it’s natural to want to tell them all about the exciting things you have planned.

However, in most cases, the host organization is the least valuable voice in the room. 

Your own team is going to get the most value from listening to the members’ conversations, advice, and requests.  Every minute your executives spend talking is a minute where the CAB isn’t generating value for you.  Likewise, CAB members get the most value from hearing one and other.  It’s a very rare thing for C-Suite executives to be able to engage in collaborative strategic conversations with true peers, let them make full use of the opportunity.

Setting up a CAB is expensive and it’s hard to get space on customer executives’ calendars.  Once you’ve gone through that process it’s important to squeeze value out of every available minute.  Working toward a ratio of about 20% your executives talking while giving 80% of the airtime to your CAB members is a great way to maximize your CABs value

Keep the conversation high level

If you’ve ever joined a LinkedIn group, you’ve probably experienced what I call a Social Networking Value Curve.  Early on the group is filled with vibrant interesting thinkers who make every conversation valuable for the participants.  Because of those valuable conversations, some members start inviting junior members from their team.  With those junior team members come more tactical, junior-level questions.  As the resolution of the dialog goes down, the early adopter luminaries start to check out.  Eventually what made the group valuable, to begin with, is gone.

Unfortunately, Social Networking Value Curves aren’t limited to LinkedIn groups.  It’s very easy for your CAB program to fall into the same trap.  You need to carefully manage the conversation to avoid low-level, tactical topics.  But doing so is one of the best things you can do to keep your CAB members engaged and coming back.

Take member advice seriously

CABs deliver value to members partly by giving them the chance to have a direct impact on your organization’s strategy.  Your customers are giving you their valuable time and input because they want to see you succeed.  You need to be prepared to take their advice seriously.

A common problem we see cause members to lose interest in a CAB is failure of the host organization to act on member advice.  You don’t necessarily need to place their advice into direct practice.  But you should be addressing their opinions head-on and clearly articulating the reasoning behind your final decision.

If this was a board of directors meeting, you would take their feedback seriously, decide, and communicate the thought process behind your decision.  You should treat your CAB members with a similar level of attention.

 

Wrapping up

Great CAB programs are symbiotic relationships.  As the host organization, it’s critical to create a clear focus on what your members have to say.  Keep the conversation interesting and relevant to your customer’s needs.  And when your CAB members do give direct advice be sure to evaluate it carefully and implement it where possible.  With a healthy focus on its members, your CAB program can really drive your internal strategy, customer relationships, and even your top-line revenue.

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