Three Reasons A Customer Advisory Board Is More Important Than Ever

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It won’t come as a surprise to many that the most successful companies have long known about and leveraged the competitive advantages provided by an engaged and effective Customer Advisory Board (CAB). Not only does a CAB offer feedback and guidance on current products and services, but it also helps to shape the future roadmap and hone messaging.

While it’s always been a smart move to convene a “customer board of directors,” the reality for many companies today is that they simply will not succeed without active help and direction from their customers, elevating the Customer Advisory Board from simply a nice-to-have convenience to mission-critical status.

There are likely many reasons a CAB has become so important to the future of so many companies. Below are three reasons that apply to nearly every company:

The world has abruptly changed and so have the needs of your customers. You need their guidance to help realign so you can continue to be relevant and deliver meaningful value.

Quite literally, and for the first time in history, every organization in the world – just like yours – is trying to figure out how it can survive, let alone thrive, in the current climate. Cataclysmic change has forced reprioritization across every function. The question is, how do you remain relevant to your customers and help them succeed on a new playing field? This isn’t a guessing game; the market you thought you knew has markedly changed and you need first-hand guidance on what your customers’ pain is and how you can credibly resolve it. Many senior executives have turned to their peers for insight and guidance and that provides a certain perspective (and perhaps a certain level of comfort) but does not provide the necessary insight into actual customer needs. Only talking directly to customers on a regular basis can do that.

For example, many organizations have experienced employee and budget reductions. For you, that may mean they need new or additional support services while also a revised pricing schedule. They may need products or product variations that came about as a result of employees working from home. What do those look like now, in three months and six months? The only way to really get a handle on it is to ask for their help and guidance. What you’re asking them, in essence, is (in the immortal words of Jerry McGuire), “help me, help you.”

There is no playbook or set of best practices to manage through this crisis and everyone is trying to figure it out. Providing a forum for your customers to share their challenges, approaches and learnings not only puts you in the middle of the discussion (providing invaluable insight) but also strengthens your relationships.

For companies not ready to embark on a Customer Advisory Board, a powerful alternative is to create a Customer Roundtable that serves as a forum for customers to come together to share their challenges and how they are addressing them. Like you, your customers are figuring it out and the ability to tap into a brain trust of peers to share what works and what doesn’t is invaluable. From finance to HR to legal to sales and marketing – the fact everyone is trying to figure it out presents a unique opportunity to facilitate an agenda-free roundtable discussion that brings them together to share while also positioning you at the center of the conversation. In the end, it’s not about you, specifically, but it’s about how you can help them while helping yourself to better meet their needs.

The world has changed but your messaging probably hasn’t. It no longer fits the current market and needs to be revisited to ensure it is relevant, resonant, and compelling.

Your messaging is what drives all marketing and demand generation, and if it was created more than three months ago it is outdated. Even if your customers’ core needs haven’t changed, the context of them certainly have. Messaging is nuanced and needs to be carefully crafted to appeal to your buyers' reality, which continues to shift even today. A CAB can provide guidance as to how your message needs to evolve to ensure it resonates with them and their peers.

Developing a Customer Advisory Board is one of the most powerful advantages you can develop and has never been more important. It doesn’t take a lot of time or resources but does need to be prioritized as a strategic imperative that will help guide you through today’s challenging business environment.