Setting up a Customer Advisory Board

Think you're too small for a Customer Advisory Board (CAB)? Think again. Think CABs are for those big corporate dinosaurs? Well, think again... again. Now that we've gotten that cleared up, let's actually consider why a CAB is important for your business, no matter your size or structure, and how it will help your team become even more successful. 

Why are CABs useful? 

  • They provide consistent feedback and allow you to weigh the needs of your buyer. Letting your customers validate your products before they go to market can let you design with the customer in mind and avoid pitfalls that may lead to pulling a product back. The conversations in these groups can lead to enhancements to existing products you may not have been aware of or didn't think were as important as other bugs on your fix list. They also lead to product innovation and identifying new growth areas for your business.
  • The feedback received isn't always positive, which is a good thing. Encourage constructive feedback and turn the negative feedback into positives. Listen to your customers, don't just blindly defend your product decisions to get them to agree with your line of thinking. 
  • If you do it right, the CAB can lead to customer evangelism and free marketing. The CAB can serve as the forum to identify the case studies and testimonials you've been struggling to identify. Customers in your CAB include those who are super users and can attend events you host to chat with prospects and help demo products while sharing their use cases. 
  • CABs are a way to honor your customers. Being invited to join a CAB means you're doing something right so it should be a welcomed invitation regardless of whether the customer can or wants to join. 

Setting up a Customer Advisory Board

  1. Start by defining your CAB's purpose - what is the mission of this group? 
  2. Set your goals - what do you want to achieve? How many meetings do you want to host? 
  3. Create a CAB one pager - list out your expectations, requirements, and meeting times. Members can leave the CAB at anytime, but encourage them to commit to at least 1 year and annually re-invite members back to your CAB. This method allows you to remove members who haven't contributed without making it seem like a big deal and it gives people the option to opt out if they no longer have the time to commit. 
  4. Select your team - what is the mix of customers you want in your CAB? Strive for a diverse group with members coming from different industries, regions, roles, company size, varying NPS scores, and don't limit to your oldest customers. Invite newer customers and those who may not be as active on your platform. Marketing should create the CAB with feedback from product, engineering, sales, and customer success teams so invite your colleagues to offer their top suggestions. Obviously, this can quickly become a crapshoot so set some guidelines on submissions per team and host several internal meetings to identify the right mix. 
  5. Kick off your first meeting - share an agenda in advance, stay on topic, and allow CAB members to do the majority of the talking. This group is not another way for you to pitch or market to customers, but rather, to hear their thoughts, and that means you need to limit your speaking time. Be sure to share notes from the meeting including takeaways and action items with the group. You want this to be a continuous feedback loop so you have to keep it going offline. 

Is your CAB working? Measure, measure, measure...

Keep track of attendance and participation and any feedback provided via meetings and surveys. Is the feedback getting back to the right teams? Are the right representatives from within your organization attending? Are CAB members dropping out or are they staying on year after year? Do they find the meetings useful and worth their time? Be sure to measure how much time members contributed to the CAB and assess whether it was more or less than expected and use that to help enforce a better process. If you continue to track and monitor your CAB's performance, you'll only get more out of the group. So go on and get started and let us know how your CAB is working out for you, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions.