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Succeeding with Customer Advisory Boards


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A well-run Customer Advisory Board (CAB) generates information that helps run the business as well as building good will for a company, but CABs can be intimidating. They enable dialog between a company and its customers, and product managers frequently take on the role of organizers, participants, and beneficiaries. CABs provide a forum for input on strategy and roadmaps, encourage customers to air their feedback and experiences, facilitate information-sharing amongst customers, and can lead to new business. CABs differ from user groups in that they are smaller, typically by-invitation-only, and usually engage customers at a strategic rather than tactical level.

About Jim Berets

At Black Duck Software, where he was VP of Product Management, Jim Berets planned and ran more than a dozen sessions of the company’s North American and European Customer Advisory Boards, engaging more than 40 of the company’s clients at a senior-level. Jim has advised a number of companies on developing or improving their Customer Advisory Boards. He has spoken on the topic at ProductCamp Boston and at the Boston Product Management Association’s Product Executives Forum.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Succeeding with Customer Advisory Boards

  1. 1. ProductCamp Boston 2015 Succeeding with Customer Advisory Boards Jim Berets @jberets
  2. 2. Customer Advisory Board “A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a representative group of customers that meets periodically to offer advice on the product and company direction.” - Pragmatic Marketing
  3. 3. CAB Planning and Execution Determine Purpose* Execute* Follow-up* Plan Agenda* Participants* Location / scheduling Logistics Budget Learn * Topics discussed
  4. 4. Determine Purpose ❖ What are the goals / benefits / drawbacks of holding? ❖ For your company? ❖ For customers? ❖ Under what circumstances should you establish a CAB? • Increase level of communication / engagement • Strategic input • Form / develop relationships • Your company <-> customer • Customer <-> customer • Share ideas • Relevant topics to discuss • Executive interest (both customer and your company) • Time / resources to execute effectively
  5. 5. Plan - Agenda ❖ What types of sessions / topics might be useful? ❖ What do you want to achieve? • To be heard and have influence • That you have something relevant to share • That you will act on their input • Candor • Not a selling event ❖ What do you think participants expect? • Depends on • CAB focus: company, product(s), both? • Company / product lifecycle • Emphasize strategic over tactical • Goal: meaningful interactions / feedback • Encourage discussion • Ensure adequate networking time
  6. 6. Plan - Participants ❖ What type(s) of customers should attend? Prospects? ❖ What people from those companies? Level? • Need to engage diverse customer group • Beyond just the most loyal • New, and well-established • With simple and with complex needs • Strategically-oriented individuals • Decision: invite competing customers or not ❖ Who should attend from your company? • Executives • SME’s to lead or engage in discussions • Must • Leave biases at the door • Not overwhelm customers with participants from your company
  7. 7. Execute ❖ If you’ve participated in an event like this, what has worked the most successfully? ❖ Tips and tricks? • First CAB is most challenging • In-person is best; virtual CAB’s are more difficult still • Potentially hire a professional facilitator • Or have a moderator who can put biases aside • Don’t have a CAB if you can’t get the right attendees to participate • Include a social event component • Great opportunity to share in a less formal setting • Anticipate and prepare for candid feedback • Use “Parking lot” to stay on track with time and agenda • Be sure to follow up on what you learn
  8. 8. Follow up ❖ What post-event actions might you take to follow up? • Follow through on any commitments you made • “Thank you” to participants • Survey • Virtual event to continue collaboration