Heart of the Customer

Guest Post: Best Way to Engage Customers, Gather Feedback and Engender Brand Loyalty? Think Customer Advisory Boards

Today we feature an article by Rob Jensen who writes about the benefits of customer advisory boards and how they are a way to improve executive engagement.

These days, there seems to be a lot of talk about customer experience. Indeed, ensuring that companies optimize interactions with their top clients, obtain the highest level of value and maximize ROI from their precious customers seems to be a desire the significance of which is of little debate. The more challenging aspect of achieving these outcomes seems to be HOW companies are supposed to do so. It is our experience that customer advisory boards (CABs) are the most effective and impactful way to engage with key customer executives and achieving these desired results.

For the uninitiated, customer advisory boards (also known as a customer advisory councils) are forums to review industry trends, address mutual challenges or opportunities, and offer unvarnished insights and guidance. For vendors, these councils are ideal for validating corporate strategies, gathering input on product development, and deepening relationships with key customers. In turn, there is just as much to be gained by the participating customers.

Here are the top 5 benefits your company can get from a well-run customer advisory board program.

  1. Insight into Business Strategy: Your customers are the best (and surprisingly most often overlooked) resource to provide input to your company’s overall direction and business strategies. They should be able to advise you on the products and services they desire, what they would pay for them and how they want them delivered. Your council can provide invaluable direction regarding which markets to pursue, how to capitalize on market trends, what customer pain points to address, which companies to partner with or acquire, how to best exploit competitors’ weak points, and how to position your company for optimal advantage.
  2. Feedback to the Product Roadmap: A customer advisory board is ideal for providing feedback and desired direction on the host company’s offerings. It can offer an insider’s view of what your target buyer needs and wants from your products and/or services. A council also serves as a great platform for securing beta testers of your new offerings, helping you introduce your solutions and providing immediate validation before you go to market.
  3. Net New Revenue: Your members’ organizations will likely increase their overall spend with your business over time. This is due in large part to the fact that they are privy to your growth strategy and feel closer and more dedicated to you and your offerings. In fact, Ignite’s experience shows that companies that have successful CABs enjoy a 9% increase in new business among CAB members starting after year one of advisory programs above non-advisory council customers.
  4. Brand Champions: An additional benefit to running an advisory council is that you are building a close-knit group of company advisors and brand champions. By bringing members into your company’s “inner circle” as trusted advisors, you are also transforming them into even bigger raving fans of your company.
  5. Marketing Campaigns and Messaging: Another area of value a client advisory council delivers is feedback to how your company markets itself.  You will gain the rich insight necessary to understand how to position the company against the competition. Your CAB will advise you as to what makes your business unique and what differentiators you should highlight.

While engaging with customers and engendering brand loyalty may be all the rage these days, in our experience, customer advisory boards are the best method to deliver this and much more. A well-run customer advisory council will likely put your company on a better, more targeted and profitable course for years to come.

 

Rob Jensen is VP of Marketing for Ignite Advisory Group (www.igniteag.com), a consultancy that helps B2B companies establish and manage their customer and partner advisory board programs.

 

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