Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) are highly effective tools to gain valuable customer insight. They can help you plan your strategy, improve the quality of your products, and drive innovation.
Below we give you a simple 5 step guide on how you can optimise your CAB to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time.
1. Focus Your Strategy
You need your strategies to be focused towards the same goals for success. This means you need to ensure your CAB is supporting the other tools under your broader business model.
The role of your CAB is to uncover more information about customer wants and needs, in order to design your products and services to solve them. Achieving this requires effort in the planning stages, and it requires you to ask a lot of questions.
For example, what are the insights that matter most? Which customer segments do you need represented (e.g. female, tech-savvy millennial, aged 24-34)? And how will you recruit them? Take the time to plan now, it’ll pay off later.
2. Set Expectations
Recruiting customer advisory board members can be difficult. People are often suspicious of assisting businesses, especially if they’re not sure what their role is or what’s required of them. However, this can be alleviated with setting clear expectations.
When you’re talking to prospective board members, tell them about their role, particularly what is required of them and how much time it’ll take. It’s also a good idea to have this in writing. Then explain how this role will benefit them, perhaps in the form of in-store discounts, monetary remuneration, a free meal, etc.
Ensure you’re transparent about the value it offers your business. For example, explain how their insights will assist you in improving your marketing strategy, therefore increasing your profits. It’s even better if you can also provide community value, such as offering to give a portion of your future profits to local charity.
It’s also important to have them sign a non-disclosure agreement to give you legal protection.
3. Have a Clear Purpose
Each session with your CAB should have a clear purpose. It’s easy for the wheels to fall off in a room full of people who may or may not want to be there. So keep them in the loop with semi-regular updates and provide a structured outline before each session.
Also ask for their feedback. If your CAB can be improved, the best suggestions are likely to come from the members themselves. But be sure to implement this feedback where possible. This will give them faith that you value their time.
Another CAB best practice is to display the best responses from your sessions on your website as customer testimonials and product reviews. Not only are these highly influential pieces of marketing, being featured on a business’ website can be highly rewarding for your members. But be sure to ask them first, and getting their permission in writing is preferred.
4. Keep it Interesting
No one wants to sit through a bland meeting, especially if you don’t feel involved in the process. Don’t let this happen. Keep the meetings short and on point, and if you can, make the experience rewarding for them. Tailor each topic to how they like to discuss and stay away from the dry areas. Of course, not everything about your business is exciting, but if you have to cover drab topics, find a way of making it interesting, perhaps through the use of multimedia.
Also ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. Empower your members to talk freely and take their honest opinions seriously.
5. Maintain a Simple Structure
Keep the structure clear of each session simple. You should have a clear expectation for each session, but be prepared to go with the flow should discussion take you to another interesting area, because uncovering unexpected insights is one of the goals of the CAB.
And never have a meeting longer than necessary. For example, you may decide that having a two-hour meeting with three breaks isn’t effective because members look forward to the breaks and are lethargic during the ‘work session.’ So in this case, opt for a shorter session with no breaks, allowing your members can work solidly and then go home.
Now you’re ready, put these 5 steps into practice and get the most out of your next CAB meeting.
For more comprehensive information on starting your customer advisory board, download our free eGuide by clicking below: