Advisory Council Model: Makeover Edition, Part 1

At times, companies can lose sight of the value they gain from Advisory Councils, and for various reasons.  Be on guard—do not let yourself get discouraged to the point where you recommend discontinuing this strategic engagement tool.  Instead, consider an Advisory Council Makeover.

Time for a Reality Check

Assuming you conduct post-meeting surveys with both internal team and council members, what kind of feedback are you receiving? 

  • Are your members still getting a high level of value from their invested time?
  • Are your stakeholders still getting a high level of value from the insight gained?
  • Are overall scores trending downward?  If so, for how long and by how much?

A Makeover is the best alternative, considering a small percentage of top accounts typically contribute the largest percentage of revenue in B2B companies.  They hold the heart of your business in their hands.  And, most of the research-based market insight you acquire is also available to every one of your competitors.  Making strategic decisions based on insight gained from your most important customers is too critical to give up! 

In Part 2 and following, we will address several areas that impact scores and your perception:

       Members:                              

  • Overall experience
  • Discussions
  • Perception of your commitment
  • Follow-up
  • Willingness to partner further

       Internal Team:

  • Pre-meeting preparation
  • Overall experience
  • Insight gained
  • Application
  • Between-meeting interaction

 

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Customer Advisory Boards: Expense or Investment (Part 4)


To close the loop on assessing the mutual benefit of advisory boright peopleard content, a major factor yet to consider is THE RIGHT PEOPLE. 

Productive discussion requires:

  • the right discussion leader.
  • the right company representatives.
  • the right customer representatives.

Dialogue is not always easy.
Interactive discussion that capitalizes on strategic insight is an art.  Not all top customer executives will share openly.  Not all internal stakeholders will focus on the needed input.  Not all “facilitators” are created equal.  Choose carefully.

My teammate Karen Penney has previously blogged some great suggestions about selecting the right people.  For more detail, please read:

By providing mutual benefit:

  1. Your management team is bound to rate highly the value of insights and perspectives uncovered in the meetings.
  2. Your members are sure to score highly the value of the discussions.

Congratulations!  You are on your way to making your customer advisory board the sharpest tool for investment status. 

BE A STAR.  Invest smartly.  Wisely use precious resources.  Make your board a strategic initiative.


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Customer Advisory Boards: Expense or Investment (Part 3)


For those who already have a customer advisory board and are critically assessing content and its mutual benefit for your company and board members, agenda-planning is a critical component.  What priority issues loom?  What strategic insight can you capitalize on most with these select executives from your top accounts?

An effective agenda usually contains three to five successfully prioritized areas for discussion that are relevant to your company and your customers.  Make certain the topics address business goals or competitive advantage.  Consider:
target

  • Discussing topics to be addressed at upcoming corporate Board meetings for broader understanding.
  • Evaluating product planning ideas before committing deeper resources.
  • Obtaining candid input about their perspectives of competitors to perfect that strategy.
  • Learning about their major challenges and obstacles for overall strategic purposes.
  • Walking through relevant market trends and brainstorming how your company can leapfrog with solutions.

It bears repeating:  These vital customers care about your organization’s success because they have a vested interest in it.  They get involved and give of their time because they want to offer strategic insight. 

BE A STAR.  Invest smartly.  Wisely use precious resources.  Make your board a strategic initiative.

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Customer Advisory Boards: Expense or Investment (Part 2)

If your company already has a customer advisory board in its tool belt, how determined are you to make this tool as sharp as it can be?  How committed are you to making it an investment?  (See Part 1.) 

For those with their sleeves rolled up and ready to get to work, the first step is to critically assess its overall effectiveness as well as each element essential for success.  One of the top essential elements is content and its value for both your company and your customer members. 


Mutual benefit is paramount to guaranteeing your board’s long-term health and investment status:
assessment
  1. What rating would your management team place on the value of insights and perspectives uncovered in the meetings?
  2. What score would your members give for the value of the discussions?

Keep in mind:  This is not the time for a sales presentation.  This is not the place for telling your story … unless, of course, you need strategic insight on massaging your story.  Executives do not want to take precious time out of their jammed schedules for an advisory board that isn’t truly “advisory.” 

These vital customers care about your organization’s success because they have a vested interest in it.  They get involved and give of their time because they want to offer strategic insight. 

That said; invest smartly in your members’ time—wisely use these exclusive resources.  Make your board a strategic initiative.  BE A STAR. 


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Customer Advisory Boards: Expense or Investment?

Actually, it’s all up to you.  You get to choose.  So then … does knowing that make you feel empowered … or is it already causing you some anxiety?

I have had the opportunity to observe firsthand both situations and know beyond a shadow of doubt that customer advisory boards can be the sharpest tool in any B2B company’s tool belt. 

You can choose to make the most of what has got to be the smartest use of exclusive resources, or you can simply put together a meeting and check it off your to-do list. 

A lot of the research-based market insight you acquire is also available to every one of your competitors.  Wouldn’t you rather make strategic decisions based on valuable insight gained from your most important customers—those few that probably make up most of your revenue—who probably hold the life of your business in their hands?

Checkpoint:influencer

  • Are you thinking about starting a customer advisory board?
If your answer is yes, congratulations!  You can be on your way to making a valuable and long-term contribution to your company.  If your answer is no, shame on youThis could be your best chance of becoming a rock star at your organization.
  • Do you already have a customer advisory board
If your answer is yes, how much time, thought and energy are you putting into planning the content for the meetings?  Where on your list does this to-do fall?  Is it a high or low priority compared to all your other deliverables?  Are you feverishly running nowhere like a hamster on a wheel?  Are you worried about how much of your budget you are using?  Or are you confidently moving forward, adding value every day to your organization? 

Regardless of which group you are in, keep in mind that every day what you do with this deliverable will either make you look like a smart investor of precious resources, or perhaps … a coward … if you do nothing at all.

By making the board a strategic initiative, a marketer looks like a rock star and earns recognition with senior leadership.  Otherwise, it just becomes a budget item that gets looked at often enough to eventually get cut.

So then … investment or expense?  You choose.  MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE AND BE A STAR. 

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