Customer Advisory Board Members are Better References!

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a few LinkedIn discussions about customer reference programs and they got me thinking. I know from previous research by the Geehan Group that 94% of executives who participate on advisory boards are willing to recommend their hosts to peers, but I wonder if our clients, or others who utilize Advisory Boards, are really leveraging that willingness. Are you?

Improved PerceptionIt seems to me, that you’re nuts if you aren’t! After all, customers selling and/or bringing other customers up to their same perceptions are two of the most powerful sales tools available. And yes, I believe your Advisory Board members are likely to do this better than your other customers! Here’s why.

Three years ago, at the conclusion of my client’s inaugural Advisory Board meeting, we asked members if their meeting experience had impacted their perception of their host, and; if it had, how? Seven of the ten members present (70%) said their experience had a positive impact on their perception of their host. Four of them offered the following commentary (which is pretty typical), and the other three said their perceptions hadn’t changed; they already knew how great they were!
  • Yes, they really seem to care about what their customers think and want.
  • Yes, their business depth gives me confidence in their abilities.
  • Yes, they are driven to provide practical solutions much more than I suspected.
  • Yes, it’s good to see they want to reach a deeper understanding of my company.
Now remember, the executives who offered these comments were hand-picked to serve on the Advisory Board. They were already top customers and 70% of them left their first Advisory Board meeting with a more positive perception of their host! Today, each of these customers is willing to help their host beyond their participation on the Advisory Board. 90% are willing to serve as a reference. 80% are willing to participate in a case study. Others are willing to serve as panelists, write articles and white papers, and speak on my client’s behalf. A couple of them said they would do “anything” they were asked!

So I ask you. Will these customers make better references? I can almost guarantee it! Is my client leveraging their willingness to help? I certainly hope so!

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