1) It’s hard to rally your team to participate in the CAB planning
Sure, planning and executing the first CAB meeting was exciting and new. The executive staff and your teammates were fully engaged. You felt like explorers eager to learn new insights about your customers. However, with familiarity comes contempt (or at least boredom). Now that the CAB has become routine it’s hard to get excited about it. When this happens, CAB planning meetings get pushed out, it’s like pulling teeth to get people to participate, milestone dates are missed, and the agenda only comes together two weeks prior to the meeting.
The CAB is quite likely the most important meeting you will hold all year. Bold claim, I know. Consider that this meeting is the one place and one time where a dozen of your senior decision makers from your best customers are in the same room together with your executives. If and when you find yourself procrastinating, it’s a sign that you should rethink the details and expectations for your CAB. Simply put, this meeting is too important, too unique, to be treated as a tactical item to be checked off a to-do list. If the CAB has lost its shine, it’s time to do some polishing.
2) The CAB agenda has become tactical, not strategic
This is the most obvious outcome from trouble sign #1 above. When your CAB agenda is filled with product updates, the objectives of your CAB meeting suffer greatly. The CAB is designed to be a forward-thinking strategic assessment of the trends, drivers, and priorities shaping your customers’ businesses and how you can help them achieve sustainable success. When the host company fills time by talking about itself and providing product updates, the meeting feels more like a “back to school night” where the teacher shows off to the parents the great work the kids have done.
Bottom line: CABs are not meant to be product-feature show-and-tells. (You can easily share that information in other, better ways.) When this happens, you need to push back. Ask your team to really think about the questions they are most interested in having these customers answer. And, what are they prepared to do with the information they collect?
3) You are not sure you have invited the right customers
Each CAB meeting builds off of the prior meetings. And, as your business evolves, your CAB agenda will follow suite. This presents a sticky situation: are you obligated to maintain the same customer attendees from meeting to meeting? The answer is no. You have full liberty to amend the invitation list to best map to the topics you are interested in discussing. It is commonplace to have 30% new participants for each meeting either because certain customers are not available to attend or because you proactively want to expand the group with some new blood.
To help avoid any heartburn with any potentially disappointed customers, you can set up a “CAB Alumni” program. This is a very effective passive way to continue communicating with them and sharing important information even though they will not be invited to future meetings.
Actively manage your CAB’s evolution
Yes, your CAB is destined to evolve. As you and your customers form tighter bonds, relationships and opportunities for collaboration will present themselves. And, you’ll want to find ways to take advantage of these within your CAB program. Some ideas for advanced CAB engagements may include:
- Guest speakers on leadership or business topics, especially when the topic introduces a business, operational, or partnership hypotheses for deep discussion
- Customer-led discussions where they share best practices and invite cross-customer discussion
- Breakout discussion tracks (used when the host company has multiple business lines)
- Collaborative working-sessions for the CAB, or a sub-team, to make real progress on a shared objective
But, be cautious in what you choose to change. Let your post-CAB customer evaluations and pre-CAB customer interviews help guide you as you plan each meeting. Chances are your customers find your CAB program a shining star in a landscape littered with tactical vendor product updates that are disguised as being strategic. This is one of your competitive differentiators, so be careful what you change.
What to read next: Is your CAB world-class? Here’s how to tell
With a specialty in CABs, Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator with more than 15 years of CAB experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 100 world-class CAB meetings. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s CAB practice. Contact Mike