True account-based marketing (ABM) requires three things: navigation, research, and alignment. It’s hard work to build a highly targeted messaging program that inspires action. You may not have thought about it, but when forming a Customer Advisory Board (CAB), ABM is used all the time. Here’s how it works.
Forming a CAB
When a company decides to build (or re-invigorate) their CAB, the first step is to define a specific objective for your CAB program and for the inaugural meeting. The second step is to nail down your “big question” and the topic areas your leadership team is keen to explore. (Here’s an overview of my full 5 step CAB methodology.) It’s only when you get to step three that you consider who you should invite. This is because you want to invite customers who can actually answer your key questions that will ensure you achieve your objective. (Warning: building the invitation list as your first step is backwards. If you do, you’ll be forced to build an agenda around what the group is capable of talking about instead of what you really want to explore.)
For most tech companies, gathering names of users is easy. But, having business relationships with the C-suite? That’s often illusive.
“How can we invite customer leaders who we don’t yet know?” This is a question I’m asked almost every day. The answer is through ABM.
The CAB is a highly strategic asset. Building the list of target CAB invitees must be a careful exercise that is driven by the CAB’s objective. It’s not about “butts in seats”. It’s about quality of the CAB members who are interested and capable of having a strategy-level conversation with their peers on topics of mutual business interest. CABs are comprised of customer leaders who are driving growth, doing interesting things, and breaking boundaries.
Before you can extend an invitation, you need to know who they are. Use your sales and customer support teams to navigate these target companies to find the ideal CAB members.
Because of the highly personal and exclusive nature of your CAB, do not go out and buy a list. I recommend you make your own. And that requires learning how to navigate your existing customers. With proper direction, your sales and customer support teams can help your executive leaders identify C-suite decision makers.
Research is the silver bullet when it comes to ABM best practices. You need to know what is going on in each of your target CAB companies before you invite them. There is no app that I know of that will do this for you. It requires real work. You must play the role of an investigator.
Here are some tips:
- Read their press (both what they issue and what others write about them)
- Explore their website for articles, blogs, and speeches
- Investigate what their competitors are doing
- Peruse relevant analyst reports about these companies
By conducting your own research, you’ll discover clues to the trends and drivers shaping their business and their future.
Without this knowledge, your messaging (and your CAB invitation) will fail. Again, I offer my mantra: Whoever understands the customer best wins!
You have your list. And now you have collected some insights into their business priorities, pressures, and growth opportunities. Now, it’s time to create your messaging.
Successful messaging requires alignment. If your CAB invitation is “all about you”, you will fail. Don’t say things like: “Please join our CAB so we can build better products.” While that is true, it is self-serving. Your C-suite customers don’t care about you. They do care about themselves and their business. So, the trick is to align your messaging around the issues they care about.
This means that your messaging must be first and foremost about the customer, not you. Tell them that you understand and appreciate their business challenges. Show them that you are paying attention by offering specific insights about how current events are shaping the customer’s industry today and how these will continue to evolve over time. This is how you will win their attention and establish relevance.
Only now are you ready to present your CAB as a unique opportunity to explore these business issues and opportunities together in a collaborative environment.
Successful ABM and your CAB
I’ve guided many tech companies through this process: navigation, research, and alignment. It works when CAB leaders embrace these ABM best practices. But it does take patience and a bit of humility. Bottom line: the formation of a CAB is the perfect excuse to forge a relationship with customer decision makers who you do not yet know. (Check out this FAQ video.) But it requires an ABM approach.
Mike Gospe is a professional CAB facilitator for B2B companies with more than 30 years of B2B tech leadership experience. Since 2002, his market leadership and CAB best practices have helped large and small enterprises deliver more than 100 successful CAB engagements. To learn more about his tools, “how to” books, and custom engagements, please visit his CAB Resource Center or contact Mike.