If you’ve been tasked to build a CAB business case, you are in good company. However, just because they are popular doesn’t mean it is the right tool for your business right now. To make the most compelling business case, anchor your argument with answers to these three critical questions.

1) What’s happening in your market? Is you business at a nexus point?

Whenever there are events, real or imagined, that cause your customers to feel less confident about your company, then your business is at risk. Examples include: changes with the CEO or leadership team, new acquisitions, company splits or divestitures, a radical market evolution, a shift in the competitive landscape, introduction or failure of product lines — any of these may give your customers pause. You can’t afford to allow your competitors to play the “fear, uncertainty, or doubt” card against you. Investing in a CAB is an excellent way to stay ahead of these threats. It allows you to stay in control of how your best customers perceive you, even if your ecosystem is in flux. And whose isn’t?

But, your CAB business case should not be predicated on crisis management. It’s best used as a proactive customer engagement tool. When used properly, it strengthens customer relationships and invites a new, much more strategic conversation than you have ever enjoyed before. And this is when the CAB becomes a competitive differentiator for your company.

2) What do you not know regarding the trends & drivers shaping your B2B customers’ businesses?

It’s tempting to think you already know everything you need to know abut your market and why your customers buy from you. However, this is a very dangerous assumption because markets can change at any time. And so, your business case needs to address future conditions. And the only real way to get your finger on the pulse is to talk with senior decision makers in your customer base.

Your business case should provide insights and perspectives about the following questions:

  • How are your B2B customers’ businesses evolving over the next 3 years to address their own customers’ evolving wants and needs?
  • Do they expect their needs to change regarding the types of products and services they are buying from you?
  • Why are they buying from you today? And, do they foresee buying more or less from you in the future?

The business case for sponsoring a CAB initiative is not about “how do we sell more stuff today”. Instead, it addresses a much more serious question: “How can we maintain our leadership position and stay relevant to our customers in the future?” Relevance is the key word. Customer satisfaction surveys and product focus groups, while providing some great feedback, are not able to answer this key question. You need a CAB for that. And this is how and why a CAB is a complement (not a replacement) to your other voice-of-the-customer engagement tools.

3) What critical business decisions do you need to make that will affect your 3-5 year roadmap?

If you host a CAB and all you get out of it is, “Oh, that was interesting”, then you’ve missed the whole point. You and your team are busy. You have better things to do than waste your time in a meeting where you don’t learn anything new.

Instead, your business case for sponsoring a CAB needs to be tied to specific business decisions you are wrestling with.  However, customers will never be able to tell you whether you should invest in market A or B. They do not know your business as well as you do. However, they can tell you how they will likely react to changes in the market, your value proposition, and your engagement model. And so, you need to find out how their businesses are evolving, where they will be investing 3 years from now, and how they will respond to future needs. While your customers are sharing their stories, you’ll want to listen beyond the words they are speaking. You will want to focus on the implications of their decisions. And these implications will provide you with important information that will help guide your business decisions. An effective CAB will help you explore or validate important business decisions you need to make this year that will affect your future.

Summary

Your CAB business case should not stand in isolation from your business strategy and annual plan. The CAB offers you a unique tool to explore your customers’ businesses and how and why they see their needs evolving in the next 3 years. Engaging with your best, most strategic customers in this way, establishes a unique bond of understanding and relevance that your competitors will find very difficult to match. It’s a key tool for changing the nature of your relationship from that of basic “vendor” to a truly “strategic partner”.

What to read next: 4 Objectives for Designing your CAB

What to read next: How to link your CAB to your executive planning offsite

Mike Gospe, professional CAB facilitator

Mike Gospe, professional CAB facilitator

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