One $50M technology hardware company used their CAB to double the annual revenue of their dozen CAB members in less than 3 years because they better understood the trends facing their top customers. Another logistics and transportation company used their CAB to double their business from $500M to $1B+ in 10 years because they discovered the seeds for a new revenue stream. This type of success is also in your reach, if you know how to properly embrace your CAB program.

In truth, in my 20+ years as a CAB strategist, I’ve seen too many mediocre CAB programs — CAB programs that were not fully, properly deployed. But, for those companies that commit to integrating their CAB into their annual planning and sales account review processes, they enjoy accelerated growth.

Here’s what they do


1) The CAB program is treated as a corporate initiative, not a “special project”

The CEO knows that embracing the CAB is an important tool for discovering how to double annual revenue. By directly sponsoring the CAB program, he or she sets clear expectations for the leadership team that customer input and feedback are critical for success. The CEO’s leadership team rallies around the themes and key questions that are to be explored with CAB members – in and outside of CAB meetings. (Hint: the CAB program is much more than a single in-person meeting held once per year.) More importantly, company leaders then incorporate this customer feedback into their department plans as they prioritize where and when to invest. In this way, the thread of the CAB program is visible internally not just in the CAB meeting, but throughout the year.

The CEO extends the CAB invitation. He or she also participates in each meeting. There is nothing worse than hosting a CAB meeting where the CEO pops in for 5 minutes to say, “have a great meeting”. That’s disingenuous and bad etiquette. Customers then wonder why they are investing their time to share strategic insights on the market and their business needs with a CEO who has no time for them.

And the CAB program is never delegated to an event manager to fully own themselves. That duty often belongs to an executive member of the CEO’s team, usually the CMO or CPO. While they are an important member of the team, if the weight of this strategic program is put solely on the event manager’s shoulders, they will quickly become frustrated in trying to push the program uphill. The CAB is never treated as a marketing “event”; if it is, other executives are likely to downgrade the importance of the program. And, the CAB is never treated as a short-term sales tool to juice sales. That turns off customers.

In short, the CAB program is fully embraced from the CEO and leadership team. When designed and executed properly, it is a market research tool that inspires innovation. It is treated as a corporate asset that is just as important as their brand.

Read: What is a Customer Advisory Board?


2) The CAB and annual planning process are flip sides of the same coin

For every question the CEO and leadership team debate internally, there is a question that is relevant for a CAB meeting. You just need to know how to frame the question.

For example, during the CEO’s Q4 annual planning offsite, a set of guidelines are discussed – guidelines that the leadership team will use to make trade-off decisions regarding the roadmap, acquisitions, partnerships, go-to-market models, corporate structure, etc. In addition, the team will build assumptions about the market’s pain points and growth potentials.

With this planning structure drafted, questions can be identified for exploration with the CAB. However, the framing of these questions will not be centered on the company. Instead, they will be centered on the customer. (The customer is the hero of the story, not your company and not the product.)

CEOs of successful CAB programs know that it is critically important to stay in tune with their customers:

  • Is their (the customer’s) business growing?
  • Where are they investing?
  • How are their end-customers changing, and what will be the impact of these changes on the vendors they work with?
  • What can we do to help our customers achieve their business goals?

These are highly strategic questions. These are not product feature-focused questions. (Use a product focus group for that!)

After the CAB meeting, when these sessions are documented and the insights and observations are shared internally, the leadership team will have more meaningful debates. And these discussions will have been informed from this unique form of market research.

Decisions will not be made based on random, egocentric decree. (“Fred said to do this, so do it!”)

They will be made based on having built an informed business case that incorporates real tangible feedback that is applicable to both strategies and plans. (“During our CAB meeting we explored X trends, and customers shared insight on what they’ll need to achieve success. This informs our business case …”)

It is much easier to support a business plan informed by CAB member input than it is to dictate a personal gut reaction.

Read: Mapping the right questions to your CAB


3) The investment (time and money) in a CAB program remains a priority despite economic turbulence

It is easy to have a conversation with customers when time are good. However, it is most crucial to have conversations with customers when times are uncertain.  

The truth is that those companies that keep their finger on the pulse of customers during hard times earn deeper respect from and appreciation of their best customers. This creates goodwill. And when economic times improve (as they always do), those companies will outpace their competitors. I’ve witnessed this happen through multiple recessions.

Available budget may ebb and flow. But the CAB connections always remains a priority. It becomes ingrained in the company’s DNA. New cost-effective approaches for virtual CAB meetings and CAB “pod” discussions have become commonplace today. In fact, world-class CAB programs have multiple touch-points with CAB members throughout the year. So, even when economic times get tight, world-class CAB programs find lower cost ways to keep productive and relevant conversations going with their best customers.

Read: 10 Updated tips for driving a successful CAB program

Read: 3 Ways to keep your CAB afloat when your budget gets cut


4) Discover new revenue streams that drive sales today and tomorrow

Once your CAB meeting has concluded, the work really begins. The key to doubling your annual revenue is to connect the dots between what the customers shared in the CAB meeting to their unique priorities. This is where you tie the CAB program to the annual sales account review process. Let me be clear: I am not talking about a traditional quarterly business review (QBR) or operational review.

Your CAB meeting is a strategy-level business meeting held with 8-12 of your most important customers. Now, you need to take the knowledge and insight and bring it home to each and every CAB member individually. You connect the dots between the group conversation and you explore the relevance in a one-on-one setting.

For example: “Tom, you said some interesting things during the CAB, and we’d like to explore the implications of what’s exactly going on in your company. We think we can help.” It is possible “Tom” may not know that you already provide solutions that can help him. Or, “Tom’s” insights might spark the discovery of a related, but new revenue stream. (This is what happened with the two example companies I shared in the introduction.)

These meetings are exciting for both you and your customer. It’s a chance to think ahead. To explore trends and drivers that are impacting the horizon. 

Read: How to use your CAB to drive innovation


Bottom line: Why running an effective CAB program is easy to say, but so hard to do

Can your CAB program help you discover how to double your annual revenue? Absolutely!

It doesn’t matter if you are $20M company or a well-established brand company. But it does require leadership, a long-term commitment to the program, and the application of CAB best practice with consistency and discipline. 

Here is a few common reasons why so many CAB programs fail to live up to their full potential:

  • CAB programs don’t always have endorsement, involvement, nor expectations from the CEO.
  • Product teams are uncomfortable hearing industry or use-case feedback that may go against their business plan, so they choose not to participate proactively or constructively in the planning process.
  • Listening is a very hard skill for many executives who find it easier to talk.
  • You must be patient. Harnessing the full potential of your CAB program is a marathon, not a sprint; the CAB program is viewed as a burden for those executives who expect a quick ROI.
  • There is an incorrect assumption that a CAB meeting is “just another meeting with customers” instead of being treated as a corporate asset.

You’ll find a lot more best practices on my CAB Resource Center blog, including my CAB Masterclass, or my CAB Office Hours program. Looking for more info or best practices? Drop me an email.

Contact Mike

Mike Gospe is an CAB strategist and professional facilitator for B2B companies. Since 2002, his marketing leadership and CAB best practices have guided B2B tech companies of all sizes to deliver more than 250 successful CAB engagements. His CAB Resource Center – a website dedicated to CAB best practices – has become a trusted resource for CAB managers and executive sponsors around the world.