The success of your Customer Advisory Board meeting has everything to do with the questions you ask and how you ask them.
The sad reality can be summed up in what a CMO once told me:
Well that was interesting, but I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know!
Congratulations on concluding your CAB meeting; too bad you didn’t learn anything. When this is the result, it is easy to see why some companies fall out of love with their CAB program.
The CMO is a smart guy; his team is genuinely interested in having a strategy-level conversation with the CAB. So, what happened?
Your CAB is a strategic asset
In short, the executive team didn’t invest enough time to figure out what they really wanted to learn from their CAB. They viewed the CAB as an “event”, not an opportunity for strategic market research.
It is easy to avoid this pitfall with some proper planning.
Linking your CAB with your annual planning process
Your very first step when forming a CAB is to build a CAB Charter Statement.
Once you’ve clarified your objective, then you can focus on the discussion topics and specific things you want to learn from your CAB. CAB questions typically fall into one of three buckets:
1) Validating what you know (or what you think you know)
2) Challenging a set of assumptions
3) Exploring a new (or evolving) topic
Now it’s time to form your questions. And these questions should link back to issues you and your CEO are wrestling with.
Questions and strategies
Here’s an example I share in my Flipchart Guide to Customer Advisory Boards, V1, and I expanded on this in a recent webinar.
For every question a CEO asks his/her team, there is a “CAB corollary” question. That is, there is a version of this question that can be asked of your CAB members.
The questions on the left are five real questions a CEO asked his team during his annual planning offsite. (I was hired to facilitate this executive planning offsite.) Each of these questions sparked animated and constructive conversation.
The questions on the right are the variations we asked his CAB members. The design of these questions is very important because you do not want to “lead the witness”, but you want to frame the question so the conversation stays relevant to you.
As CAB members answered the questions on the right, it was easy to understand how the team should approach the questions on the left. For example, when CAB members answered question #4 (“Which vendors are role models?”), they told us things about how our (the host company) competitors approached the market, and therefore which ones we should focus on. Because we asked the question in this way, we avoided any implied bias. The discussion that followed also revealed our competitive strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, members of the CEO’s team were very worried that they needed to be reactive to every competitive threat. The reality, from the CAB members, was that most of that was just market noise that didn’t matter to what was truly important to them. This was a definite “Aha!” moment; I heard the collective team breathe a sigh of relief! To summarize”:
- The Annual Planning questions are “all about you”
- The CAB questions “all about them”
Learn how to harness the full potential of your CAB
To learn something new you must ask the right question in the right way. This is one of the important ways to finesse your CAB program so you dramatically reduce the risk of poor meeting. And you must be ready to listen.
CAB Charters, agenda, and question strategies are just a few of the topics we’ll work on together in our next CAB Masterclass.
Series: May 4, 11 & 18, 2022
Time: 8 – 10 am PACIFIC
Seating is limited
For more information . . .
Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator with more than 20 years of CAB experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 250 world-class CAB meetings around the world. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s CAB practice.
Check out more of his best practices articles and videos on his CAB Resource Center.