Customer Advisory Boards
The source of this confusion is likely traced back to sloppy semantics. These terms are not meant to be interchangeable. Customers have very different expectations for each. For example: the best run CABs discuss strategic topics that effect your customers’ priorities, investment plans, and vision. They want to know how your company can help them achieve success. These are business-level discussions, not tactical “how to” conversations.
Product Focus Groups
Product managers run focus groups. The objective is to gather feedback about specific product features or use cases. Product focus groups are typically run as a series of small group discussions with targeted users. A healthy organization will actually run both a CAB program and a series of product focus groups; however, different types of people attend each.
A customer conference, or a user group meeting, may be quite bigger. Here, the focus is on educating customers. You want to help them maximize their investment with you by taking full advantage of the product capabilities and use cases.
Pick the right tool for the right job
All three may be part of your larger Voice of the Customer strategy or program. Certainly, they share a desire to engage customers in valuable dialog. However, the objectives for each are different.
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