What makes a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) so valuable?
This is a really good question, and one that CEOs wrestle with especially if they have never run a CAB program before.
Often, the default expectation is that if the CAB doesn’t immediately result in quarterly sales, then the program is a failure and a waste of time. It is very important to understand that a CAB is not a demand-generation marketing tactic. Instead, it represents a strategic asset — a unique source of customer research and guidance.
5 ways to think about CAB value
1) CABs represent a unique and personal form of executive-level market research
Your CAB offers you a direct line to the voice of the customer. In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, understanding customer needs and preferences is crucial for businesses looking to stay ahead. CAB members, being experienced users of the company’s products or services, offer invaluable insights and perspectives that can help shape future offerings. By actively involving customers in the decision-making process, companies can align their strategies and priorities with what truly matters to their most important stakeholders. This is crucial to not only establishing a leadership position today, but maintaining it in the future.
2) CABs are sounding boards to test new ideas, innovations, and initiatives
A good technology won’t sell itself. It must clearly address a customer problem or opportunity that they care about. Is your vision and value proposition relevant to your customers as they plan for their own future investments and priorities? This is the key question!
Companies often face the challenge of assessing the potential viability and impact of their proposed innovations. By exploring the trends and drivers impacting your customers’ businesses, you will gain clues and perspectives that will help you validate (or challenge) your own market assumptions.
In addition, CAB members can help you identify blind spots, validate assumptions, and identify potential roadblocks. This feedback loop significantly reduces the risk of launching initiatives that may not resonate with the market or fail to address customer pain points.
3) CABs foster a sense of community and advocacy
For anything “mission critical”, customers do not want transactional vendors. They want a trusted partner. By fostering a small, intimate, exclusive community with your best customers, your CAB provides them with an opportunity to share their business goals, priorities, and what they most need from you to help them succeed. Treating CAB members as trusted advisors, strengthens their loyalty and commitment to your company. This positive relationship between the company and its customers not only encourages long-term partnerships but also promotes positive word-of-mouth recommendations. CAB members often become influential brand ambassadors, sharing their positive experiences and insights with their networks, thereby expanding your company’s reach and attracting new customers.
4) Your CAB will help strengthen a customer-driven culture within your company
By actively involving customers in the decision-making process, companies foster a customer-centric mindset throughout their workforce. Employees gain a deeper understanding of the customers’ challenges and needs, which influences their day-to-day decision-making. This customer-centric culture, in turn, improves overall customer satisfaction and helps the company create products and services that truly resonate with their target market.
5) Your CAB acts as an early warning system for emerging trends and issues
CAB members, being at the forefront of their respective industries, can identify market shifts, competitive threats, or changing customer preferences before they become mainstream. This early awareness enables companies to adapt and stay ahead of the curve, ensuring they remain agile and responsive in an ever-evolving business landscape.
Focus on the “big picture”
Customer priorities, needs, and wants can change at anytime. And with COVID and the looming recession, they are changing now (again). Are you and your leadership team paying attention? Maintaining your fingers on the pulse of your customers is always imperative.
The value of a Customer Advisory Board cannot be overstated. It serves as a direct conduit to the voice of the customer, providing invaluable insights, guiding strategic initiatives, and fostering a customer-centric culture within organizations. By actively involving customers in the decision-making process, companies can stay ahead of the competition, build stronger relationships, and create products and services that truly meet the needs of their evolving target market. A CAB is not just a forum for feedback; it is a catalyst for growth, innovation, and long-term success.