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Feb 21, 2022

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Everything you need to know about customer advisory boards

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Customers are more than just a source of revenue and profits for your company. They’re also full of insights and knowledge that can help take your business and your products to the next level.

But how do you tap into this well of information, and how can you use it to your benefit? That’s where a customer advisory board (CAB) can come into play. Cultivating a strong customer advisory board and implementing marketing strategies, like product-led growth, can send you well on your way to reaching new heights.

What is a customer advisory board?

Here’s a standard customer advisory board definition: a customer advisory board is a group of trusted, hand-picked customers or influencers brought in by a business to be thought leaders and help the company gain key insights into their customer base. Those on customer advisory boards can help by:

  • Contributing to the shape of marketing campaigns
  • Giving advice on future product ideas and concepts
  • Sharing first-hand insight into the customer experience
  • Gathering and sharing vital intelligence about the market

Additionally, a customer advisory board can help foster deep relationships with those key customers, fostering them as powerful brand champions. Since ideally your customer advisory board represents your wider customer base, you can be confident that the decisions you make based on feedback from this group will resonate with your larger population of end users. 

You might also hear a customer advisory board referred to as a “client advisory board,” “product advisory board,” or “customer advisory council.”

How do customer advisory boards work?

On some predetermined, periodic schedule — annually, bi-annually, quarterly — customers are hand-picked and brought in to discuss the company’s direction, products, pipeline, customer support, and other various topics that may be important to your organization and business goals.

Customers chosen to sit on a customer advisory board are generally key account holders or otherwise high-ranking customers that can offer feedback on critical components of services and policies. They can also provide insights and impressions on how the brand is perceived overall by the larger market.

What are the benefits of a customer advisory board?

Now that we have a solid customer advisory board definition and understand how they work, let’s cover the key benefits of creating your own board.

Customer advisory boards help create better product roadmaps

Understanding where you should be headed with your services and products is one of the most valuable insights you can gain from your customer advisory board. It gives you feedback on how customers are using your services, which features people love, and how you should be highlighting or promoting those components.

You’ll also learn where the pain points are for customers, and you’ll be able to take this feedback and put together a comprehensive plan for addressing them. Plus, feedback like this can help you develop and deliver better products in the future.

You can better understand how to market your brand and product

Hopefully, you have a good enough relationship with the customers on your customer advisory board that they will give you the unfiltered truth. Speaking plainly, they can give you a complete picture of where you stand in relation to your competition, and where those gaps might be when it comes to marketing.

With this sort of feedback, you and your team can plan future marketing strategies that address current advertising weaknesses and hopefully bring in new customers as well as maintain relationships with current customers.

Customer advisory boards increase loyalty

Bringing customers into an inner circle, so to speak, where their opinions are not just heard and valued but actually acted upon, can help them develop deep feelings of loyalty. These strong relationships increase the chance that these particular customers could act as influencers or ambassadors, positioning them as reliable brand champions and possibly passing along positive referrals. 

Brand champions help strengthen a company’s reputation and bring in new customers. Plus, since they’re committed to your brand, churn rates in these customers are much lower. They’re also more likely to spend more on higher-tiered products, helping increase your revenue.

What makes a successful customer advisory board?

To glean all of the benefits of a customer advisory board, you have to make sure yours is running smoothly. Here are a few things to remember to set your board up for success:

  • Have clear, set goals
  • Create a detailed schedule and agenda
  • Make sure the board stays action-focused
  • Invite key customers
  • Ensure the relationship is beneficial to all parties involved
  • Be an active listener, even for tough feedback

By incorporating all of these elements, your customer advisory board can push both your customers and your company toward success.

When should you start a customer advisory board?

The best time to set up a customer advisory board is as soon as you can. This is something you can get started with before you even bring your product to market. Customer-centric products and services benefit even more from feedback, so getting a foothold with your customers’ opinions from the start can give you a solid foundation for growth.

With a customer advisory board, you can get valuable insights on your product before you invest a bunch of money and time. Even if you aren’t selling a particular product yet, you can leverage your customers’ loyalty from these discussions to help get your first sales off the ground.

As your company grows, changes, and evolves, or as you introduce new products or services, you can add new faces to your customer advisory board or create an entirely new one based on your goals.

Customer advisory boards and Customer Success

A customer advisory board can help promote a better customer experience, improve retention rates, and contribute to more effective product strategy. It’s all about making sure your end user is happy, and Customer Success teams are working toward the same goal.

Customer advisory boards are just one of many strategies your SaaS company can use to help increase customer loyalty and make sure they stick around. If you’re looking for more, check out our blog, “7 Customer Marketing Strategies to Increase SaaS Retention.”

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