Product Management

Customer Advisory Board (CAB)

What is a customer advisory board?

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a group of influential or key customers that a product manager invites to periodic events or an ongoing project for advice and feedback about a product, service, or brand.

What are the benefits of a customer advisory board?

Even if your product team is already leveraging feedback from various stages in development, understanding how to gather and use feedback to guide the future of your product is crucial to your ongoing success and revenue goals. It's also an essential tool for deepening a relationship with key customers. Research from Ignite Advisory Group shows that businesses with customer advisory boards increase business from members of the CAB by 9%.

The benefits of a customer advisory board typically include:

  • Nurturing brand evangelists and champions
  • Collecting insights from industry professionals on competitor strategies
  • Tuning a product pitch and marketing messaging
  • Validating the product roadmap and vision

Creating a customer advisory board: Best Practices

1. Setting goals and objectives

This is arguably the most important step before creating a customer advisory board. Define your intentions and set metrics to measure how well you're meeting your goals. Are you looking to understand competitors, shape your roadmap, identify gaps or challenges with your product? Or maybe you want real-world insight on how customers are using your product. Clearly state your goals so you can effectively communicate them to your stakeholders.

2. Identify customer candidates

Once you've clearly identified your goals, it's critical to align those goals with the types of customers you recruit to your CAB. For example, if you need insights into your competitors' strategies, you want customers who have engaged with your competitors. Come up with a list of core requirements that all candidates must meet, as well as demographic and technographic segments to create a clear picture of the types of customers you need to recruit. Here is a standard and effective process for recruiting.

3. Build your research questions

Break your CAB goals down into questions you need to ask in order to get the insight you need. For example, if your goal is understanding pain points and feature gaps, focus on research questions like "What are the product areas where you experience difficulties?" or "Tell me how you use the product on a regular day" and seek follow-up to identify friction points. Of course, you’ll want to avoid leading questions and other common survey mistakes.

4. Create your agenda or activity guide

An agenda or activity guide can refer to a single event, like a conference call or discussion, or a set of activities spread across a week. Similar to identifying candidates for your CAB, leverage the intent or goals behind your CAB to inform its agenda. An agenda can come in a few types that depend on the goal of your CAB, but they all share a similar structure:

  • Introductions: Let everyone get to know each other and the host.
  • Goals: Make sure your candidates understand the purpose behind your CAB so they can provide more focused and accurate feedback.
  • Questions: Get to the questions you have that are going to help achieve your goals and objectives.
  • Next Steps: When you are ending your session or week of collection, recap what was learned and set up your next steps. Customers love hearing that you are taking action.

5. Set up your workspace and invite candidates

Customer advisory boards should have a space for its members to see what's happening or what they can expect. Give participating customers a branded workspace to get the brand advocate juices flowing, and make sure you have the ability to communicate easily with testers. Other helpful features include: the ability to generate reports based on data collected and accessible agreement management. From there, invite your customers into the workspace and have them sign their Non-Disclosure Agreements before you get down to business.

Customer advisory board charter

Transparency and clear communication are key to an effective customer advisory board. A customer advisory board charter is a document or resources used to communicate the purpose and objectives of the CAB with an internal executive team. It's also a resource for members of the CAB that outlines what's expected from them by committing to participate. 

Your customer advisory board charter should include the following sections:

  • The mission or scope of the CAB
  • Expected duration of the program or length of membership
  • Member benefits, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Host or CAB leaderships responsibilities

Should you pay customer advisory board members?

If you have a budget, it can be nice to reward your customer advisory board members' contributions with gift cards or products. This is a useful tactic to ensure engagement for specific events attendance. However, you do need to keep your customers' policies for accepting gifts from clients in mind.

Other great options include making donations to a named charity on their behalf or branded merchandise. Many customers join CABs for the thrill of engaging with you and shaping the product. That said, be sure to engage with them in return and demonstrate how you're taking action on the feedback they've provided to keep your CAB members engaged.

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