Ensuring the Success of your Customer Advisory Board

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“Think about who you want to have on your customer advisory board, and how they represent your customer-base as a whole. You have an opportunity to create a diverse panel, if you so choose, or to remain conservative and only invite happy, content customers. My recommendation: avoid the love-fest and include some agitators,” – TheCMA.org

The primary point of departure that sets human beings apart from other creatures on the planet is the size of the human brain relative to the body mass of an average human. Without exception, large animals such as lions, giraffes, hippos, tigers, whale sharks, and boa constrictors, etc. have smaller brains relative to their body mass. This fact of evolutionary biology spotlights the centrality of intelligence in the growth and expansion of the human species. Similarly, commercial organizations must implement strategies that enable them to tap the power of human brains, the potential inherent in the human imagination, and the analytical skills associated with the human cerebellum. The modern customer advisory board represents one of the stalwart devices that enable corporate brands and businesses to harvest our collective intelligence in the pursuit of business outcomes. We will examine some of the strategies that enable commercial organizations to harness the considerable powers of said device.

A customer advisory board can help businesses in validating their corporate strategy and build commercial acumen in competitive markets. The collective knowledge and wisdom of such a board can be swiveled to bear on every operational detail and policy aspect of a company’s business. For instance, a manufacturer of breakfast cereals and health food products can institute a customer advisory board to bring forth suggestions on new product development. The various members of the board can deploy their industry experience in a bid to create suggestions. Members of the board can represent the voice of the customer in examining suggestions from the customer’s point of view, examine market scenarios, and scrutinize trends in consumer behavior before arriving at a set of cogent proposals. This exercise can add immense value to the creation of future products from an organizational point of view. Brand managers and product managers can benefit from the recommendations of the customer advisory board, as can corporate titans and captains of industry. In light of the above, we may state that these boards are essential in guiding the formation and evolution of corporate policy and informing the processes that drive commercial enterprise.

The modern customer represents an informed constituency that wields immense power in the fluid, competitive markets that define the globalized world. Therefore, their participation through a customer advisory board is essential in stewarding modern corporate strategies. Customers can encourage peer-to-peer networking in a bid to uncover priceless market intelligence for the benefit of a corporate entity. For instance, a well-documented business study indicates that certain titans of the FMCG industry framed innovative tactics in marketing personal care products through the good offices of a customer advisory board. These market operators brainstormed the idea of selling sachets of FMCG products such as premium shampoos and top detergents to large numbers of customers in the developing world. The strategy hit the proverbial pot of gold and met with widespread success, thereby creating additional, fluent revenue streams for the commercial players in large, developing markets. This strategy is in sharp divergence to the tried-and-tested policy of marketing said products in large containers to customers in Western markets. We may say that this example illuminates an emphatic ‘win’ for the modern customer advisory board.

Brands and businesses should constitute a customer advisory board with top-tier customers that can bring unique insights into the operation of a business enterprise. We note that these customers should have the ability to evangelize a company’s offerings to internal stakeholders and to prominent entities in external markets. This quality should help a business enterprise to further its agenda of gaining top-notch advocacy from elite customers. The diversity of the many points of view created inside a customer advisory board should be encouraged in a constructive spirit. The resulting discussions and conversations can lead to illuminating insights that can power certain aspects of company strategy. For instance, a manufacturer of commercial aircraft engines can invest in the creation of a customer advisory board with a view to invite and examine divergent points of view. The company’s management cadre can interact with board members in formal round table discussions, discover new business opportunities, and prioritize action items in an unbiased environment. The strategy level meeting may include a dozen customers and their representatives can should foster close discussions on issues of mutual interest. The outcomes can include a resounding validation of company strategy or the creation of new directions of thought.

The members of a customer advisory board can avail the opportunity to preview and test a company’s new offerings prior to a commercial release. This implies that the board members are essentially a testing board that can offer valuable reactions, inputs, corrections, and insights from a product point of view. This is vital because this exercise enables the company to gather ‘early’ data from select customers and tweak a product if deemed necessary. For instance, a designer and manufacturer of software packages can seek inputs from its customer advisory board with a view to fine-tune a ‘beta’ product before its public release in software markets. This strategy ensures that company management gains access to a slice of public reaction to a new or improved product. This is significant in modern commerce because product failure can extract very heavy costs in terms of brand reputation and lost revenues. In such a scenario, market rivals gain the upper hand and steal the proverbial march, while the ire of stakeholders can make for ‘bad press.’ In light of this analysis, we may state that a customer advisory board serves as a microcosm of the market and helps to prevent brand failure.

A successful session of a customer advisory board can empower brands and businesses to deepen customer engagement and minutely examine market challenges. Board members can leverage their points of view and market knowledge to spotlight gaps in customer engagement strategies and throw market challenges into sharp relief. This building of awareness is priceless and can guide the future actions of commercial operators. Once identified, company managers can put in place plans to address said gaps and re-work business strategy to gain optimal outcomes. Market challenges can present rude awakenings when subject to corporate oversight. The board members of a customer advisory board can outline said challenges, suggest suitable counter strategies, and facilitate the creation of a consensus that sharpens the corporate intent to succeed. These outcomes can help corporate captains to address crucial issues on a priority basis, while tacking challenges head-on.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined some of the benefits of a successful engagement with a customer advisory board. Business experts note “an effective customer advisory board, providing non-binding but informed guidance, can be a tremendous ally in the quest for superior corporate governance.” This statement is emblematic of the multiple merits and sound business sense that drive the constitution of a customer advisory board. Brands and businesses must undertake to refine these strategies in a bid to register incremental gains in modern markets.

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