Why so many companies fail to optimize client advisory boards and PIE’s recommendations for success.
Establishing a client advisory board (CAB) is one of the best ways to build trust with and be responsive to the needs of your highest-priority clients. But so often, companies get it wrong, potentially causing more harm than good. In our conversations with leaders across industries, we have learned that there are four key challenges companies must overcome to deliver successful CAB programs.
Challenge #1: Establishing a Proper Governance Structure
Without a clear and robust governance structure, CABs lack the ownership, buy-in, and follow-through necessary for making the initiative valuable for your organization and clients alike. Selecting one arm of the business to run point on the program helps establish clear expectations and reporting structures. In parallel, organizations should also create a cross-functional internal steering committee, ideally comprised of marketing, sales, product/service development, and executive leadership, to incorporate goals from various verticals and gain buy-in and alignment across the business.
Challenge #2: Selecting the Correct Mix of Clients
In an effort to include a range of perspectives, organizations often dilute the quality of their CAB’s conversations by bringing together various seniorities and functional leaders from client organizations. In doing so, the audience has different interests and perspectives, often without commonality as a foundation for basing a conversation. To avoid this pitfall, we recommend focusing on the key decision-maker persona and building a like-group of peers for participation in the advisory board. If an organization has the bandwidth and interest to gain a variety of perspectives, smaller peer-level subgroups within their CAB community can simultaneously ensure cross-functional feedback is incorporated into the larger advisory board strategy.
Challenge #3: Creating Agendas that Satisfy Organization & Participant Needs
Although client feedback is often the driving objective of CABs, many organizations view this as the sole objective of their CAB gatherings, leading to top-down agendas that are important to the organization but often deliver little value back to their clients. Striking a balance between top-down interests from the organization and bottom-up topics of priority from the advisory board participants lends way to a compelling conversation that adds value for all. When this approach is incorporated into the model, it will cultivate a a sustainable, loyal, and mutually beneficial client community.
Challenge #4: Managing Touchpoints & Following-Up
Many businesses that run a CAB program bring their client community together once per year, organizing a multi-day event with dinners, experiential events, and product or service-focused sessions. Once the event wraps, there is often little-to-no intentional and continued engagement with the clients who participated until the next annual gathering. Organizations also often struggle to follow through on much of the feedback they receive. While a fun event for clients to network with one another and provide input on the organizational roadmap is important, the ongoing opportunity to connect regularly and feel included in the continued progress and communication is often more valued. Increasing the frequency of CAB engagements and assigning specific team members to follow-up tasks is one way to guard against this common error.
A Third-Party Perspective
We see these challenges frequently when partnering with clients to help manage their advisory boards. While the importance is felt, it often becomes the work that falls off the plate during busy seasons or the stressful task that ends up taking nights and weekends. Our clients have discovered that the addition of PIE’s expert services in this arena keeps the advisory board at the forefront, holds the steering committee accountable, and owns the next action delivering a heightened advisory board experience for the organization and for the participants.
The biggest hurdle many companies face curating a seamless, mutually valuable client advisory board experience is simple: organizational bandwidth. That’s why many of our clients choose to partner with PIE. As a third-party CAB delivery and consulting firm, we provide expertise on governance structures, meeting cadence, and client engagement while providing critical delivery support, helping our clients create curated communities that provide strategic insights and deepen relationships with their highest priority clients. If you would like to strategize about ways to improve your client advisory board program, let’s talk!