Getting your customers to participate in a customer advisory board isn’t too difficult: customers love to sit on advisory boards. They appreciate not only the opportunity to be heard and to have a relationship with a key vendor, but also the opportunity to hear what’s happening with their peers and to make important industry connections with your other users.
However, ongoing advisory board programs do require a level of commitment in order to develop a great group dynamic. Typically we ask for a one-year commitment which includes four quarterly meetings. My personal favorite is to kick the year off with an in-person customer advisory board meeting and then conduct three online meetings.
The best way to keep customers engaged with such an ongoing advisory board program is to show them that their feedback is actually impacting the company and its products. One way to do that is to start all customer advisory board meetings, except for the first one, with a summary of how the feedback from the previous meeting has impacted the company and its products.
But you can go even further and engage your customers even more. When I ran marketing at Freshwater Software, we had a product-focused advisory board (the “ThinkTank”) that was held bi-annually. Participants were asked to come prepared with their top three product requests. During the meetings, we spent time reviewing those requests and prioritizing them.
We used to end the meetings by voting on the top three features the group wanted. We committed to customers that if they took the time to participate, we would guarantee that at least one of their top three features would get into the product. We were often able to get more than just one of their top features into the product. But the important point is that this kind of commitment drove active and passionate participation in the advisory board meetings.