Three members of an advisory board sitting at a desk

Every brand needs to get to know its customers. Building a community is also beneficial, as it promotes consumer loyalty and can help you retain customers for the years to come. However, surveys and feedback via online review sites are not always accurate or useful for your marketing, sales, and design teams.

Fortunately, you can get to know your customers and build a community in another way – by setting up a customer advisory board. This article will look at what customer advisory boards are, how they work, and the benefits of using them for your organization.

The Importance of Knowing Your Customers

Knowing what drives, motivates, and inspires your customers is vital if you want your business to thrive long-term. When you know your customers, you:

  • Can create more engaging, better-converting marketing campaigns
  • Know what products to make to fulfill the needs of your target audience members
  • Can forge long-lasting, loyal bonds with your target audience and improve customer retention
  • See other benefits over the lifetime of your company

However, it can be very difficult to truly know your customers by posting simple surveys on social media platforms, for example. Feedback forms, surveys, and other attempts to get to know your customers have several issues. These include the self-selecting bias for customers with bones to pick against your company or for people who spend a lot of time online but aren’t necessarily your target audience.

But there’s another way to know your customers better than the competition and reap the rewards.

The Solution: Customer Advisory Boards

A customer advisory board, sometimes called a product advisory council, is a collection of small groups of your target audience members. Then you pick their brains regularly to determine:

  • What your target consumers think about your brand
  • The kinds of products or services your customers would like to see
  • Which ways your brand could service your target customers more readily

Think of customer advisory boards as personal think tanks for your organization. You arrange and facilitate these groups, and you cover any expenses incurred in the process to ensure meetings take place.

In the software scene, for example, customer advisory boards can be thought of as alpha or beta testers. In other industries, customer advisory boards might be the first testers of new products, marketing research groups, etc.

Benefits of Using Customer Advisory Boards

There are many benefits to creating and using customer advisory boards to get to know your customers more directly. These benefits include:

  • The ability to get raw feedback from your customers. If you manage your advisory board well, your feedback won’t be filtered through the internet or the sales team/other teams in your organization.
  • A full understanding of what your customers want and why they choose your brand over competitors. In many cases, this can help you double down on your unique sales proposition or USP and help you triumph over similar brands in your industry.
  • Having a sounding board for new ideas, such as pitches for new loans, services, or products. You can ask your customer advisory board what they think of a new product idea, then proceed or go back to the drawing board based on their feedback.
  • Sales pitch practice. Your sales team can practice different marketing or sales tactics on your customer advisory board, then see what works before moving those efforts to the broader market.
  • Greater fan engagement and loyalty. When created and leveraged regularly, your customer advisory board can help you build a community of even more loyal fans. This is especially true if you build your advisory boards from new fans rather than relying on the same handful of people all the time.

How To Set Up and Run a Customer Advisory Board

To see the major advantages of a customer advisory board, though, you have to build it and run it properly. You can do this by following the below steps:

  • Start by defining the objectives for your customer advisory board, such as validating product direction, identifying new product opportunities, or understanding market trends.
  • Then recruit members from the right people. You don’t want your advisory board to be too big or crowded. Instead, you should try to select a random sample of your target audience members. Make sure your customer advisory board is invite-only!
  • Ensure that your CAB members are representative of your ideal customer base.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule. Draw advisors from the 20% group of customers who provide your brand with 80% of its revenue.
  • Offer benefits for buyers who join the customer advisory board. These include discounts on upcoming sales, free meals, insurance packages from partners, access to new products or experiences, gift cards, and more. It should be easy to draw people to your CAB if you already have a loyal customer base.
  • Always set an agenda for every customer advisory meeting, which will prevent it from getting off track and wasting everyone’s time.
  • Have a list of questions you want to ask and the types of answers you want to receive. Again, this keeps your meetings focused and that your board is tailored toward your organizational goals.

By following these steps, your customer advisory board meetings should be productive for your marketing and sales teams. You’ll be able to gather lots of information about your customers, and leverage that knowledge for greater brand results.

Conclusion

Keep a pulse on your customer base by leveraging the advice of a customer advisory board. The right CAB can give you invaluable knowledge you can’t get anywhere else, even from the most in-depth surveys. Use your customer advisory board well, and you’ll be able to tackle any market shift and keep your customer base loyal for years to come.

Nahla Davis
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

Categories: Small Business Advice