Tips for running a B2B Customer Advisory Board

Once you have a successful B2B product with customer numbers growing and your organisation scaling up, there will be a few high profile customers that stick out. These are standard-setting lighthouse companies in their industry that drive additional sales in their tailwind, early adopters in new market segments or simply XXL accounts driving a significant share of your revenue. These high profile customers are the ones you want to keep happy and engaged. Typically, they receive special caretaking and are subject to engagement initiatives.

Such initiatives are known by several names, each with slightly different focus and flavour:

  • Customer Advisory Board
  • Customer Advisory Council
  • Customer Influencer Council
  • Customer Influencer Group
  • User Group
  • Co-Innovation Initiative
  • Co-Innovation Group
  • Strategic Alliance

Common to all such groups is that they comprise of a small set of named participants who are, typically, users of the product. The product represents a business critical supply or service to them. Their vendor relations come with a high demand for innovation and stability. Members may be competitors to other members in their field of business. 

Some initiatives engage with a rather large number of customers in a 'democratic' way: numbers, issues and priorities are exchanged openly in the group, transparency is highly valued. Members are typically users of the product. Their engagement is of operative nature, usability and feature/function are driving forces.

Other initiatives may be of rather private nature, driving co-innovation while protecting stakeholders' intellectual property. Information stays within the group. Members are typically senior executive in businesses using the product. Their engagement is of strategic nature, industry trends are driving forces.

Common to all such user groups, advisory councils and influencer boards is the information exchange on new product features and the alignment of future priorities. Members have a strong intendet to improve and strengthen the product. They are not in the group to negotiate prices, they are in the group to help you creating an even better version of the product.

The following tips help avoiding common mistakes when running a customer advisory board.

Tips for running an open user group

  • Make participation easy
  • Resist the temptation of hard selling
  • Keep transparency up
  • Appreciate any feedback
  • Actively moderate toxic members, understand their reasoning
  • Under-promise and over deliver, don't over-promise and under-deliver

Tips for running a private customer advisory board

  • It can make sense to split initiatives by customer industry
  • Watch out for members being competitors between them, openly address this. Make it clear: this group is not for collecting competitive intelligence.
  • Nurture the engagement for the long term
  • Stick to your strategy, resist being pulled off track by large deals

Tool support is of advantage to avoid endless manual communication work. Repetitive tasks like group management, voting and rollout can be supported by software.

Are you looking for a tool to run your user group or customer advisory council?

Productific will soon support user groups. For news and updates please check our feature listing for user groups and advisory boards