Why You Need a Customer Advisory Board and How to Build One Wisely

The most important part of my job as the leader of Signifyd’s customer marketing team is listening — listening to our customers’ challenges, successes, aspirations, innovative ideas and, yes, criticism.  But none of that can happen in a vacuum.

Instead, it is my responsibility to create an environment where customers can be heard and where they feel they can candidly share the information that is vital for me — along with our product, sales and customer success teams — to know in order to have all the knowledge we need to execute our goals on behalf of customers.

What is a Customer Advisory Board?

We just took a huge step toward achieving that reality by launching Signifyd’s inaugural Customer Advisory Board.  A Customer Advisory Board, or CAB, is a marketing program made up of strategic customers who work closely with company executives to provide guidance on corporate strategies, offer input on products and services and address and create solutions to industry challenges.

Key components for a successful Customer Advisory Board

Like any vital corporate initiative, launching a Customer Advisory Board requires thought, planning and company-wide cooperation. As for the key components for a successful Customer Advisory Board, I broke it down like this: 

  • An overarching theme that is compelling to CAB members — customer experience, for example, for a board of retail executives 
  • Customer Advisory Board members who have equal stature to create an environment of peer exchange
  • Strong follow-up and ongoing management of the Customer Advisory Board, after and in-between face-to-face meetings
  • Creating a sense of shared future
  • Committing to active listening
  • Ensuring that board meetings promote engaging initiatives that add real value 

A well-designed and managed Customer Advisory Board enables companies to progress

Once you have the characteristics of your Customer Advisory  Board laid out in front of you, it helps to articulate how, as an organization, you intend to benefit from creating the board. While this is an important step, keep in mind that benefits must run both ways for a CAB to be a success. That said, we expect our board to help Signifyd in the following ways: 

  • Increase understanding of how the company’s products and services benefit customers
  • Increase understanding of how to best close product or service gaps 
  • Validate strategy and gain feedback for new ideas and product development
  • Gain internal alignment on customer perspectives and go-to-market plans
  • Deepen relationships with top accounts
  • Increase market intelligence on competitor strategies
  • Strengthen customer advocates

What makes Signifyd Customer Advisory Board Unique

While the key components and benefits of a customer advisory board are somewhat universal, we also wanted to make sure our board was unique in some significant ways, so that we were confident that we were providing value to our board members.

To that end, we focused on the strategic selection of customers as we started to assemble the Signifyd Customer Advisory Board.  It started when we created a core internal team that focused on selecting a strategic board. We sat in a room for several weeks outlining the type of customers that we thought would make an impact on our business. We also thoughtfully planned our agenda and the components for our inaugural meeting. Each CAB member we selected has an intriguing background.

We kept in mind that Signifyd is a unique business that caters to a variety of ecommerce companies. We believe the next generation of ecommerce will play a huge role in forming Signifyd’s products and vision. We are privileged and delighted to have such unique perspectives in one room that will make a meaningful impact on our future. 

Five key takeaways and tips to run an effective Customer Advisory Board

So, what did we learn as we conceived of and assembled our Customer Advisory Board? Our key takeaways address five areas:

  1. Selection Process: CAB member selection 
    • Selecting the right customers — this may be the most important part of launching your customer advisory board. When designing our CAB at Signifyd, I scheduled ongoing meetings with our executive team to review a list of our key customers. The executive team reviewed each key customer and we asked ourselves the following: 
      1. Is this customer strategic? 
      2. Will this customer drive innovation in our products? 
      3. Is our executive sponsor at the company senior enough to join? 
      4. Will this customer be willing to commit the time necessary to serve on the CAB?
  2. Collaboration: CAB Content 
    • Partnering with the product, account management, marketing and customer success teams is key to launching a successful CAB. You want to make sure that you create content that taps the entirety of your organization’s expertise. 
  3. Location / Agenda 
    • A board member usually devotes an entire day to attending your CAB meeting. It’s important to make it worthwhile for your board members. At Signifyd, we chose sunny San Diego for our CAB meeting. CAB members flew from Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, etc., and choosing a unique city and venue added a special touch for our customer experience. 
  4. Suprise and Delight
    • This is the fun part. On the day of your CAB meeting, the board members sit through an all-day session discussing industry trends, product roadmaps, and much more. It’s always great to end the day with a fun event to show your appreciation to your key customers. At Signifyd we scheduled a VIP mixology course for our CAB members and continued the evening getting to know one another. Paying attention to the details that go into ensuring you provide a good experience from beginning to end is key to having a successful CAB. 
  5. Follow up strategy 
    • Even once the in-person meeting is complete, the important work continues. The follow-up. You want to make sure you keep the momentum going. Following up with thank you notes, feedback surveys and the next steps for the next meeting are key to keeping high engagement with this select group of people.

Ultimately, to have a successful Customer Advisory Board, you must collaborate with multiple stakeholders to ensure you design an amazing agenda with fulfilling content. You must be thoughtful in every aspect. You must be precise and consistent. These are your prime customers, after all. In fact, as CAB members, they are now your prime partners as well.

Above all else, you want to be sure they’re treated that way.

Photo by Camille Chang, Signifyd

Kalina Bryant

Kalina is the head of customer marketing at Signifyd. A marketing guru and social psychology geek, she focuses on building customer relationships and ensuring our customers are successful. Contact her at kalina.bryant@signifyd.com.

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