Creating and launching a product is one thing but developing and improving it is another. One of the best ways to do this is by absorbing as much feedback as possible through Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) and customer feedback loops.

Tapping into honest critique from your customers is a crucial part of not only the strategic direction of your product but of your organization as a whole - even if sometimes, the truth is tough to hear.

Want to know more about the what, why, and how of CABs? Don’t miss our upcoming Masters course with Bree Bunzel, Head of Global Customer Marketing at Dropbox.

What are Customer Advisory Boards?

A Customer Advisory Board is a group of existing customers brought together on a regular basis to advise your company on forward-facing feedback on your product and strategic direction.

CABs give customers the opportunity to share best practices and foster community building and networking among peers, whilst also deepening relationships with your company executives and product leaders.

CABs can take the form of in-person events, onsite or offsite, online, and/or a combination of them all.

The strategic benefits of a CAB strategy

You can leverage CABs to:

  • Validate a new company strategy
  • Validate your re-positioning/branding/messaging
  • Validate your customer experience
  • Influence product direction
  • Inspire ideas for future customer challenges that haven’t been solved yet (ie. remote work collaboration)

As a marketer, insights from CABs help you build:

  • Market requirement documents to influence roadmaps
  • Use cases, narratives, messaging, and case studies
  • Customer Advocates - which include customer stories/testimonials, references for other prospects, and help customers become champions within their own organizations

Getting business buy-in

It all starts with WHY.

You, your team, and your leadership need to begin by asking yourself why you want to start a CAB in the first place.

Are you re-positioning your customer strategy and need customer validation before making that leap?

Have you decided you need to focus on investing in customer advocates to build confidence and improve retention?

Have you launched a few sub-par products, and realized that the customer challenge wasn’t clearly identified or addressed?

Once you’re clear on your priorities, you can define your key stakeholders.

Based on your WHY, ask yourself which leaders are most important to include across your organization.

For example:

If you are most focused on a repositioning of your product strategy, you should be including your most senior product leader and product marketing leader.

If you are focusing on improving retention, think about including a senior leader in customer experience, customer success, and customer marketing.

The DACI approach

Some find the DACI model to be the most successful in defining clear roles and responsibilities for the stakeholders included.

For those who aren’t familiar, DACI stands for:

  • Driver
  • Approver
  • Contributor
  • Inform

There should be one Driver, one Approver (ideally someone very senior and influential who can make quick decisions without needing approval elsewhere), and a small group of Contributors who are providing support in the form of content, customers, speakers, and a broader group of Informed participants.

A top-level look at the secrets to CAB success

To create a recipe for a successful CAB, the 7 key ingredients should include:

  1. A strong business strategy and plan
  2. A clearly defined list of stakeholders, and their roles and responsibilities
  3. A defined target audience and engagement plan
  4. A customer-led agenda
  5. A well-documented call sheet for The Day of CAB
  6. A clear plan for capturing and sharing customer feedback post-event
  7. A forward-thinking plan to continue the momentum with your CAB customers post-event