As experienced customer advisory board (CAB) managers know, CABs are ideal forums for validating corporate strategies, gathering input to product roadmaps, and deepening relationships with key customers.
An additional benefit of a well-run CAB program is discovering and gaining advocacy among your program participants. Indeed, some of the most loyal, active and vocal supporters of your company and its solutions may be members of your customer advisory board.
Such advocacy can be in the form of participating on reference calls to host company sales prospects, or on the marketing side through supporting case studies, testimonial videos, product reviews, media and analyst opportunities or speaking slots at host company events.
However, most companies haven’t found an efficient way to leverage this potential.
Optimizing your customer advisory board member advocacy efforts
The challenge often lies in realizing member advocacy once it has been pledged via the CAB program. Often, companies rely on inefficient, manual processes to manage customer advocacy programs. As such, they can be ad-hoc, inefficient, and—at worse—intrusive to some customers. Larger companies may be able to dedicate a full headcount (or more) to facilitate the process, but such dedicated resources may be an out-of-reach luxury for mid-size or smaller companies.
However, using an exclusive online community to help spearhead customer advocacy efforts among your CAB members can be a scalable solution.
As the leading consultancy in the world focused exclusively on helping companies manage and optimize their customer and partner advisory board programs, we at Ignite Advisory Group believe that winning B2B companies today need to cultivate, mobilize, recognize and reward their best advocates—some of which may be members of your customer advisory board.
Advocate marketing programs have emerged as a sales and marketing specialty discipline in their own right. For example, Influitive (one of our partners), has an advocate marketing platform that automates and improves customer advocacy initiatives. The platform allows advocates to engage with the brand and complete advocacy challenges for rewards and recognition. By creating this exclusive community, B2B brands can create a well-coordinated team of advocates to support campaigns, refer leads, drive sales and influence product strategy. Since influencing corporate and product strategies is also a key customer advisory board benefit, one can see where advocacy and CABS intersect.
The benefits of using online advocate communities in conjunction with customer advisory board programs
Online community platforms offer a way to augment and support existing customer advisory programs. The platform could be leveraged, for example, as a way to continue momentum gained in CAB meetings, and continue conversations in between meetings.
In addition, for customers unable to commit to participating in your CAB program due to distance or travel restrictions, an online community could be a great way to engage them to gather input and deliver advocacy.
Such online communities can be a great place to engage with customers for whom you don’t have space in your CAB program, or for retiring CAB members who have served their membership terms, but still can participate in supporting your company.
Obtaining customer advocacy can and should be an achievable goal of a well-managed customer advisory program. Advocate marketing can be a great way to bolster customer advisory initiatives, and help you realize who your best CAB advocates are. After all, like CABs themselves, customer advocacy supports engaging with—and delivering real value to—your best customers, and concurrently helping your own company succeed in the process.
How David Coates, Director of Customer Marketing at Iron Mountain, leverages his customer advisory board to build stronger engagement: