By Rob Jensen
When initiating a customer advisory board (CAB) initiative, it’s crucial to enlist the support of a strong executive sponsor to oversee the initiative, communicate its findings and implications to the rest of the management team, and ensure the program’s overall success. A robust executive sponsor should garner the full support of her executive committee before initiating the program, and be prepared to invest the resources, time, budget, personnel and expert consultancy to execute a successful program.
Once the executive sponsor is in place, one of the first things to accomplish will be determining key strategic elements of the CAB program. These aspects are often discussed as part of a CAB program “kickoff” call with the executive sponsor and outside consultants, in order to establish the program on solid ground, and ensure it is heading in the right direction from the start.
Here are four crucial elements to determine during the CAB executive sponsor kickoff meeting:
- Objectives: It’s important to nail down and specify the exact objectives of your CAB program from the onset. Why are you starting the initiative now? What are you looking to learn from it? What are the desired outcomes? What will success look like? Being honest, upfront and specific on your CAB program objectives will set it up for success.
- Decisions: What strategic decisions are you and your company looking to make in the next 12-24 months where the CAB could provide some valuable input? Are you facing any “fork in the road” challenges in which you’ll have to make some tradeoffs, hard choices or choosing one path or another? Given always-limited resources, where might investments be prioritized, or potential cuts be made? Companies should not be afraid to disclose such challenges or feel they have to have all the answers in front of their CAB. After all, your CAB is a trusted group of strategic advisors (if properly recruited) and is the ideal group to provide solid, actionable guidance to help shape critical decision making.
- Initiatives: What new initiatives will your company be implementing in the next year or two? Are you launching any new products? Targeting any new customer segments or markets? Making any acquisitions? Adding any new strategic partners? CABs are ideal for helping maximize the success of such initiatives, as well as improving any go-to-market strategies, thought leadership communications, customer relationship programs, and much more.
- Measurements: How would you like to measure the success of your CAB program in its first year and over time? Here again, it’s important to make these measurements specific, achievable and measureable in order to accurately gauge the progress and success of the program and communicate such achievements internally within the rest of your company. (For suggestions on how you can measure the success of your CAB program, click here)
Determining these elements with the executive sponsor sets the CAB on solid ground for success from the start, and enables maximum, measurable impact on the host company for years to come.
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