This article comes from Crystal Anderson’s talk, ‘Let's give them something to talk about: Creating a white-glove CAB experience’, at our 2023 Las Vegas Customer Marketing Summit, check out her full unedited presentation here!

Have you ever rushed to pull together a customer event, only to have it flop? Been there, done that!

As the Director of Customer Marketing at SheerID, I've planned, hosted, and followed up on countless in-person and virtual customer advisory board (CAB) events over the last few years.

Through both major successes and a few missteps along the way, I've been able to learn quite a bit about how to create memorable, impactful CAB experiences that customers couldn't stop raving about.

So today, I want to share some of my top tips for planning, executing, and following up on CABs. Giving you my best advice on everything from securing buy-in and choosing locations, to crafting agendas and follow ups that drive major outcomes.

Are you ready to become a CAB pro? Great, then let's dive in! 👇

  • Why CAB events are worth the investment
  • How to craft a successful CAB strategy
  • The secret recipe for elevated CAB experiences
  • Executing an amazing event
  • Following up for maximum business impact
  • Key takeaways to make your next CAB shine

Why CAB events are worth the investment

I won't pretend that planning CABs are easy. It takes many months of preparation, late nights and weekends, and a heck of a lot of coffee!

But the effort pays off in terms of deeper customer connections and insights that directly inform our strategy. Here are a few of the key benefits we see:

Validating plans and priorities

Nothing beats getting candid feedback directly from customers on what's working - and what's not. We shape our roadmap around their needs and pain points.

Increasing executive face-time

I'll never forget the shock I felt reading a Harvard Business Review study finding only 3-10% of CEOs regularly engage with customers. Our CAB events aim to help close that gap.

When customers get 1:1 time with our executives, it makes them feel valued. Plus - it helps our leaders make better decisions with customer perspectives top of mind.

Strengthening relationships

One of my favorite CAB moments was seeing two of our top customers, Princess Cruise Lines and Sleep Number, hit it off and explore the opportunity for a potential partnership on onboard amenities.

That never would’ve happened without our CAB bringing them together!

This strengthening of relationships is crucial, because you're building advocates and about 80% of your advocates will then increase their opportunities with you, whether that's an upsell or renewal.

Reducing churn

We also use our CABs to get ahead of potential churn risks. Feedback might reveal a customer success gap we weren't aware of, and so, by being proactive, we've saved accounts that otherwise might have left.

Clearly, CAB events deliver tremendous strategic value. But you have to lay the proper groundwork. Let me walk you through it.

How to craft a successful CAB strategy

You might be tempted to jump straight into date-picking and swag-ordering. But slow down! Building the right CAB strategy is absolutely essential.

Here are some of the key elements our team makes sure to address:

🎯 Getting cross-department buy–in

I make sure to sit down early with sales, customer success, product marketing, and our CEO to understand their goals for the CAB. Where can it make the biggest difference?

Getting their input and aligning your objectives upfront prevents conflicts down the road.

💵 Setting your budget

Will you host a virtual or in-person event? What types of activities or collateral do you want?

I map out costs early and get approvals before going too far down the planning road.

📝 Defining guidelines

  • We created a CAB guidebook that covers things like: Target outcomes, criteria for selecting members, logistics methodology, and guiding principles.
  • It's a great reference as we build agendas and recruit advisors.

🗓️ Building your timeline

  • CAB planning is not for the faint of heart! I try to start 6-9 months out. Key milestones include recruiting, nominating members, sending invites, and completing prep work.
  • Make sure to move fast on the logistics that vendors require - things like securing venues and room blocks.