Customer Advisory Boards are a part of both customer marketing and product marketing responsibilities. Customer Advisory Boards give existing customers the opportunity to offer feedback and give you the opportunity to foster community relationships.

But getting buy-ins can be a challenge since companies still prioritize acquiring new customers rather than nurturing existing ones. So here’s a quick look into how to secure stakeholder buy-ins from our Customer Advisory Board Certified Masters.

It starts with the WHY:

You, your team, and your leadership need to begin by asking yourself: WHY do you want to create 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”, which leaders are most important to include across your organization?

For example: if you are most focused on a re-positioning of your product strategy, you should be including your most senior product leader and product marketing leader. if you are focusing on improving your retention, think of including a senior leader in customer experience, customer success and customer marketing

In my experience throughout my career, the DACI model has been most successful in defining clear roles and responsibilities for these stakeholders

For those of you that are unfamiliar, DACI stands for:

D - Driver

A - Approver

C - Contributor

I - Inform

There should be 1 driver, 1 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 Informed participants.

A quick story to paint a picture as to why leveraging DACI models is critical for accountability

I was the Driver, or “D” on the DACI model, on a former CAB project. We were getting towards the final month of our CAB event, and we were trying to accommodate too many leadership opinions, making the first mistake of adding two leaders at the same level, to be our Approvers

We were presenting our latest strategy, getting feedback from one leader, updating the strategy, and then sharing with the other leader, only to realize they had opposite feedback. We kept changing the strategy to try and accommodate all of their feedback, see-sawing back and forth, which only diluted our program.  This caused each leader to end up disappointed and unheard, seeing changes made after their initial input.

Our CCO at the time quickly identified the issues, and was adamant we fix the DACI immediately. From that point forward, we kept the Approver to 1 senior leader, and saved ourselves the headache of getting whiplash from future back and forths.

If you have more than one senior leader that would like to get involved, it’s up to your approver to keep them in their roles and swim lanes - too many cooks in the kitchen will not end well.

In the past, we’ve had our COO and CCO as approvers, as well as our Head of Product and Head of Product Marketing - it will depend heavily on your org structure and priorities.

This DACI model should create a more efficient decision making process as you begin to define your CAB strategy.

How to bring stakeholders and leaders along the journey

When do bring in your stakeholders?

I encourage you to bring key stakeholders in this first CAB strategy building phase - no one wants to see a final baked proposal without their fingerprints on it

Without skin in the game, it’ll quickly become an uphill battle to get cross-functional buy-in and and leadership support

How do you keep them along the journey?

After creating your business strategy, your next step is to create a communications & cadence plan to keep stakeholders informed throughout.

What forms of communication will you leverage and can you define a set purpose for each channel?

For example:

  • If you set a core team slack channel, will those be for urgent updates only?
  • If you have a weekly email sent to your DACI, what is the altitude of information those recipients care about?
  • If you have executive check-ins monthly, what will each be covering and what feedback will you need from them? Can you get on their calendars earlier and set expectations with their executive assistant?
  • Do you have a central team space for content and collaboration, for example in Dropbox, and are there set folders set up so you can keep a central source of truth?
  • And lastly, don’t forget to note your core team’s holiday schedule and PTO days throughout the duration of a project. You’d be surprised at how often this can come back and bite you!

This is especially important at smaller companies to avoid single points of failure when someone is out, and I encourage each DACI member to have a backup throughout the project, and key approval milestones happen before key members are on PTO.

Once you’ve defined your key stakeholders, you can begin creating your CAB strategy and business case for buy-in

The Steps for building a Strategy

Step 1: Your Vision

What do you want to achieve? What do you want customers to leave feeling? What’s in it for them?

Step 2: Your Mission

What experience do you want for your CAB members, what actions do you want them to take during and after the experience?

Step 3: Values

What values are important to uphold for your customers and your organization? Do you want to lead with empathy? Transparency?

What company values are most important to this CAB program? Defining these values will help anchor you as you start to make business decisions.

Step 4: Success Criteria

What does success look like for your customers?

What does success look like for your company?

How will you know when you’ve achieved this and what measurement is in place to ensure this happens?

Learn more

This was just a sneak peek into our Customer Advisory Boards Masters Course. Get invaluable instruction from Bree Bunzel, and walk away with the ability to:

👇 Produce an awesome Customer Advisory Board

👇 Get key customer insights

👇 Enhance your product

👇 Keep consumers happy

🤑 Boost your revenue