Skip to main content

Customer Advisory Boards: the Good and the Bad

Some companies form customer advisory boards (CABs). Prospective and existing customers comprise these boards and provide input and feedback on one or more products the company is developing or offering.

Surely it's good to communicate with customers to understand their situations, problems, and suggestions. But is a CAB a good way to do so? Yes, but not for the reason you might think.

In general, you're much better off conducting one-on-one interviews with prospective and existing customers than convening meetings of a CAB. The group setting of a customer advisory board has many of the same drawbacks as focus groups. Above all, CABs are almost certainly not qualified to make decisions on which features to include or how to market your product. Board members are customers, not requirements analysts, design experts, or market strategists.

CABs are more useful for outbound marketing purposes. Forming a CAB is a great way of generating some word of mouth and PR for your product at a very low cost.

Recall the four-step process for developing a WOM marketing program:
  1. Find an existing community of users of your product.
  2. Determine what are they saying about your product.
  3. Engage them in dialog.
  4. Empower them to do things they might not be able to do on their own.
Do use your CAB (in addition to one-on-one interviews, ethnographic studies, and surveys) to gain an understanding of your market and get feedback on your product. But also figure out how they can help you market your product. Give them the information and the tools to get the word out on your product.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Stop Validating and Start Falsifying

The product management and startup worlds are buzzing about the importance of "validation". In this entry, I'll explain how this idea originated and why it's leading organizations astray. Why Validate? In lean startup circles, you constantly hear about "validated learning" and "validating" product ideas: The assumption is that you have a great product idea and seek validation from customers before expending vast resources to build and bring it to market. Indeed, it makes sense to transcend conventional approaches to making product decisions . Intuition, sales anecdotes, feature requests from customers, backward industry thinking, and spreadsheets don't form the basis for sound product decisions. Incorporating lean startup concepts , and a more scientific approach to learning markets, is undoubtedly a sounder approach. Moreover, in larger organizations, sometimes further in the product life-cycle, everyone seems to have an opinio

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the