Advisory Boards for Customer Advocacy Programs

Advisory boards are essential for customer advocacy programs. As a customer advocacy program manager, you need regular feedback to ensure the program is on track to meet the needs of its stakeholders. Relevance is the name of the game. Your primary objective is to provide the most valuable assets (customer advocates and customer content) to Marketing for lead generation and branding, and to Sales to bring in new revenue. If the program isn’t positioned for those two objectives, it’s unimportant to leadership—programma non grata.

We believe the best was to stay relevant is to form an advisory board for your program, and then act on the recommendations the board makes. Here are answers to the most common questions we’re asked concerning the formation of a board.

Board Composition

  1. Who’s in it?
    Representatives from your most valuable stakeholder groups including Sales, Marketing, PR, Events, Customer Success, and Customer Experience should be included on your advisory board. It’s highly recommended that at least one of your executive sponsors is included as well. They may be critical to facilitating some of the initiatives that come out of board meetings.
  2. How many members should it have?
    If you assume that for any given meeting 75% of members will be able to attend and you want a quorum, we’d recommend a total membership of 10-15.
  3. How are members chosen?
    It is essential that members feel they have a special responsibility, and that being a board member is a privilege, not a burden. With that goal in mind, we recommend having management nominate members from their respective departments with your criteria in mind. The ideal member is opinionated, thoughtful and cares about the companies’ best interest, not just their own.
  4. How often should the board meet?
    The answer depends on what’s going on with the program. If your program is generally running smoothly, then a monthly meeting/call is probably sufficient.  If you are trying to get a program off the ground or turning around an underperforming program, you may need more frequent contact.
  5. What can the members offer to the program?
    First and foremost, candid feedback on what is working and not working. This feedback could encompass processes, policies, gaps in the database, technology, forecasted needs, and content feedback. We suggest that members see themselves ‘ambassadors’ for the program as well. That means they are the feet on the street, gathering feedback from peers, providing direction to new employees in their department, and disseminating program news among other things.
  6. Should members be compensated?
    That’s mostly a cultural question, but from our experience, if members are treated to catered breakfast or lunch at in-person meetings and they get to have input into a program upon which they depend, that is usually ‘compensation’ enough.

What’s a Board Good For?

While each program will have a bespoke set of goals and expectations for it’s advisory board, here is a short list of topics that might comprise a meeting agenda:

  • Review and refinement of the goals of the program
    Advisors can help define or refine the goals and objectives of the program, ensuring they align with broader, and most current business strategies. For instance, if Sales was just asked to focus on a particular segment of the market, then the program should pivot to align it’s goals with that direction change.
  • Criteria for the advocates chosen for the program
    Feedback on the criteria for selecting customer advocates, ensuring the program database reflects the current needs of Sales, Marketing, PR, Events and other stakeholders; and can articulate the stories needed by those stakeholders to achieve their goals
  • Advocate engagement strategies
    Suggestions on how to engage and motivate customer advocates, including recognition programs, incentives, and personalized communication strategies, based on firsthand observations and advocate feedback
  • Content needs
    Insights into the types of content that would be most valuable to stakeholders, such as videos, case studies, testimonials, or peer reviews, and advice on how to produce and distribute this content for maximum discoverability, and impact
  • Communication Channels
    Recommendations on the most effective channels for communicating with and disseminating content to both prospects and customers, such as online communities, social media, the company website, or industry events
  • Training and Support
    Guidance on the training and support needed for customer advocates to ensure they are informed, confident, and effective in their roles, which is a big part of change management, one of the top factors in program success, next to leadership support
  • Feedback Mechanisms
    Advice on establishing effective feedback mechanisms to gather continuous input from program stakeholders (Sales, Marketing, Customer Success & others) about their experiences and the overall program
  • Measurement and Evaluation
    Help in formulating metrics and evaluation strategies to assess the impact of the advocacy program on customer acquisition, retention and satisfaction
  • Technology and Tools
    Recommendations on maximizing the adoption/value of existing advocacy technology, or gaps in the tech stack to support the program
  • Market Trends and Insights
    Sharing insights on industry trends and customer sentiments that could influence the direction and focus of the advocacy program

In Conclusion

Establishing an advisory board may seem like one more thing for which you, as a program manager, don’t have time. But the benefits will far outweigh the cost. By assimilating insights from key stakeholders you  ensure your program’s relevance, aligning your efforts with organizational goals and market demands. This board becomes an invaluable resource, guiding your strategies and ensuring your advocacy efforts resonate with both internal goals and external market conditions. Remember, the true strength of your program lies in its responsiveness to feedback and its ability to evolve—a dynamic that your advisory board will significantly enhance.

Think about the board members as an extension of you, they are (should be) program ambassadors; integral to the face of the program. If you establish a sense of ownership from the advisory board members and build true team spirit, you will have made your job easier when it comes to program awareness, education, user adoption and ultimately results.