Advisory boards are essential for customer reference programs. As a customer marketing/customer reference/customer advocate 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 main 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. Here are answers to the most common questions we’re asked concerning the formation of a board.
- Who’s in it?
Representatives from your most valuable stakeholder groups: Sales, Marketing, PR, events, etc.
- 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.
- How are members chosen?
It is important that members feel they have a special responsibility and that it is a privilege to be on the board, not a burden. With that goal in mind, we recommend having managers nominate members with your criteria in mind. The ideal member is opinionated, thoughtful and cares about the companies’ best interest, not just their own.
- How often should the board meet?
The answer depends on what’s going on with the program. If your program is in generally running smoothly, then a monthly meeting/call is probably sufficient.
- What can the members offer to the program?
First and foremost, candid feedback on what is working and not working. This could encompass processes, policies, gaps in the database, technology, forecasted needs, content feedback, etc. We suggest that members are told they are ‘ambassadors’ for the program as well. That means they are the feet on the street, gathering feedback from peers, providing direction to new employees, disseminating program news, etc.
- Should members be compensated?
That’s largely a cultural question, but from our experience, most members are treated to catered breakfast or lunch at in-person meetings and input into a program upon which they depend. That is usually ‘compensation’ enough.
This may all seem like one more thing you, as a program manager, don’t have time for, but think about the membership as an extension of you, the face of the program. If you establish a sense of ownership and build true team spirit, you will have made your job easier when it comes to program awareness, education, user adoption and ultimately results.