Voice of the Customer Insights Only Your Customer Advisory Board Can Deliver


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By Bernie Borges and Bernie Borges - Host of the Modern Marketing Engine Podcast. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

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On this episode of Modern Marketing Engine, you’ll hear from Kelly Bousman, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for AVI-SPL about the powerful role a Customer Advisory Board can play in your business. Kelly says that a Customer Advisory Board is one of the most direct and effective ways to listen to the voice of the customer. When you are able to understand the experiences of your key customers you can develop products and marketing and sales strategies that address real customer needs - both for existing and future customers.

VOC (Voice Of The Customer): Informs All Aspects Of Marketing Strategy

The experience your customer has with your product or service is the most important source of data available to help you improve your offering and maximize your customer’s experience with your brand. When you are able to tap into the voice of the customer, you’ll discover answers to many pertinent questions:

  • Is your brand relevant in your industry?
  • Is your user experience design truly meeting customer needs?
  • Is your lead generation targeting accurate?
  • Are there brand advocates within your customer base you can identify?

But beyond those things, knowing the voice of your customer helps you understand what motivated your customers to choose your solution in the first place and what challenges they may face in working with your brand. This will help you validate your purpose for them and align your offerings to their needs. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to more effectively align your marketing efforts with your sales team so you can provide tools and enablement services that are effective.

A unique way to go about the discovery of this “voice of the customer” information is through the development of a Customer Advisory Board. Listen to hear how Kelly and the team at AVI-SPL did so - and the amazing benefits the CAB is providing them.

How AVI-SPL Formed Its Customer Advisory Board

AVI-SPL’s Customer Advisory Board is a formal organization containing members who serve in limited terms. Those members are chosen via an official nomination process and the board attends a regular cadence of official meetings. But that’s the mature version of the Customer Advisory Board. The journey to that stage is the interesting part.

Five years ago, AVI-SPL began inviting key customers (Porsche, Boeing, MasterCard) to join their CEO on stage at their annual global sales meeting. Their goal was to help their sales teams understand the company's ideal customers better. In these “fireside chat” style conversations, customers shared not only their experience with the company so far but also future-looking insights. The AVI-SPL team knew from what they were hearing that they must use those insights to create even more value for their customers. That’s when their idea to form a Customer Advisory Board was born.

Kelly embarked on the research of best practices for launching and managing successful, customer advisory boards. Her research led her to an advisory firm – Ignite Advisory Services. She hired them to be her advisors in order to have third-party objectivity that would provide a more formal approach to working with their customers. Listen to hear how Kelly presented the Customer Advisory Board strategy to her company’s executives and got it approved - and how the CAB works practically - including how it grew to 20 members, conducts at least four meetings per year, and hosts a 1 to 2-day annual retreat.

The Challenges And Benefits Of Managing An Advisory Board Of Customers

You are probably already thinking that a Customer Advisory Board could be an extremely challenging group to manage and move forward in consistently valuable ways that high-level executives actually WANT to be part of. If so, you are right. Kelly says if you focus on what’s in it for the board members, you’ll stay on track. While the coordination is a job in itself, in her mind the peer networking that flows out of the CAB is the most significant benefit to the customers involved and makes all the effort worthwhile.

Kelly’s team also works diligently to discover the common challenges and topics the customers need to address. They do this to create meaningful content that can serve as a framework for discussion around those topics. Any successful Customer Advisory Board must first offer value to its members before creating value for the host business.

How To Get Started With Your Own Advisory Board

Kelly’s suggestion for developing your own Customer Advisory Board begins with the identification of customers who have a significant impact on your business. Those are the customers who are both benefiting from your offering the most and are able to give you the greatest amount of insight into how your solutions can improve or be evolved to help them drive their goals forward.

Next, think of the kinds of conversations you’d like to have with those customers to more deeply understand their current initiatives and challenges. Once you’ve had a number of those conversations, develop a theme or mission from what you’ve heard and wrap that mission into a charter that lays out the operating rules.

At this point, you’ll begin to invite members, conduct onboarding interviews to identify topics you can tackle together, and develop a cadence of collective problem solving and co-creation of new approaches. When you can frame involvement around addressing the challenges that your customers face and utilizing the insights and experiences of customer peers, you’ll have a much greater degree of buy-in and commitment.

Take the time to listen to this episode - you’ll learn how you can implement these principles in less formal ways if your budget or resources don’t allow for a structure as formalized and consistent as what Kelly describes. You’ll also have your creative juices stimulated, which will enable you to see ways you can use your current customer interactions to gain valuable insights to improve your offering and maximize your customer’s experience with your brand.

Featured on This Episode Outline of This Episode
  • [0:51] Introduction of Kelly Bousman, Senior Vice President, Marketing, AVI-SPL
  • [2:42] What do we mean by VOC - the Voice of the Customer - and why does it matter?
  • [5:29] Why AVI-SPI developed a Customer Advisory Board
  • [11:12] The challenges of getting the CAB off the ground and making it successful
  • [16:35] Are the insights you learn from your CAB are relevant across companies?
  • [18:41] How you can begin a Customer Advisory Board
  • [21:38] What to do if you’re not ready to form a Customer Advisory Board
Resources & People Mentioned

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