Client Advisory Boards, or CABs, sound simple on paper: pulling together a group of handpicked clients that are important to your organization and talking with them about your strategy. No problem, right? For the past few months, we’ve been exploring why these events are so much more challenging than they appear and how Collective Next is thinking about ways to elevate CABs for everyone involved. 

Our CAB was amazing!! Now what?

You’re standing at the front of a room filled with your most important customers and stakeholders. You bask in the glow of the gathering’s palpable energy: the event is over and you are delivering your closing remarks, but you already know that the event was a staggering success. The group delivers a thunderous round of applause, genuinely excited about the time you all were able to spend together. Your customers were open, insightful, and candid, you have pages upon pages of notes about ideas that you and your team could never have realized on your own. As everyone gathers their belongings and prepares to head for their respective flights and trains, you realize that the group is still chatting, still talking about the issues from your agenda. No one wants the conversation to end. And that’s when it hits you: you nailed it. This was the best customer advisory board your organization has ever thrown. 

But now what? 

All about that pull-through

The insights gathered at a customer advisory board are only as useful as what your organization does with them. It’s easy to get so invested in the event itself—the design, the experience, the networking, the catering—that you might lose sight of what all of this effort is really about. “Pull-through,” or the effort of pulling the insights gathered into actionable steps for your organization, is a critical, often-neglected aspect of CAB design. It’s not enough to just take the right notes. A record of the event is crucial, but it’s not enough to set you up for the important work ahead. For that, you need to think beyond the four walls of the event. You need to think beyond the CAB.

It starts before it starts

Long before the event begins, its success or failure will rest on the agenda you design. And that design has to be informed by the right people in your organization. Organizations will often default to gathering agenda inputs from the parties most directly and historically involved in previous CABs: client relations teams, event planners, etc. But if you’re really trying to transform and evolve your organization, you need the whole organization involved. As your agenda comes into focus, think about the people on the wider team who might provide insight. Those folks might not have ever attended a CAB before, but they probably have questions and thoughts that you wouldn’t ever think of on your own. And your agenda will be stronger after their input. 

Proper Synthesis

The records and notes from your event have an expiration date on them. Things that someone noted at the time might have made perfect sense in context, but time will chip away at each and every brilliant idea that was offered. Keeping the ideas in context requires thoughtful, dedicated synthesis and the identification of actionable next steps. That work should begin as soon as the event concludes. And that work should be done with as much care as the event itself. After all, THIS is what you gathered everyone together for: to create what’s next for your organization. Too many CABs end by sharing a slide deck with your organization that summarizes the takeaways from the event. Effective synthesis marks the beginning of the work that will help evolve and grow your business. 

Digital tools to keep things moving

Through the use of digital tools and dedicated follow-up, you can benefit from the best parts of the CAB until the next one begins. Ongoing forums, digital surveys, polls, progress updates and pulse checks: drawing on all of these capabilities can serve your organization in ways that you won’t believe. First, it helps sharpen and clarify the insights your customers provided at the event itself. They can provide more info, come up with new ideas, and help you refine your NEXT CAB. But most importantly, digital tools help you keep the conversation going. And that lets your customers know that their insights were heard and valued. 

Collective Next can help

Collective Next has been thinking about and refining client advisory boards for over twenty years. We’ve crafted proven methods for making sure that every customer advisory board you run leads to action. We’d love to talk with you about your next CAB. Reach out to us today to chat.