How to Create a Customer Advisory Board to Learn How to Improve Your Product Fast

“The highest ROI I’ve ever had on user research is not a focus group or interview session: it’s developing a close relationship with a handful of representative customers where I feel comfortable asking 5-minute questions over informal channels (text, email, phone, even Facebook Messenger). It is incalculably valuable to be able to get a quick gut check on your ideas in the moment to help short-circuit paths that are totally unworkable as well as encourage you to pursue ones that do have signal.” Alex Schiff, Occipital Product Manager

The more proximity you have with your customers, the faster you’ll learn.

If, every time you have a question, you need to define segments, write emails, create an interview script, contact users, conduct interviews, and then analyze the data—then it’s quite likely that you’re not getting in front of customers as often as you should.

While you were interviewing prospects, validating your product, or building relationships with users and customers, chances are that you met people that match your ideal customer profile, or people you would eventually like to sell to.

To increase your learning velocity, consider creating a Customer Advisory Board (CAB)—an advisory board composed of users who represent a sample of the people that your product is being built for.

Through a customer advisory board, you can:

  • get feedback on ideas;
  • understand the context of use of your product;
  • ask more open-ended questions;
  • do quick user tests; and
  • test and validate feature ideas.

How to Setup a Customer Advisory Board

To set up your customer advisory board, look for people who are vocal, passionate, and visionary. Early on, most participants should match the profile of your best fit customers.

Although you want people who share the same needs, they can have radically different visions and ideas.

As the business grows, you’ll want to recruit other members based on the new challenges that you are facing. Serial entrepreneur Peter Kazanjy says: “Make sure the composition of your customer advisory board matches the challenges in front of you.”

You should have 25 people at most in your customer advisory board. The important thing is not to let customers opt in or to feel coerced into adding users from the wrong organizations.

Focus the feedback on your product, your road map, and your strategy. Since the members of your customer advisory board will be very familiar with your product, their feedback on onboarding flows or landing pages won’t be very valuable.

To reward your advisors, you can give them privileged access to new features, mention them in releases, suggest they advertise their advisor role, or offer product discounts.

As Kazanjy says: “You’d be surprised how many people will be interested when you mention the idea of promoting their work as an advisor.”

The members of your CAB will appreciate being part of the process of making and building a product.

With a customer advisory board, you’ll learn faster, and participants will get a better product they want to use out of it.

More on CABs

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