Customer Advisory Boards
How to best include users into your product development? Well, invite them, show them around and listen.
A Customer Advisory Board (or CAB) is a group of users whom you invite regularly — say once every six month or every year — to share current feature ideas with.
There are multiple reasons to invite users into your “home”:
Create champions for your brand
Validate product ideas and guide the product roadmap
Help shape their marketing messaging
Gather market intelligence
Whom to invite?
Because a CAB is to serve as a representative sample of the company’s broader market, it should include a cross-section of users representing as many different market segments as possible.
At the same time we all know from many, many user interviews and tests that not all users are very helpful in advancing your product to put it diplomatically. What you might want to do is to re-invite some of the users whom you found particularly helpful to the next meeting and weed out the ones which did not help much. But beware to not build a CAB which might advise you into a wrong direction. Make sure to regularly bring in fresh blood. Also, take your time to review and think about why some users have not been very helpful. Yes, maybe it’s them, or maybe you didn’t show them anything that triggers their interest.
By building a circle of users who regularly advise you on your product, you automatically build a pool of reference users. In general, it is very helpful to build such a pool which you may always contact for user tests or any other discovery related activities.
How to perform a CAB meeting?
There are hundreds of ways to format such a session depending on your purpose. But before we mention some ideas, make sure to always apply these rules when inviting your customers:
Do not “sell” your product or company. Remember: They already bought it. You do not have to show them how great your team is, how neat your office looks, how fantastic the new features are. It’s the opposite of what you want, actually. If you want a candid reflection of how your users see you and your product, do not frame them.
Try to create a space in which everyone feels safe and encouraged to raise their voice, also — especially — critical topics. This can be done in very easy ways, e.g. by introducing everyone to each other with games, giving them a office tour, providing snacks and freedom to roam around etc.
Set specific goals for your CAB(s)
First, make sure you know what you want to get out of this meeting. Set a clear goal. If you have multiple ones, think about assembling multiple groups of users on the board meeting, maybe even splitting them along multiple user segments, if this servers your need,
Prepare a detailed agenda.
A customer advisory board forum is a great opportunity to let your advisory members speak freely about their experiences with your product and your company. But that does not mean you want a completely unguided and directionless meeting. Fortunately, on PM Toolbox you find lots of articles on workshop methods, many of which you can also go through with your users on a CAB, here are some
There are many more ideas. Just make sure that whatever technique you use, prepare it meticulously, because user’s are usually not aware of your company’s internal context and discussions about the development of your product. Make your agenda as detailed as possible and explain every step. Make sure to ask your users for feedback in the end, for example in a quick retro. These usually also provide valuable insights on your company, teams and processes used that day.
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