With the holidays approaching, it will soon be time to visit with family and friends, and perhaps reconnect with those you haven’t been able to see in person due to the pandemic. In doing so, most people know the social convention of bringing something to the gathering to share with everyone: be it wine, sweet potato casserole, gifts, etc.
The same concept applies to customer advisory boards (CABs) meetings: the company that hosts the meeting should always bring certain key items to the gatherings (whether in-person or virtual).
Here are the top five items every host company should bring to their CAB meetings:
1. Pre-Reading Materials
Well before the meeting starts, you may know you’ll want feedback on certain items — analyst reports, user survey results, industry articles, company publications, etc. — from members as part of the meeting. Send any such item well in advance (i.e. at least a week or two) before the meeting, and preview the kinds of feedback and questions you’ll be looking to uncover. You can also bring material printouts to the meeting to highlight or point to during its associated session. Doing so will allow your members to come prepared, follow along and provide maximum insights to your company during the meeting.
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2. Meeting Kit
A key part of any CAB gathering is providing a full meeting kit to each participant at the initiation of the meeting. Key elements to include are a welcome letter from the CAB executive sponsor, a full meeting agenda (including all locations, start and end times and session abstracts and leaders), titles, headshots, bios and contact information for all meeting participants (customers and host company executives), and highlights of your CAB program charter, so members can review your program goals (and participant expectations) if need be. Providing everything your CAB members need up front sets them up for success, and communicates that your company is on top of everything.
Companies hosting CABs should have a plan to proactively provide all meeting content to their participants. Your members will almost certainly ask about this at the start of your meeting, so communicating and availing these from the get go will eliminate your attendees having to take frantic notes or (worse) snap photos of your slides during the meeting. Sending your meeting presentations in advance of the gathering provides another opportunity to show your company is well organized, although sending them immediately afterwards is an acceptable fallback.
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4. Additional Meeting Materials
A host of other meeting items will make your in-person meeting go better, and, again, make your company look polished and well organized. These include participant name badges, tent cards with names for seat placements, notepad folios to enable CAB members to take their own notes, and all materials needed for meeting breakouts and games (e.g. flip charts, sticky notes, multi-colored pens, etc.). In addition, each host company participant should complete session takeaway forms to capture their own thoughts and potential action items from each session.
5. Post-Meeting Surveys
At the conclusion of the meeting, you will want to capture your members’ feedback and comments about what they experienced. Don’t wait to send these. Sending the survey as soon as possible after the meeting closes will gather their input while it’s fresh in their minds. In fact, for in-person gatherings, hand out good old-fashioned paper surveys for them to complete before they leave, ensuring you capture all member feedback. Asking them to fill out an online survey later will yield fewer results and inevitably incomplete participation.
Of course, once your CAB meeting is completed, there are a range of follow-up deliverables for host companies to provide soon afterward, including a report of the meeting, a plan for ongoing engagement and more.
By coming well prepared and bringing these top items to your 2022 CAB meetings, your program will operate at maximum efficiency, and your members will be impressed with how well your program is organized.
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Rob Jensen is vice president of marketing for Ignite Advisory Group (www.igniteag.com), a consultancy that helps B2B companies manage their customer and partner advisory board programs. Rob has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and business development leadership positions with leading enterprise software and technology companies.