March 20, 2020: KickStart Alliance, an Advisory Board and customer success leadership consulting team, today announced a new model for engaging both Customer Advisory Boards (CAB) and Partner Advisory Boards (PAB) during the time of the Coronavirus. This new model integrates a variety of virtual and offline technologies and tools. It redefines the type of engagement between an executive staff and their best customers and partners when traveling and face-to-face meetings are not an option.

→ CAB Masterclass now designed around Virtual Advisory Board modeling

Revised objectives for your CAB and PAB programs

Ideally, Advisory Board programs are centered around face-to-face meetings that allow for real-time collaboration and brainstorming on shared strategic issues and priorities. While virtual interaction cannot fully replace the quality of the face-to-face experience, it can and will help companies maintain the momentum of their programs. Specifically, KickStart’s new model is designed to address these objectives:

  • To keep strategy-level conversations going when face-to-face meetings are not an option
  • To maintain timely and productive connections between the host company and Advisory Board members throughout the year
  • To deepen understanding of Advisory Board members’ current and future needs, especially in times of uncertainty
  • To harness new opportunities for collaboration

It’s time for a new engagement model

Incorporating virtual tools and techniques is not new. In fact, most Advisory Board programs include an online survey or a mid-year webinar to update members on the host company’s progress. However, these tools have been used to complement the face-to-face meeting centerpiece. The Coronavirus crisis requires us to completely re-engineer the program so virtual engagement is the centerpiece. However, there are obvious issues to be overcome, such as:

  1. How do we keep everyone’s attention? It’s too easy to multitask.
  2. Webinars are used to share information in a 1: many format. How do we allow productive interaction via a virtual engagement?
  3. It’s hard to sit still on lengthy calls or webinars. How do we break up the discussions into action-oriented pieces?

The answer is to replace the face-to-face meeting as the focal point with a 6-month rollout of touch points. And each of these touch points builds off of the one that came before. The interaction unfolds over time, not just during a single day.

Orchestrating the new model

KickStart’s new model prescribes a detailed flow of virtual interaction. The model also defines how, where, when, and with what segment of the Advisory Board can best take advantage of specific virtual and offline tools. Most of these tools are well known. But how we orchestrate them will be strategic and different.

  • Conducting member interviews (1:1)
  • Webinars (1:many)
  • Virtual Roundtables (small groups)
  • Interactive video conferences (moderated)
  • Curated txt & chat (i.e. a private Slack channel)
  • Offline and real-time surveys and polling
  • Virtual whiteboarding interaction
  • Mind mapping exercises
  • And more

KickStart’s new model is based on a new strategy of human interaction specifically for Advisory Board members. This is not a new app; it’s a brand new integrated approach for working with your Advisory Board members.

Why this is needed now

The inescapable truth is that people perform at their best when there is human interaction. At the end of the day, even after lengthy analytics and evaluations, the decision to purchase or not, to partner or not, to move forward or not, is based on emotion and how they feel about the vendor. Do they have faith in the CEO’s vision, staff, product/service portfolio, and plans?  It’s human psychology at work here. When all else becomes commoditized, the customer-vendor or partner-vendor relationship is really the only remaining true differentiator.

It would be a mistake to shutter CAB and PAB programs until we make it through this crisis. Those companies who can continue to engage in collaborative, strategic conversations with customers and partners will emerge with a stronger pipeline and more confidence in their own future. Leveraging virtual and online tools and techniques now will help them do so.

Read: Customer Advisory Boards and the Coronavirus

→ CAB Masterclass now designed around Virtual Advisory Board modeling

For more information . . .

If you would like to see an example of the model and how it can be applied to your CAB or PAB program, please contact Mike Gospe.

With a specialty in CABs, Mike is a professional facilitator with more than 18 years of CAB experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 100 world-class CAB meetings. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s CAB practice.  And check out more of his best practices articles and videos on his CAB Resource Center.