The Power of a Customer Advisory Council

As long as you’re continuously talking to your customers, you don’t necessarily have to add more features, but you do need to improve how well you’re solving their problems. A great way to do this early on is by forming an advisory council.

Identify your best and most important customers; they should be people who can help shape the future of the product. In B2B software, this might be your biggest customers. Or maybe they’re customers in a certain market where you want to grow. Think about your most strategically valuable customers and invite them into the product development process. Their input will be invaluable in guiding product decisions and development. They will love being a part of the process, and it won’t cost you a dime.

These people should become involved in the development of the product. By giving them early access, they get a hint of what you’re thinking, building, and testing. You’re building trust with them and helping them feel special. When someone feels like they get special treatment, they are going to give you something in return—in this case, valuable information.

Remember, these people should be your best customers, but “best” is strategically defined. It may not be the customer who pays the most. What you’re looking for are customers who contribute what you need to know to the conversation. If 10 percent of your customers are in Europe and you’re looking to expand there, it doesn’t matter if that 10 percent of customers provides a small fraction of your revenue. If they have information you can use to develop the roadmap to get to Europe, invite them to join your advisory council.

An advisory council member is not the customer who complains the most or the loudest. Some people will buy a product because they think it does something they want only to find out the software doesn’t do that. Instead of going and finding a different product, they will pound you with suggestions to make it do what they want.

Remember, customer feedback is valuable, but sometimes customers are just using the wrong product.

Posted in Design, Design Thinking, Design Process

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