After a decade of working with Fortune 500 companies and completing more than 200 successful engagements, we at Ignite Advisory Group have worked with some outstanding client or customer advisory board (CAB) program managers. These are the point people tasked with the day-to-day operations of their CAB program, who establish and manage regular status meetings, ensure tasks are completed on time and oversee all meeting planning and logistics.
Along with executive sponsors and steering committees, CAB program managers are a crucial member of client advisory program teams and can make or break an advisory program. We’ve seen programs suffer in cases where the assigned CAB program manager was unorganized, distracted, too junior or had little impact on the rest of the CAB management team.
As such, here are five key traits of strong customer advisory board program managers:
- They’re organized. Planning for in-person meetings and virtual conference calls entails managing many deliverables, deadlines and the contributions of myriad busy professionals. A successful CAB program manager is deadline-oriented, proficient in project management and keeping deliverables on track and proactive in herding the outputs of numerous, often time-starved host company colleagues. This person is also able to look ahead to other company priorities, events or bottlenecks and work proactively to ensure they don’t derail CAB actions, timelines and deliverables.
- They’re strategically focused. Effective CAB managers know what’s going on within their companies, with their companies and in their industries on a strategic level, and can foresee the topics and issues that will be top-of-mind now and in the months ahead. In doing so, they ensure keeping CAB program discussions on a higher level, and their members engaged and intrigued. As such, CAB program managers should not be new employees, remotely based or junior marketing or events people—but directors or higher who are regularly exposed to strategic issues and planning within their organization.
- They hold influence within their CAB management team. Successful CAB managers are not shy about following up with other members of their CAB manager team—including their executive sponsor and steering committee—on outstanding action items or deliverables. While this person understands the roles, workloads and stressful periods of their colleagues, they are still proactive to ensure planning does not fall behind and meeting materials are of high quality. On the flip side, CAB program managers who are unaware of what their colleagues are doing and too junior or intimidated to request status updates on needed materials typically are ineffective in managing their programs.
- They’re comfortable interacting with customers. Ideal CAB program managers are confident in interacting with CAB customer members and serving as the main point person for their program questions, needs or issues. They often serve as the members’ primary contact who sends all communications to CAB members. Finally, this person ensures all CAB member inquiries are addressed promptly and follows up with anyone internally who is supposed to reply to CAB member requests.
- They’re dedicated to overall program success. Ideal CAB managers are committed to ensuring their CAB program is successful and are confident in reporting progress, status and any issues to the CAB steering committee and executive sponsor. As such, the success of their program is often made a key element of their job and they are measured upon it delivering on its objectives. In other words, CABs are not merely an experimental, part-time “hobby” in which they are only mildly invested or interested in seeing its success.
Effective, strong, proactive customer advisory board program managers can be the crucial elements of a program’s success or failure. The role should not be taken lightly or assigned to new or junior persons with the plan (or hope) that she learns as she goes along. Instead, successful CAB program managers should have some seasoning to them, significant experience with their business, understanding of their companies’ value proposition and the challenges shared among their executive customer members.