Resources | About C2FO | October 13, 2023

What Is a Customer Advisory Board? A Better Way to Understand Clients

Clients give direct input on products, strategy, messaging and more during regular forums.

Clients give direct input on products, strategy, messaging and more during regular forums.

C2FO has created a customer advisory board to get clear feedback on new features, uncover pain points and even identify new business opportunities. It can be a powerful way to better connect with clients — and for clients to connect with each other.

Customers are C2FO’s North Star, and all the products and services we develop revolve around their challenges and needs. But if you want to make life better for customers, it’s probably a good idea to ask them what they want and need. 

“We’re forging a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of our customers through this insightful group of people,” said Sara Truelson, a customer engagement and advocacy manager at C2FO. “We’re dedicating the time and energy to focus on what they have to say and bringing that back into the organization to prove our messaging, product or direction. A lot of consideration and thought went into this.” 

A customer advisory board acts as an organized, ongoing way to get high-quality feedback that might otherwise be overlooked. 

In October, the board was invited to C2FO’s headquarters in Kansas City for a two-day conference where they spoke about their experience with the company’s solutions, including how they first encountered C2FO, and the biggest business challenges they are currently facing. They also took time to network with and learn from fellow board members.

C2FO plans to use the insights from board members to refine its outreach to potential users and eliminate sticking points in the user experience. 

“Our customers understand their own problems and goals better than anyone else ever could, but they also have a unique perspective on C2FO, too,” said Neeti Shah, a C2FO senior marketing manager who leads the Customer Advisory Board sessions. 

“They can help us identify opportunities to improve and point out unmet needs they have, which could ultimately inspire new products and services.”

What is a customer advisory board? 

A customer advisory board (or CAB) is a group of customers who meet regularly with a company’s team to offer feedback on a wide range of topics, including:

  • New product offerings
  • Sales and marketing messages
  • Strategic direction
  • Opportunities and challenges faced by businesses in different sectors, regions and categories

Bringing all those customers together gives the company the ability to problem-solve with the people it serves. 

The group can also talk about the larger social, economic and environmental factors that are affecting their businesses. For example, Shah said, C2FO focused one of its CAB sessions on economic trends.

“They were worried if there was a recession coming, what’s happening, so we had an economist come and talk about that and his predictions,” Shah said. 

Who serves on C2FO’s CAB? 

Right now, the C2FO Customer Advisory Board consists of a dozen US- and Canada-based suppliers. Specifically, the members are decision-makers whose companies have been using the C2FO platform for more than six months. 

Each member is on the board for two years and will attend four meetings in that time. 

Among the inaugural board members are: 

  • Clint Condos, CEO of Redi Services, a multistate services company helping the world’s biggest companies with plant maintenance, general construction and more.
  • Dave Rothenberg, president of Zrike Brands, a supplier of licensed tableware and kitchen accessories.
  • Don Schneidman, CFO of Winholt, a global manufacturer supplying equipment solutions to supermarkets, retailers, food service and restaurant chains, supply chain industries and e-commerce business for over 77 years.
  • Hassan Alireza, CEO and founder of The Daily Crave, the maker of Veggie Chips, Veggie Sticks and other good-for-you snacks.
  • Jackie Steigleman, owner and CEO of Buck Bone Organics, a family-run producer of pet chews, treats and toys made from naturally shed antlers.
  • Jayme Smaldone, owner and CEO of two companies, Mighty Mug, which sells a mug optimized to not fall over, and Alfay Designs Inc., a maker of general housewares. 
  • Jennifer Moore, president and CEO of The Moore Group, a provider of training and change management programs for Fortune 100 companies and federal agencies.
  • Jim Phelan, vice president of accounting and finance, at Outdoor Nation, a leading outdoor apparel brand.
  • Kelly McClelland, chair, CEO and president of Offshore Inspection Group, a provider of oversight services to the biggest names in the energy industry. 
  • Laura Marasco, CEO of West-Conn Tool and Die Inc., a contract manufacturer of medical devices, aerospace components and automation equipment and tooling.
  • Lenny Sciarrino, president and CEO of Granite Gold Inc., producer of specialty brands Granite Gold stone and quartz care, Guardsman furniture care and MicroGold disinfectant products.
  • Tal Tuchman, vice president of finance at GoGo Quinoa, a health food manufacturer with 50-plus certified vegan, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and kosher products.

As part of their recent Kansas City visit, the board members spoke to the entire C2FO team during a live Q&A session. They discussed how they got into business, what’s keeping them up at night and how they use C2FO’s solutions in their companies.

“C2FO is the solution that allows me to fund my business without worrying when I’m going to get paid,” Moore said.

C2FO’s ability to provide working capital quickly and affordably is even more essential now. Banks have raised interest rates sharply and, in some cases, are threatening to pull business lines of credit with little advance notice. 

“Banks only want to lend to people who don’t need the money,” Sciarrino said.

How does a customer advisory board benefit companies and their clients? 

The feedback from customers is valuable for companies, but there’s another key benefit to organizing a customer advisory board: Many of the board members would be willing — and may even be eager — to serve as advocates for the company, either by giving testimonials or making referrals. 

At C2FO, for example, that could mean suppliers encouraging more of their customers to offer early payment via the company’s platform.  

Meanwhile, the best CABs are designed to offer several advantages to the board members who use their valuable time to participate. 

Common benefits include the opportunity to:

  • Influence product development. 
  • Test new features early.
  • Improve the customer experience. 
  • Learn best practices and share ideas with peer companies.
  • Network with others and build both reputations and business relationships.

Having the opportunity to connect with peers can be a huge plus for executives who might not otherwise have a sounding board for business-related concerns.

While the CAB participants reap several benefits directly, they ultimately make the product better for all users by making helpful suggestions. 

The bottom line on customer advisory boards

Some of the world’s most successful companies host community advisory boards because it’s a great way to “be a good listener” to their clients. 

But it’s not enough to host a few meetings each year. Smart companies put the lessons they learn to work, and they work hard to deliver value to the customers who agree to serve on their CAB. 

“Much like any relationship, it demands genuine effort and commitment,” Truelson said. ”If you don’t invest wholeheartedly in it, not only will the relationship stagnate, but also your company and its customers will miss out on some amazing mutual benefits.”

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