Are Vendor, Partner, or Customer Advisory Councils Dead in this new digital world?

Partner & Customer Advisory Councils have long been a staple in the vendor and partner IT & Telecom community for collaboration.  These forums are used to gather insights, shape direction, and have quality time with key strategic partners, customers and sometimes prospects.  As technology evolves, we see CEO, CFOs and CROs asking the question – are the councils worth the investment? Should I continue using them? Given this digital world of communities, social media like closed LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and video based communications at our fingertips; do advisory councils still make sense?

As a long time host and facilitator of Partner & Customer Advisory Councils, I believe they are an incredible opportunity to harness the value and synergy of your partners or customers.  And they are simultaneously an immense amount of work to do right.

We believe if you can answer yes to these four questions, then advisory councils are still worth your investment in an organization:

  1. Do I have a strong base of partners or customers that I need to deepen the relationship with at the executive level of our and their organizations?
  2. Do I have a designated and empowered program management  – operational resource that I can dedicate to managing this Advisory Council on an ongoing basis?
  3. Can I leverage the Advisory council as a sales and demand generation tool as well?
  4. Am I, my executive team, and the partners or customers willing to commit to face to face and virtual workshops at least two times a year; and commit to serving on the council for at least 1-2 years?

If you cannot answer yes to these four questions, then Advisory Councils may no longer make sense for your organization. Here three alternatives to consider:

  1. Consider using roundtables and meetups instead. If you have a need for listening and sharing, and don’t have the ability to dedicate resources over a long period of time, consider running a Roundtable, Idea Exchanges or a Meetup – a onetime get together where partners/customers/prospects can talk about a topic.  
  • Roundtables can be a one day (face to face or video / virtual) interactive discussion on a topic or key set of topics.  They are usually used to gather insights and also to educate your partners and customers about something important or new in the business.
  • Jay Gentry, a colleague and another Advisory Council Authority recommends  Idea Exchanges where different customers or successful partners come together to share strengths or best practices.  He also recommends leveraging Strategic Partner or Customer Forums where a group of partners or customers can strategize about a new product, market or initiative.  
  • Meetups are scheduled locations or virtual communities where people can discuss a topic or challenge that is important to a common group of people.  Meetups evolve organically and often times the participants take the lead and they develop into a life of their own. A friend of mine, BD leader for a startup who was short resources and constantly trying to expand his network of opportunities scheduled a Washington DC meet-up to discuss evolving cloud trends in the industry and area.  It was successful and interactive and then took on a life of its’ own and continued for months after that initial session.

 

  1. Consider leveraging other community oriented forums for listening – closed Facebook communities, LinkedIn, Slack or company specific community programs.  I see closed Facebook communities increasingly used to offer participants an opportunity to really discuss and share on controversial or complex and difficult topics.  These tools can offer powerful forums for driving interaction, collaboration and openly communicating about topics at people’s leisure time wise. They can also serve as effective ways to promote new opportunities for your partners / customers, and learn from them.
  2. Operate with transparency and authenticity.  No matter what medium you choose to seek advice from and with your partners and customers, be crystal clear and transparent about the mission, the objectives and the expected outcomes.  Transparency and authenticity are two of the most critical elements to building both individual and inter organization trust in today’s evolving digital world. See link: www.achieveunite.com/blog to learn more on this topic.

 

Collaboration for business outcomes is a topic I’m extremely passionate about; I welcome your insights on ways to make us together even more successful in this arena in today’s digital economy.



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