Lessons Learned from a Customer Council

funny-dog-picture-lesson-learnedHere comes the final installment of the series on holding a Customer Advisory Council.  You can find the first post in the series here.

I helped my company put the event together, which we held in late July 2013.  The lessons learned are a combination of feedback direct from the attendees themselves, which came forth during a retrospective on the event, and my own personal observations.

    • A month before the event, begin working on an account management overview, showing attendees the health of their account.  We are a small company with no formal account management team, thus our need for 30 days.
    • Schedule a meeting two weeks before the event date for internal employees to firm up talking points.  As the coordinator, I owe it my fellow employees to help them help themselves, and to be incredibly prepared in advance with their pitch.
    • If you’re going to walk through a list of possible features for development, email that feature list to customers 7-10 days in advance.  This gives their team plenty of time to dig through it.  We sent ours out 2 business days in advance, which wasn’t enough time.
    • Provide at least three food options.
    • Start with an icebreaker to kick the meeting off, and lower the formality of the day.  Everyone should be relaxed and comfortable with the room, which will encourage more discussion.
    • With attendees arriving at the office at different times, have pre-planned activities to make up for those time gaps.
    • If you’re going to ask for an in-person case study or video testimonial at the event, request this in advance.  Send the messaging, gain approval, and book time on the calendar.  We sprung this on our attendees at the last minute.

Overall, the event went incredibly well.  It was a fantastic learning experience for me.  It resulted in changes to our product roadmap, our company’s approach with our customers, and to my own thinking about product management.

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