Sharpen your Competitive Advantage with Executive Advisory Boards

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Part One: Strategic Business Advice

Imagine a “Dream Team” Executive Advisory Board designed specifically for your company. First, you’d get at least 10 senior executives from your top customer and prospect accounts together, face-to-face with your top executives and technology leaders. You’d spend quality time with them talking about a range of topics that are critical to your company’s business growth. Your team would walk away from those conversations armed with a range of information you literally can’t get anywhere else.

Unfortunately, this is not the way most companies approach Executive Advisory Boards. Many of them view Advisory Boards as largely a sales exercise. Their focus is on showcasing their new products and product strategy with the goal of supporting sales in key accounts with a dash of luxury or fun on the side. While product information is something most Advisory Board members are interested, meetings that are essentially an upscale marketing broadcasts rarely deliver the strategic value that can dramatically your business accelerate growth.  

If your Advisory Board is basically a high-end sales event then You. Are. Doing. It. Wrong.

First and most importantly, the Executives who attend have well developed sales sensors — they are being bombarded with sales pitches every single day. They know when you’re only there to sell them something no matter how pretty the window dressing. This approach pretty much guaranteed you won’t get engaged advisors and repeat participation will be dramatically reduced because, in their view, you are not respecting their time. After all, if they want a sales meeting, they certainly know how to get one.

The larger issue is that to create an active, engaged Advisory Board you have to ask them for their advice, which they are more than willing (thrilled actually) to give.  That is why they agreed to be a member of your Board. And really, doesn’t everyone want an Advisory Board full of executives who are interested and committed to helping you sharpen your competitive edge?

There are so many different areas where Advisory Boards can make a  major difference in your business that we have a whole blog series on this topic. Today, we’re going to tack the biggest one: strategic business advice.

We’ve worked with a lot of technology vendors over the years and it’s very rare for companies to actually ask their Advisory Boards for advice. It sounds counter-intuitive, right? After all Advice is what Advisory Boards should be all about.

 Alas, we’ve seen way too many technology vendors (and even more cyber security vendors) who say they have an Advisory Board but don’t take the time to test their product positioning and messaging with the executives who sign purchase orders before they commit to it.

We’ve also seen Advisory Boards who literally saved our customers millions of dollars by providing them with critical feedback on all kinds of business and go-to-market decisions. Here’s some recent examples of unfiltered, verbatim feedback:

  • On company positioning: “It’s too complicated and not believable.”
  • On a new pricing and bundling strategy: “Not how we like to purchase” and “won’t make it through our process.”
  •  Product launch plans: “Why would you do that? It doesn’t make sense.”

Of course, none of these things are what you really want to hear but getting this feedback from the executives who set strategy before you go public can help avoid expensive missteps.

Even better, in each of the cases above the Advisory Boards also offered great constructive suggestions that helped the companies they were advising dramatically improve their plans.

These examples just scratch the surface of the type of advice available from engaged Advisory Board members; we’ve seen constructive feedback on market growth, technology adoption, cloud strategy and sales and support strategies.

We’ve seen the difference in growth between the companies who use their Advisory Boards as a sales tool and those who use it as a sounding board for critical business decisions.

The crazy good news is getting your Advisory Board member involved in your strategic business decisions is just one of the many ways companies can extract strategic, competitive value from their boards.

Stay tuned for part two of this series where we dig into why your Advisory Board can help you activate your CXO champions in peer-to-peer advocacy – which is literal rocket fuel for your sales and marketing teams.