Why your Advisory Board Isn’t Working (and what to do about it)

The business value of Executive Advisory Boards is well established. A group of engaged C-level executives from your key accounts can provide critical  feedback on your product and marketing strategies, and this feedback is extremely valuable because it comes directly from the market you are selling to. They can help you understand how your products are performing in their environments and what kind of services, support or functionality are needed to make them more effective and more broadly adopted. Best of all, they provide inside views of your competitors and offer practitioners view of analyst reports. What’s not to love?

Technology companies know they need the value Advisory Boards provide, so the most common approach is to create one using the smart, capable people on their internal marketing team. After all, how hard can this Advisory Board stuff really be?

Actually, as anyone who has actually tried to build and run an Advisory Board that contributes real business value can tell you, it turns out that it is really hard.

The first and often most daunting problem is to get an invitation in front of the senior executives you want on your Advisory Board. This doesn’t sound hard, and many companies have the contact information for at least some of the executives they want on their Advisory Boards in their CRM systems. After all, in even mid-sized companies there’s a whole team of people focused on gathering contact data for customers and prospects.

The problem is that the CXO you’re targeting for an Advisory Board seat is literally bombarded with sales and marketing emails every single day. You’re just one of the thousands of cyber security vendors who would like them to attend an event, sit in on a webinar, take a sales meeting or have a heart-to-heart conversation with their CEO. Take it from us; there is no CXO out there that does not have a layered system of human and technology filters designed to weed out your marketing invitation to an Advisory Board (along with all  the other marketing “asks”).

Your marketing team may be able to reach a few of your most engaged CXOs, and a few of those CXOs might even be interested in your Advisory Board invitation. But often their interest doesn’t translate into participation. They either go dark after signaling initial interest, or fail to show up to the event because of the second major problem internal marketing teams have when trying to build an Advisory Board: the time commitment.

Let’s face it, any C-level executive for a major account has a jam-packed schedule. Getting them to commit to anything can be tenuous. This problem is especially acute for CISOs who can be pulled away from anything on their calendar by a security event.

Your marketing team has to be able to very quickly persuade an executive that attending your Advisory Board is worth his or her time. Many CXOs who were sort of, kind of interested in an Advisory Board balk when they understand the time commitment if they don’t also understand the value. And the value is pretty hard to not communicate via an email or a LinkedIn DM if you don’t already have a personal relationship with the CXO. Let’s face it, in their world of constantly shifting business priorities, you’re just not that important.

The third major obstacle marketing teams face is scheduling. Even if an CXO is interested it’s really challenging to get them to commit time on their calendars. We’ll let you calculate the odds that the executives you want on your Advisory Board, will all be available at the same time. And that the time they are available is the same time your executive team is available. And that a last minute, critical meeting doesn’t drop onto their calendars just before the event.

If you even get this far, you still haven’t solved all the challenges. If your internal marketing team manages to get a few interested executives to commit to scheduling some time, you still have to manage potential conflicts of interest (you don’t want someone on your Advisory Board that is also on Board for one of your competitors) and actually keep them interested enough to actually show up for the event.

This is why we talk to a lot of CMOs who say they have an Advisory Board but after a deeper discussion we find out that what they are doing doesn’t deliver business value to the Advisory Board members or to the company. Most companies either give up at this point or keep doing the same things over and over (which is a whole lot of work) and getting very limited business value outcomes.

SSN takes a completely different approach to building Advisory Boards and our customers are pretty excited about the results. If you’d like to learn how we can do the same for you, give us a shout.