Why we’re setting up a customer advisory board – and why we think it’s important

  • Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Co-Founder & CEO, Knak

Published Mar 27, 2024

Knak Customer Advisory Board

This year, for the first time ever, Knak’s leadership team will be getting together with a small and carefully chosen group of customers to get their input on our product.

Our plan is to collect information about how they use Knak, and find out how we can improve Knak to better match their needs at a time when AI is shaking up the tech sector.

In this post, I want to explain how we’ve gone about creating a customer advisory board (CAB), and why we think it’s important for us to be deliberate about getting customer feedback.

What is a customer advisory board?

A customer advisory board is a group created to allow a company to gather information from its customers. This can include information about what the customers like and don’t like about the products or services being sold, as well as insights about things customers want that don’t yet exist.

This kind of intelligence lets a company refine its products and services, for example by helping it understand whether a hot new trend is just a flash in the pan, or whether it represents a deep-seated shift in the business landscape that the company needs to invest in.

I first heard about CABs at a business meeting in San Francisco several years ago.

Someone was telling how their company had, the day before, gathered representatives from some of the biggest companies in the world (their customers) to get feedback on their product.

I thought it was a very cool idea!

Fast forward to 2023.

I was looking over a list of Knak’s customers one day, and it struck me that it included some pretty big companies with some pretty smart people. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to get them all together in a room and pick their brains?

Then Insight Partners, our investor, did a webinar on CABs and the idea gelled: Knak should create its own customer advisory board.

We started putting one together last November.

Creating a CAB is not a straightforward process. We had to sort through a whole range of matters, including who to invite, what we wanted out of it and how it would be run.

Who would we invite?

For a CAB to be effective, it has to be big enough to include a representative sample of customers, but small enough so that everyone can participate easily. It also has to be structured so that everyone’s voice is heard.

When we were looking to create our CAB, we first asked ourselves which of our customers did we most want to hear from? Whose opinion would be most valuable to us?

We then looked around to see who among our biggest customers fit best with our ideal customer profile, and tried to identify which individuals in those companies would be best able to contribute to a visionary discussion about how technology can enable things.

They also had to have a full understanding of the Knak platform, and be able to have, within their own companies, a strategic understanding of how the Knak platform could transform their marketing internally. We needed people who could zoom in on the details, but also see the big picture.

After a lot of discussion and a few hard decisions, we’ve ended up with a CAB of just under 20 people, including participants from Knak.

Where and when would the CAB meet?

Having decided who we wanted to invite, the next step was figuring out where and when to hold the meeting so that it would be convenient and accessible for the greatest number of people.

We quickly realized that most of the people we wanted to invite would be attending the 2024 Adobe Summit in Las Vegas at the end of March. So we decided to piggyback our CAB meeting onto the Adobe Summit by holding it the day before the summit was due to start. That way, people would just have to fly in one day early.

To encourage participation, we also decided to pull out all stops to give attendees a great experience.

We picked a nice hotel for the meeting, and made plans for a dinner together afterwards. We also offered participants their choice of three ‘experiences’ – driving a supercar at a race track, getting a VIP tour of Sphere Las Vegas, or taking a helicopter ride over the Strip to make the whole thing memorable.

How would the meeting be run?

To make sure the meeting is properly run, we tapped Paul Wilson to be moderator. Paul knows Knak but is not now a customer, and has extensive experience with Marketo and Salesforce, among others. In other words he’s knowledgeable but independent of us.

We want him to manage the meeting so that it’s one single conversation in which every voice is heard.

And to make sure we get the most out of the participants, we will be interviewing all our customers in advance so we can arrive prepared.

What did we want to get out of it? What did we want our customers to get out of it?

A CAB meeting isn’t a social gathering. If we’re going to ask our busy customers to take part in a meeting that lasts the better part of a day, there’s got to be something in it for everyone.

From Knak’s perspective, the benefits are clear.

For me, a CAB morphed into a must-have when artificial intelligence exploded into the business landscape in early 2023.

Before AI, we had a clear vision for Knak and a clear idea of what we needed to build. But AI is changing the landscape, and all of a sudden it became absolutely critical for us to ask our customers how AI was changing their world. We need to hear their ideas and validate our own to make sure we are still on the right track.

We also need to make sure our customers get something out of the exchange.

So we have made it clear that we are offering them a chance to shape the future of Knak by telling us what features they would like to have. Knak is often very important in their jobs, and if our product improves, it has a positive impact on their career. We hope meeting participants will see their ideas in one of our features someday soon.

Finally, both Knak and our customers will benefit from getting to know each other better. In addition to being able to network with their peers, we have let our customers know that they will have access to Knak’s leadership team and its product team.

How do we define success?

A customer advisory board represents a significant investment in both time and money. As CEO, I just hope the investment pays off – though I know that ultimately, any investment you make in your customers is worth it.

In my mind, our CAB meeting will be a success if the customers feel they have been able to share what’s most important to them about our roadmap and how we work with them.

It will be a success if it’s a good networking opportunity for them with their peers and with Knak.

It will be a success if they had fun, if they feel it was a good use of their time and if they want to do it again.

From our perspective, the meeting will be successful if we emerge with a good handle on what our most important customers want and a clear understanding of how to prioritize our product roadmap.

We are also hoping to come out of the meeting with deeper connections with our customers.

If things go well, we intend to make the CAB structure permanent and bring the group together on a regular basis.

Stay tuned. I’ll be doing a follow-up post in the coming weeks about how that first CAB meeting went.

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  • Pierce Ujjainwalla


    Pierce Ujjainwalla

    Co-Founder & CEO, Knak

    Pierce is a career marketer who has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo. He launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. He is also the founder of Revenue Pulse, a marketing operations consultancy.

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