My recent post provided tips for getting the right people on your Customer Advisory Council. Today I’m going to share essentials for the Charter that will guide the group.
Advisory Council Charter Defined
The Advisory Council Charter is a concise, one-page document that presents the product manager’s expectations for council members. It’s a way for you to set expectations for members before the council’s work begins. It’s also a way to keep control of internal company expectations. Within your company you should share the Charter with senior management, engineering, sales, and marketing.
The Advisory Council Charter needs to cover these key topics:
- Group objective
- Meeting frequency
- Length of meetings
- Meeting location
- Council participants
- Planned meeting dates and topics
- Other expectations
- Point person
Everything in the Charter must be spelled out clearly and succinctly. Remember the whole charter is only one page long. Typically advisory councils meet only once or twice a year, but consider your objectives before setting frequency.
It’s also important to allow enough time for each meeting. Many set aside an entire day for the Advisory Council meeting. If you can arrange it, have members come in the night before your meeting. This will allow you to take the team to dinner and begin building camaraderie among the group.
Outlining Roles Included on the Council
The Charter should also clearly outline the role or roles of Customer Advisory Council members. Are you involving end users, economic decision makers, or maybe people who are some of both? Being on an Advisory Council is often considered a prestigious accomplishment. By including those whom participants consider peers, you enhance the attractiveness of joining the Council.
Beware of the Evergreen Assumption
Participants joining the Council need to know up front that there are term limits on participation. It’s not a lifetime or “evergreen” term. One year is usually too little time for members to form a strong chemistry and begin sharing ideas that have a positive impact. Remember, the Council is probably only going to meet one or two times per year. For many organizations, a two-year Council term works well. This approach allows you to continually bring fresh thinking into the group. It also keeps the council aligned with your company’s evolving focus, leadership, and direction.
Get on the Schedule Early
Those you choose for the Advisory Council are typically busy people. You need to publish the dates of your meetings early and then circulate the meeting topics before members arrive. This will allow them to begin formulating ideas and questions before they get there.
How will travel expenses be handled? How will travel arrangements be made? Who within your organization will help the participants and answer their questions? All this needs to be laid out clearly in the Charter. You also need to clearly cover policies concerning travel. Handling these issues up front will avoid misunderstandings later.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how best to support your company’s product launch.