Dear Startups: You Need A Customer Advisory Board


This is part of a three-part series on customer advisory boards. Check back for “How To Get Your CAB Started”, and “How To Evolve Your CAB.”

Customer Advisory Boards are a beautiful thing.

With my two prior companies, they both went just like this:

  1. Recruit members (easy).
  2. Hold a couple in-person events per year to showcase your roadmap, solicit feedback, and treat them to a nice evening out for networking (fun).
  3. Then the majority of the customers became references, willing speakers, and part of a healthy upsell/cross-sell pipeline (monetization).

But, both of those companies were hovering around $100M before they created their CABs. That’s backwards. From my perspective, as soon as you have customers, you should forming your customer advisory board.

Why Startups Need Customer Advisory Boards

When you’re starting up, there’s nothing you need more than referenceable customers to provide prospects with social proof that your tech is worth a look.

We just updated our homepage to actually talk about what we do now that we’ve moved out of our closed-beta. As I watch the HotJar session recordings, do you know what people have spent the most time on?



Social proof! The longest time spent on the page is people reading those quotes from our customers.

Companies wait too long because there’s a belief that CABs can be cost and time-prohibitive for small companies.

1. Customer Advisory Boards aren’t cost prohibitive for small companies. While Amazon Web Services puts on what I’d call the rollex of CABs, we were able to do ours on a tight budget at both Endeca and Acquia. Roughly $10K per in-person event for roughly 25-30 CAB members, and the virtual events cost nothing. This is less than the cost to attend a trade show which you probably have in your mix. Cut it. Do this instead.

2. Customer Advisory Boards aren’t time prohibitive for small companies. While taking a significant percentage of your small team out of the office for a couple days is admittedly a big deal, think of it as a slingshot move. Slow down to speed up. The insight you’ll gain with customers focused exclusively on giving you feedback will accelerate the creation of great products, and the customer references you so desperately need.

Hopefully you’re considering starting your CAB now. Good move.

Come back for the next two posts on “How To Get Your CAB Started”, and “How To Evolve Your CAB.


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