By Mike Brody, Exago
The user conference (UC) is ubiquitous among SaaS providers, but comparatively few companies hold additional Customer/Client Advisory Board (CAB) meetings. This, in my opinion, is a missed opportunity. Both events give customers the opportunity to network, share resources, and bring new information back to their respective companies, but they are not interchangeable.
Third-party vendors like Exago do well to distinguish between clients and end users; but even when those groups are one and the same, the purpose of a CAB meeting is fundamentally different from that of a UC. It all comes down to information flow: at a UC, information predominantly passes from the vendor to the customer; at a CAB meeting, it mostly flows from the customer to the vendor. For this reason, CABs and UCs differ structurally in some key ways.
First and foremost, size. UCs tend to be large-scale events held in hotel ballrooms with hundreds of end users in attendance. Sessions run on parallel tracks with the expectation that not all talks will be relevant to all attendees. CAB meetings, by contrast, need to be small to function properly. A CAB comprises a select group of customers or clients who engage deeply with the product and wish to play a more prominent role in its improvement. It is important, therefore, that each individual member’s voice be heard. This lends itself to smaller, more intimate single-track sessions centered more around conversation than a lecture-style talk.