In 2002, Brian Gentile was chief marketing officer for a software firm. He gathered a group of influential customers and sought their feedback on a new product his team planned to launch.
Near the end of the meeting, an outspoken customer said, "I don't give a rat's a-- about this new thing. I want you to put all your resources into making your existing product better."
Gentile polled the 10 or so others in the room. Most of them agreed that the company should improve its current software rather than introduce something new.
"You want to pay attention to the voice of the market," says Gentile, now chief executive of Jaspersoft Corp, a San Francisco software firm. "I still remember that moment when our customer-this emotional, passionate guy-gave his opinion. And we listened."
Gentile cites this incident to highlight the value of Customer Advisory Boards. He started using CABs in 1998 as an executive at Sun Microsystems, and he has continued to convene groups of key customers ever since to collect their input.
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