Tips for Email Communications for Customer-Facing Engagements

The New CSM Guidebook: Part 3: Communicating with Customers

May 10, 2012

When planning customer-facing engagements, the relationship begins long before the customers show up to the session. We provide guidelines for how to craft the communications you send to customers in the context of a co-design or CAB event. We discuss the timing of communications, setting the right tone, and providing the right content to get customers engaged, excited, and committed to the success of your project.


How and when you reach out and communicate with customers in the context of a co-design, CAB, or other face-to-face session is very important to establishing and maintaining the relationship. Here we provide guidelines for:

•When to send each type of communication

•The tone to use when communicating

• The content to include (and not include)

• How long each email should be

• Important communications that should follow the event


When planning face-to-face customer engagements, the relationship begins long before the customers show up to the session. In every piece of email you send, every phone call you make, you are establishing and strengthening a connection that will move you forward in your collaboration with your customers.

To help you with your co-design or other customer-facing initiatives, this guide offers tips on how to most effectively communicate with customers in the context of a customer co-design, CAB, or other face-to-face engagement project (typically via email communications) to get them engaged, excited, and committed to the success of the project.

Timing of Your Communications

We have talked a lot about the vital importance of planning for any customer co-design or CAB event. Lead time for actually inviting the customers to participate varies based on the type of customer and type of engagement.

B2C CUSTOMER RECRUITMENT. There are lots of ways to identify consumers to participate nowadays. You might look to your Facebook fans in a particular geographic location; you can send out a survey and select the most insightful customers from among the respondents; you could hire a recruitment firm that specializes in finding the types of consumers you are looking for; or you can contact your customer base directly. Once you have selected your target audience, often a recruitment/screening firm will contact prospects to determine their availability and interest and then pass them on to you to invite.

However you find them, we strongly recommend starting to recruit consumers for co-design and other in-person sessions six to eight weeks prior to the event to ensure that you can find enough people who are available for the session. Customers all have very busy lives, and it isn't always easy to find people who have the time to help you design your future. If you are bringing consumers in from out of town, or you are planning more than a half-day or evening session, you might need even more lead time.

B2C Communications Timeline. For consumers, the communication for the particular event can begin with an email invitation, about six to eight weeks before the event. The following table provides the timing for the communications that you will send to consumers regarding an in-person engagement.

B2C Communications Timeline
(assuming a six-to-eight week lead time)

Type of Communication



Recruitment/screening call


Week 1

Initial invitation to participate


Week 1

Invitation to schedule an telephone interview

Follow-up emails to finalize an interview time


Weeks 2 through 3

Actual interview


Weeks 3 through 5

Logistics information


Weeks 3 or 4

Agenda and additional logistics


Week 5



Three days prior to event


In Person

Week 6

Thank you


24 hours after event

Follow-up with contact info on other participants, findings and next steps


1 week after event

© 2012 Patricia Seybold Group Inc.

B2C CUSTOMER RECRUITMENT. In general, your business customers need a lot more advance notice in order to carve out the time to work with you and their peers on an advisory board or co-design. In fact, six months is the average lead time you should plan before a scheduled CAB meeting. CABs tend to be multi-day events with a commitment to follow-on sessions at regular intervals, as opposed to a one-day CSM session (although these can span multiple days when combined with company briefings, tours, and other types of activities). The longer the commitment, the earlier you should begin contacting your business customers.

Recruitment of your lead business customers doesn't start with a simple survey or a wholesale invitation to all customers of a certain level. To find the right customers to participate in a strategic advisory board or co-design event, you want to truly identify not only your most important customers, but also those insightful customers who will have good input—positive or negative; don't automatically eliminate the complainers or nay-sayers—they usually have a lot to offer!

The best way to find the right high-level and strategic customers to court—yes, the recruitment process is a courtship—is by going through your account executives. These are the people who really know these executive customers as individuals, who understand what they could contribute, and who are aware of any political issues between your organizations and other relevant information (e.g., who is about to jump ship, be promoted, is angry with you, needs a win within her organization, etc.).

These account reps identify the right person at each organization and make the first contact to find out if the customer is interested in participating. Only then would the more standard email communications begin.

B2B Communications Timeline. The business customer identification and recruitment process begins months before the actual event. And, as mentioned, the more in-depth the commitment, the sooner the recruitment should begin. By in-depth, we mean the total time and resources that the customer will be offering to your company. A one-time CSM session would require less lead time (say, three to four months) from the first contact with the account representatives about whom to invite than would membership on an Executive Advisory Committee that would meet twice a year and asks for participate in teleconferences and smaller group meetings throughout the year.

Setting Expectations

In any customer interaction, especially one where there are multiple customers, it is important to clearly set expectations for the session. We will discuss setting expectations in more depth in an upcoming section of the CSM guidebook, but the two most important expectations that should be set are:

• All you information is confidential to this group and our company.

• We are making no promises. The ideas that we collectively come up with during our discussions, mapping, and other group sessions are not promises! They are input and priorities for future initiatives.

For consumers, these expectations can be stated at the event. For business customers, the account executives should set these expectations during initial recruitment; they should be reinforced in follow-up emails; and they should be ...

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