Build software with users, not for them

Start a User Advisory Group (UAG) to collaborate with your users in real-time as you design & develop your SaaS product, website, mobile app or internal applications

Advise.Us Screenshot

What is a User Advisory Group (UAG)?

A User Advisory Group (UAG) is a hand-picked group of your key users that share their ongoing input to guide the design & development of your software.

You can think of it like having a “24/7 digital focus group” with your key users.

Your UAG can be relatively small (5-50 members) or scale to be much larger (300+ members) if you desire a “qual/quant” approach to validating decisions. 

Regardless of the size, having a UAG at your fingertips is an awesome way to make smarter, user-centric decisions as you build out your software…

Who benefits most from having a UAG?

Just about anyone building software can benefit from having their own UAG, although here are a few criteria to decide whether you will benefit most…

Why should you launch a User Advisory Group?

There are many benefits to launching a UAG, but here are a few of the key ones...

Make smarter decisions

With a 24/7 connection to users you can inform more decisions with the voice of your users

Make timely decisions

Post a discussion to your UAG and receive input almost immediately, helping you make timely decisions

Boost user satisfaction

Being part of a UAG makes users feel valued and heard, helping to boost retention & satisfaction

What can you do with your UAG?

Here are a dozen ways you can use your UAG....

How does a User Advisory Group work?

Once your UAG has launched, there are just three simple steps to use it...

Step 1

Start Discussions

Start discussions with all users or targeted sub-segments whenever you need key user input on a topic

Step 2

Get Replies

Get in-depth, unbiased replies from your users (often in minutes) to help you make timely decisions

Share Updates

Close the feedback loop by sharing updates on what you are learning, helping to boost user satisfaction

What is the investment to have your own UAG?

User Advisory Groups are about more than the software we've custom built to host them. That's why we offer three service models to ensure you are successful with your UAG...

"Do It Yourself"

Use our software to run your own User Advisory Group(s), with our experts available to review the questions you ask

Starting at $500/month 

"Do It With You"

Our experts will design custom discussions around your goals,
as well as help facilitate your
User Advisory Group(s)

Starting at $2,500/month

"Do It For You"

We’ll do it all for you, developing discussion questions, facilitating your group(s), analyzing results & preparing ongoing reports

Starting at $5,000/month

Have more questions?

We have (a bunch of) answers...

FAQs about User Advisory Groups

They can technically last indefinitely, although we do recommend periodic (at least annual) refreshment of at least some of your UAG members to ensure you are getting fresh perspectives and ideas from time-to-time.

You can also set up UAGs with a pre-defined beginning and end, which can be useful if you’re building one around the beta launch of a new website or application (as one example).

You will see value with as few as 5 active members, although we recommend having around 25 members in your UAG to give you enough qualitative feedback to inform your decision making (without being too much to handle). 

However, some organizations like to see larger sample sizes to validate decisions and therefore a larger number of members (in the hundreds) may be more appropriate. Note that while it is technically possible to do, we do not recommend growing your UAG into the thousands of members since it loses all sense of “exclusivity” at that large of a scale. You are better off just running traditional quant surveys of your entire user base at that point…

We will make a recommendation on a size that fits your needs during our initial discovery call.

You ideally want to recruit a representative cross-section of your current users, although it does not need to be a perfectly representative mix in order to be valuable. We’ll make a custom recommendation for you based on the profile of your user base.

It’s important to get a mix of users that are likely to share both positive and negative feedback. You don’t want to just recruit people that are super happy using your software. Don’t worry about recruiting some “naysayers” either – our platform has capabilities that mitigate the potentially negative impact of “negative” users biasing the opinions of “positive” users.

It’s also important to recruit a mix of aptitudes. For example, you’ll want some “power users” in your UAG, but also some people that are less knowledgeable of all the features. The Advise.Us platform has capabilities to tag and filter responses by attributes, as well as to target discussions according to pre-set attributes. This makes it easy to have a mix of users in a single UAG.

Below are some ideas for where/how to recruit users to your User Advisory Group:

  • Send email invitations to users you have interviewed from prior user research
  • Ask teams around your organization to nominate candidates for your UAG
  • Create a page on your website describing your UAG with a link to apply
  • Add a mention of your UAG to the sign-up flow for your application
  • Place an in-app prompt to apply to join your UAG (if applicable)
We will work with you to develop a recruitment plan that fits for your organization & users…

We do not recommend inviting prospective users to your User Advisory Group because you are unlikely to get sustained engagement from prospects that have no vested interest or investment made into your software. Instead, we recommend running ad hoc user interviews and/or surveys with prospects to ensure their voice is represented in your development process (if needed).

The notable exception to this recommendation is if you are building a User Advisory Group around an application in the early stages of design & planning, where you may be recruiting targeted users to collaborate on the development of new software that does not yet exist.

We recommend staying away from cash or cash-equivalent incentives (e.g., gift cards) as a way of compelling your users to participate in your UAG. While these kinds of incentives can work in some cases, they can also backfire and “cheapen” the experience if not used appropriately.

We will make an incentive recommendation for your user base and organizational needs during our initial discovery conversation and demo…

FAQs about Pricing

Here is an explanation for each of the services in the pricing grid:

  • Platform License – You will have a license to use our proprietary platform, with access to all features for your desired number of internal and external users.
  • Setup and Training – We’ll work with you to get your UAG launched and train your team members on how to use our platform for their assigned role (moderator or observer).
  • Question Reviews – Our experts will review your discussion questions to ensure they are unbiased and following best practices to get the best possible results from your UAG.
  • Discussion Design – Tell us your objectives and we will develop a set of unbiased questions that will get to the heart of what you’re trying to learn.
  • Board Facilitation – We will serve as an “independent voice” and actually facilitate the discussions in your UAG, either alongside your team or independently (your choice).
  • Discussion Analysis – UAGs can uncover a ton of valuable, in-depth feedback. We can analyze it and uncover insights that will help you make smarter decisions today.
  • Report Development – Using our analysis of the discussions, we will put together compelling reports that can be shared among your team or more broadly across your organization.

The most popular service model we offer is the “Do It With You” approach, as it is an easy way to have a UAG without having to dedicate internal resources to facilitating one. It also ensures that you are asking unbiased questions developed by an independent third party (lending credibility to the results for internal decision making).

We generally recommend starting with at least the “Do It With You” model since you can switch to other models over time as your needs evolve. Get in touch and we will make a recommendation based on your needs and available resources…

There are a number of variables that can impact the final pricing of a UAG, which is why we mention the “starting at” prices above rather than a fixed price. These variables include:
  • The desired number of members you would like to invite to your UAG
  • How many discussions you plan on launching on a weekly/monthly basis
  • The breakdown of your user sub-segments and personas (if applicable)
  • The number of internal stakeholders/teams that are involved
  • The desired format and depth for ongoing reports (if applicable)

"Other" Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. We can name your advisory group to align with your audience (e.g., “Customer Advisory Group,” “Member Advisory Group,” etc.,) or even more broadly as a “Product Advisory Group.” The strategy and use cases might change a bit, but the core dynamic remains the same.

However, if you’re building software we recommend engaging with the actual end users of that software. Decision makers that may influence the purchase or deployment of your software are worth engaging in discussions, but it may make sense to engage them in a separate group.

Get in touch and we will make a recommendation as to how to best structure and position your advisory group(s).

Absolutely! Alternate names could include an “user group,” “user panel,” “focus group,”  (anything you want, really). We’ll work with you to come up with a name and positioning that makes sense for your software and user profile.

However, we do urge you to consider using the term “User Advisory Group” because the semi-formality of that can convey a sense that you are serious about listening to users and that you view them as active collaborators in the development of your software.

Positioning your users as “advisors” also makes them feel special, which contributes to increased engagement, retention, satisfaction and advocacy. It’s not just about making people feel special though… Research by Harvard Business School shows that asking people for “advice” rather than “feedback” significantly improves the quality and depth of their responses.

You technically could, but you won’t get high quality, in-depth and unbiased results that way…

The Advise.Us platform is purpose-built for gathering quality, in-depth user feedback. For example, we have an “unbiased” response feature that prompts your UAG members to respond to your question before they can see/respond to what other members said. This eliminates the “group think” that plagues other mediums of communication.

That’s just one example of functionality built specifically to get high quality, unbiased feedback. Other features like user segmentation, discussion targeting, forced sequential questions, data imports, attribute filters and observer accounts further make the case for the Advise.Us platform over “generic” forum, group or community software.

Not necessarily. Our platform has capabilities to target discussions to specific individuals based on certain attributes we either know about them going into the group or capture in the course of ongoing discussions. This enables us to build a single UAG for you with a variety of sub “segments” (as they are called in our platform).

However, there are scenarios where it may make sense to have separate groups so get in touch and we’ll make a recommendation based on your needs…

Our platform is not ideally designed to support traditional task-based usability studies. There are many great tools out there for remote moderated and unmoderated usability tests, so rebuilding those tools inside of the Advise.Us platform just did not make any sense.  

However, you can use your UAG to ask “high-level” usability questions (e.g., “What would you expect to see on the following page if you clicked on the link shown in this mockup?”). You can also use your UAG to recruit targeted users to traditional user testing and usability studies that use dedicated tools for these tasks.

You technically can use your UAG to recruit for live group discussions (which can be in-person or use a web meeting platform like Zoom), although we don’t necessarily recommend it.

Live, synchronous discussions are painful to coordinate and inconvenient for everyone involved. Further, they are hampered by significant biases that impact the quality of the feedback, including “group think,” “interviewer bias,” “social desirability bias” and more. Finally, they are limited in scale since live discussions (for the sake of gathering in-depth feedback and advice) become difficult to manage past 10 or so people.

The asynchronous, forum-style approach offered with the Advise.Us platform makes it easy and convenient for many of your key users to share their feedback, without the hassle of trying to attend live discussion sessions. You also get a much richer, in-depth response that is free from “group think” bias due to our unique unbiased discussion mode feature.

Yes, we can partner with agencies and consultants to help them build User Advisory Groups to inform the design/development of software they are building for their client(s).

Schedule a demo so we can show you how it works and chat about partnership opportunities…

Who is behind Advise.Us?

Founded on 20 years of user research experience

Matt Foley

Founder, Advise.Us

Matt has been involved in researching and designing software for nearly 20 years. He began his career at Harris Interactive (now Nielsen) as a Qualitative Research Consultant, where he conducted over 1,000 usability and user research interviews for product, UX and design teams at companies like Dell, Hyatt, USAA and Mercedes Benz.

He left Harris to co-found a usability and user experience consultancy called Customer Relevance, where he conducted hundreds more user/customer interviews while providing recommendations to improve the user experience and boost conversion rates. 

Matt sold his stake in Customer Relevance in 2006 to co-found a startup called PluggedIN, which built and managed private online communities to help brands “co-create” products and services alongside their users/customers. PluggedIN was acquired in 2011 by Edelman (a large global independent PR firm) where Matt stayed on for 2 years as a Senior Vice President.

After leaving Edelman in 2013, Matt has gone on to design, develop and launch three SaaS products for capturing user/customer feedback online, including FocusGroupIt, QualNow and Advise.Us. At Advise.Us, Matt oversees the launch and management of User Advisory Groups using the software that he custom-designed based on his years of user research experience. 

Matt is very active in his local (Rochester, NY) startup community. He serves in a part-time capacity as Director of Incubation at NextCorps (one of the largest incubators in NY), where he advises over 30 software startups on how to do great user/customer discovery as they build their products. He also runs the 2,000+ member Rochester Tech Startups Group.

When he’s not working in and around software companies, Matt can be found spending time with his wife and three year old son, mountain biking or snowboarding (depending on the season), reading, writing music and hanging out with fellow startup folks in Rochester. 

You can connect with Matt on LinkedIN here:

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