B2B Customers Expect To Be Treated as Key Accounts
All the indications suggest that in business-to-business marketing, key account management (KAM) is not an option, but a customer expectation, write Malcolm McDonald, Beth Rogers and Diana Woodburn in Key Customers. However, structuring a company around a key account approach is not easy. Drawing from their extensive research into the topic, McDonald, Rogers and Woodburn have put together a book that they describe as "representative of the very best of best practice."
As the authors point out, the growing complexity of business-to-business markets presents a huge challenge. Markets are undergoing a shift from chains of value to "integrated recipes of value." Also, business has become increasingly internationalized, and customers are growing ever more sophisticated. According to the authors, all of these factors help explain why one of the key messages of their research into KAM is that it must be distinguished from its predecessor, key account selling.
From Single Sales to Continuous Contact
In simple terms, the traditional focus of a selling company was oriented toward single sales based on product features. There was a limited commitment to customer service, discontinuous customer contact and a belief that quality was the production department's concern.
By contrast, companies that have adopted the key account approach are oriented toward customer retention through continuous customer contact and a focus on delivering value to customers over an extended period of time. There is a high commitment to meeting customers' expectations and a belief that quality is the concern of every staff member.
Throughout the book, the authors' emphasis is on clarifying and articulating key concepts and giving the reader tools that can be applied in the real-world marketplace. In particular, the authors:
- Describe the evolution of the buyer-seller relationship leading to the trend toward partnering.
- Explain how to select and categorize the most appropriate accounts to target for KAM.
- Examine how to analyze key accounts to establish and prioritize their needs.
- Introduce the processes for and tools and techniques of key account planning.
- Discuss the qualities and skills required of a key account manager.
- Explore the operations and processes necessary to take supply chain relationships to new levels of integration.
- Offer a framework for developing business relationships proactively, based on targeted features of key relationships.
This practical guide is an excellent and thorough resource regarding customer management for marketing and sales executives, as well as for senior managers with strategic responsibility.