My marketing team often insists that I write about Key Account Management. Until now, I often thought that since there is already so much written about it, how could I possibly throw more light on the subject with the aim of ‘adding more value’ to it at the start of the new year.
So, here’s what I thought I’d do; I thought it better to summarize all that I have written in the past and open up a new discussion on whether or not (and most importantly, how) Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Language (ML) can be used for Account Management.
May I just mention here that I don’t know the answer to the above! Not yet at least!
But here’s what can help:
I had once written about how to segment key accounts. It is essential to understand, at least once a year, which of your accounts are your ‘strategic partners’ and in which accounts you are a ‘tactical vendor’. Or somewhere in between-Cooperative/Interdependent relations with clients. This exercise need not be complex or time-consuming.
Another time, I had elaborated on white space analysis and metrics to track for Key Accounts in a two-part blog. We can identify areas of growth in an account by building an account landscape that consists of the ‘Buying Centers-Offerings’ matrix. The account growth if analyzed separately in terms of ‘farming’ and ‘mining’ growth will give a real picture of where the growth is coming from and future possibilities.
With the growing use of technologies like AI and ML, my mind is often occupied on assessing its true value on Key Account Management. Does it support KAM just as well as it does marketing, sales, and other associated business activities?
Honestly, I still don’t know the answer.
Even as a participating industry professional I too am often confused with ABM/ABS/ABE claiming Key Account Management space with AI/ML.
For those uninitiated, ABM/S/E stands for Account-Based Marketing/Sales/Everything.
While I do agree that AI/ML algorithms can be built to identify right accounts through intent/ searches/ announcement these accounts can also be targeted effectively using display advertising based on role/function and their watering hole (media).
All the AB(X)s still only focus on acquiring an account in the B2B marketing context. That is not really Key Account Management.
The fact is, KAM is what you do after acquiring the strategic account.
Some of the most critical elements of Key Account Management include:
- Understanding the customer’s business deeply. How they are structured, which business units are growing rapidly, geography-wise spread, what are the strategic initiatives and management changes – these are some of the areas to study.
- Creating a solution using my products/services to create more value for the customer’s business challenges. Understanding which of our current engagements could grow as well as which are at risk and what are the new doors to open.
- Collaborating and building relationships with people in the customer organization as well as internally within my company.
- Making account plans with the above information leading to revenue goals, specific actions, and timelines.
All these listed elements are human processes that require a fair amount of cognitive thinking.
Every account for a key account manager will have unique situations requiring tailor-made solutions, approaches, or strategies. I don’t see a possibility of it ‘trending’ to make any regressive analysis here.
The key takeaway is that – any good account manager will use heuristics rather than a deduction to make decisions. The best I have achieved is to create frameworks, (not processes!) for strategic account management.
A key account manager is constantly asking questions to herself and to her collaborators. Whereas, AI/ML is about answering questions. That is where I am stuck and I am hoping 2018 will give me some clarity on this.