Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at DemandFarm
The use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) in account-based marketing has revolutionized the way organizations approach their marketing strategies. Predictive analytics that utilizes historical data to identify future trends and behaviors, can help organizations optimize their communication strategies and make data-driven decisions to drive growth to stay ahead of their competitors.
The big data edge
Predictive analytics through big data and AI is a game-changer for key account planning. By utilizing predictive analytics, organizations can better understand consumer behaviors and trends and predict future shifts. This empowers them to develop more effective communication strategies, optimize resources and spend, qualify and prioritize leads, and retain customers. With the integration of advanced communication tools and measurement capabilities, organizations can stay competitive and drive growth in today’s data-driven environment.
In the past, organizations relied on data-driven communication to understand the long-term impact of their campaigns on sales. However, with the evolution of communication analytics, organizations are now able to move beyond aggregate data and understand user-level interactions. Multi-touch attribution (MTA) models, for instance, enable organizations to gain a better understanding of consumer paths to purchase.
The need for predictive analytics and big data
With predictive analytics and big data, organizations can understand consumer behaviors and trends better, and predict future shifts with better accuracy. By leveraging machine learning and AI, organizations can combine insights generated through various datasets, algorithms, and models to develop more effective communication strategies.
There are three primary models associated with predictive analytics: cluster models, propensity models, and recommendations filtering. These models enable organizations to segment audiences, evaluate consumer likelihood to act, and understand where there might be additional sales opportunities. They can enhance effectiveness by updating their playbook to provide a better overview of consumer behavior, optimize resources and spend, qualify and prioritize leads, and retain customers. With so much data available, organizations require advanced communication tools and measurement capabilities to take full advantage of predictive analytics. Unified communication measurement, communication analytics software, and AI and machine learning are essential features that enable organizations to act on insights in real-time and serve dynamic content automatically.
Developing a key accounts-focused culture
As every customer or account has a unique persona and behavior, developing an account-centric culture is a top priority for every company. However, tracking progress can be challenging without effective processes. Initially, companies relied on CRM for opportunity management, but account planning tools have since been created to provide intelligence into their key accounts. With the evolving environment, these tools have also had to adapt to new opportunities and help enterprises resolve their existing challenges. Analytics can play a precise role in account centricity by providing detailed insights to prepare proposals/quotes depending on each key account’s requirements. Enterprises can also review target achievements and create reports that facilitate decision-making and strategy formulation. Analytics can identify future trends and opportunities in the industry, as well as insights on the non-captured value of a customer, which may add to the economic value derived from customer profitability analysis.
AI for leveling the playing field
Businesses of all sizes are recognizing the need to adopt a digital approach to key account management. Small B2B organizations, in particular, face a tough challenge as they do not have the same resources or brand equity as their larger competitors. As a result, they often rely on building strong relationships and trust with their clients through great work and word-of-mouth referrals. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in this approach, as remote work made it challenging to engage with clients physically.
To address this challenge, many small B2B organizations have shifted their focus to digital key account management. This approach involves creating and implementing a digital account and relationship strategy to retain and grow key relationships in a remote world. Here are some factors that businesses should consider when making this shift.
- Data-driven approach to relationship strategy and management should be a top priority. Businesses should collect data and use it to inform decision-making that produces positive outcomes for their organization. This approach is already used by consultants to help clients be successful, and businesses can turn that lens on themselves to see how they can increase their and customer lifetime value.
- Culture and people change during a digital approach requires proactive and sustained communication across a variety of stakeholder groups. To be successful, businesses must influence broad behavioral change across their company and make it stick by aligning incentives and measurement with the business outcomes that they value. Conducting quarterly business reviews (QBRs) with key accounts can shed light on the importance of the process, and sales teams can prime the rest of the organization for the same.
- Enabling teams with the right tools is a critical factor in making the shift to digital key account management. Even with a strong approach and workforce, businesses must have the infrastructure and tools in place to make the shift successful. Investing in infrastructure that uplifts the workforce and removes roadblocks and overhead is crucial to supporting this change.
Despite the benefits of digital key account management, making the shift can come with its set of challenges. For example, businesses may face resistance to change or struggle to adopt new processes. It’s crucial to identify and address these challenges early on to ensure a smooth transition. Adopting a digital approach to key account management is essential for businesses looking to compete in a remote world. By prioritizing a data-driven approach, culture and people change, and investing in the right tools and infrastructure, businesses can make a successful transition to digital key account management. While challenges may arise, addressing them early on can help ensure a smooth and successful shift.
Challenges to big data adoption in Key Account Management
Big data has the potential to significantly improve key account management by providing insights to make better decisions. However, challenges can arise when collecting and managing large amounts of data. One of the main challenges encountered is the need for data governance or data hygiene to ensure that data is consistent and accurate across groups. Another challenge is data validation, especially when dealing with unstructured data, which can vary widely in terms of input.
The COVID19 pandemic also posed new challenges to key account management, including staying relevant and connected with customers in a digital environment. It led to a more rigorous and strategic approach to influencing, targeting the right influencers, and personalizing content to make every minute count. Culture change can also be a significant challenge in the adoption of new practices, including enforcing common approaches and measures.
The key to overcoming this challenge lies in identifying champions of change, leaders and account managers who could model and promote the best practices to others. Measuring the right behaviors and outcomes are essential to drive adoption and success in key account management. By addressing these challenges, companies can leverage big data to gain valuable insights that can improve decision-making, enhance customer relationships, and ultimately drive business growth.
Small changes to embrace for big data advantage
Key account management has become a top priority for CSO and CROs in organizations as customer behavior continues to change. With the role of key account management evolving and becoming more complex, AI can be a key differentiator and enabler. In order for organizations to survive and thrive in uncertain times, it is critical to focus on driving account management principles and practices.
AI tools can seamlessly integrate within the existing ecosystem of organizations and tackle a variety of platforms like LinkedIn, driving engagements and intelligence to help managers build relationships at a larger scale. With buyers changing their behaviors in significant ways and more personas coming into the account management sphere, it is becoming critical for organizations to leverage technology to enable their employees to develop better connections with buyers. However, adding too many additional steps or work can create friction for the sales team when they are selling. This is critical to evaluate because it’s the most significant hurdle for organizations to leverage technology better within the entire sales and marketing process. It’s not just the sales role, marketing, delivery, operations, and the entire organization that must create a frictionless process and seamless integration.
To overcome this hurdle, organizations must focus on creating a less cumbersome process and bringing in automation to an extent where the sales team doesn’t have to fill in data details or manage different tools for account and opportunity funnels. This can be achieved by integrating the technology within the current platform, making it less burdensome for the sales team. The key to success lies in starting the process early and evolving it gradually, ensuring that people see the value of the process and account management before proposing technology.
When the process is already in place, it becomes easier to scale and make it less cumbersome for the sales team. Data can be leveraged to start having conversations and seeing patterns, trends, and changes happening within the organization. AI can be an enabler and a key performance indicator, seamlessly integrating within the existing ecosystem of organizations and providing insights to help managers build relationships at a larger scale. The process is also equally important, and a less cumbersome process with automation is essential for success. With the right approach, organizations can leverage big data for better key account planning, making it a valuable tool for driving success.
Boosting key account planning with big data and AI
Key accounts, which are the marquee accounts for any organization, play a significant role in driving growth and success. However, with the right approach, even long-tail accounts can also contribute to growth. One of the key changes that organizations are making is to focus on customer centricity. For sales teams, this means going beyond understanding the customer’s needs and truly living and breathing the customer’s brand. This level of customer centricity enables sales teams to have more informed conversations with customers and identify opportunities for growth.
Implementing digital key account management practices can be daunting for many organizations, and it is understandable. The risk of ruining relationships built over traditional methods is not something to be taken lightly. Starting with a pilot program allows them to test the waters and understand the impact of incorporating these practices. The first step is to establish a process for account-based selling and marketing. Once the process is established, it’s essential to involve people in the process. This ensures that everyone in the organization understands the impact and benefits of these practices. Finally, the pilot program can be executed with a small number of accounts to test the process, identify issues, and make any necessary adjustments before scaling up.
While it’s essential to leverage technology to scale up the program, the focus should always be on driving revenue goals. Implementing these practices is not a one-time activity, but a continuous process that requires ongoing monitoring and adjustments. Sales teams must continue to stay informed about their customers and their industry to identify opportunities for growth. By adopting a customer-centric approach and leveraging digital key account management practices, sales teams can map relationships, identify opportunities for growth, even with long-tail accounts. With the right approach and ongoing monitoring, organizations can transform their key account planning practices and drive growth.
Embedded AI tools guide which parts of a client’s engagement can grow further in engagement and which ones are at risk. Currently, most of the key processes in account planning or management involve a level of cognitive ability and thinking to create a unique value proposition for specific clients. However, with AI, it is only a matter of time before the process evolves.
It is predicted that 80% of B2B sales interactions by 2025 will be conducted on digital channels. The future of account planning will see a transformation in strategy, processes, and resource allocation, moving the process from being seller-centric to buyer-centric and from analog to hyper-automated, digital-first engagement with customers. Account planning tools will also have features that allow enterprises to collaborate in real-time with their clients. Teams can now co-create with their clients using whiteboarding tools, and can arrive at mutually beneficial decisions based on data, analytics, and AI, not on intuition and experience alone.
Organizations must be ready to engage customers. A shift to buyer-oriented, not product-oriented integrated commercial channels will be critical to meet the changing expectations and preferences for digital and self-service channels of customers everywhere.