White space Mapping
It was Friday, and I wanted to have some fun with the team, so we started up one of our favorite games – Foxymorons. First came the usual clichéd ones to set the ball rolling. Deafening silence. Happily married. Clearly confused. Pretty Ugly. Living Dead. And then some of the clever ones…(welcome to the world of techies) – Customer support. Virtual reality. IT career…you get the drift..and then one of our interns said ‘white space.’ Undoubtedly the office was thrown into a debate (it was close to lunchtime and a welcome distraction) on whether it qualifies as an oxymoron or not, but it set me thinking….
White space – Theory, Practice & All the In-Betweens
White space Analysis is one of the most ‘used’ modules across all DemandFarm users. It is one of the most comprehensive modules I have ever experienced and honestly, it is one of the most important bits of DemandFarm for all stakeholders in the Strategic Account Management ecosystem. Consistently, users have come back to tell us how useful it is; and how it has got most of what KAMs, Sales Ops, and Leadership need to be able to make strategic decisions about their Account. It is a module we invest a lot of time on because one of the promises we make to DemandFarm users is growing Key Accounts. But what is ‘White space’? Sometimes we internalize terms to the extent that we forget to see the word for what it really is or originally meant – for me it had become ‘a DemandFarm module.’ Now serendipity had made me re-reflect on the word and its nuances.
As I usually do in such cases, I first turned to the theory. What was the textbook definition of White space mapping in the management context? Rudimentary searches did not throw up much, and I would be happy to hear more about the specific management theory on Whitespace Mapping. Here is what I did find – at a theoretical level, White space analysis is a great key account management tool, primarily used in the innovation context. It typically approaches the quest for organizational innovation from two broad perspectives- external and internal. But I found the purely ‘innovation-centric’ discussion inadequate for the way we approach it in Key Account Management.
What’s Hiding in the Great Unknown, Amidst All that Data? Opportunities, Of course!
White space opportunities
So obviously I then looked at Whitespace in the KAM context more deeply. Here, instead of broader organizational innovation opportunities, we are focused on serving a particular Key Account (which is no less complex than an entire industry!). When we speak about Whitespace mapping and analysis at DemandFarm, the focus is on joining all the dots (across the Client and industry) for the big picture and then identifying all the white space opportunities for growth – laterally or up and down the value stream. In other words – a visual representation of the current deal pipeline and (short and long-term) opportunities. Not just opportunities to sell, but opportunities to add or create value for the Key Client and their business (including innovation to the product, service or process). Just to complicate matters further, it is also about being able to see the Clients whitespace, anticipate and build capacities in order to be able to serve them in their innovation efforts over time. That is how you go from being a vendor to a preferred business partner, and that is the very soul of Account Management.
Our job is to leverage technology to bring all the varied data points together. So KAM teams can focus on interpreting the intel, turning them into strategic action, creating the business case and buy-ins, and consistently nurturing, deepening and widening their Key Client engagements.
Finally, I turned to the practicing professionals to get their thoughts on what the White space Mapping and Analysis mean to them. Here are some of the responses. It is where 80% of my Account Planning work gets done” said one. ‘It helps me build my business cases for internal buy-ins’ said another. A CXO friend – also a DemandFarm user – said ‘it is the maximum info about the account in terms of business opportunities.’ Paraphrasing her, white space mapping allowed her to see where they were strongest and weakest, where they were selling – and where they were not, and provided the strategic intel required to fill the significant gaps.
So, that is how a Friday afternoon game led to a session on White space mapping and its meaning. Two things are certain – the meaning of White space mapping in practical terms for us as a Key Account Management technology will keep evolving. And two – Whitespace is anything but white (or blank). It is a space teeming with intel, linkages, and cross-linkages (and somewhere in there, lots of wonderful opportunities!) – it is a busy, busy place. At DemandFarm, we hope to give it the structure needed, so users know where to look for the vital cues that help grow, mine and farm their most valuable Accounts.
The Power of Visualization
$40mn in planned revenue
A $600 million IT services company with 50+ key accounts used the account landscape to map and grow their accounts. When DemandFarm has implemented a couple of years ago the account managers of these accounts were asked to identify various buying centers of the accounts. Here we have taken an example of Airbus. So, the account manager of Airbus identified Helicopters, CIO Org, Commercial Aircraft, etc. as the Buying Centers. Before this, we had already configured various service lines or Offerings which the customer was taking to the market. For e.g. Engineering Consulting, Enterprise Security, IoT, then had Platforms and so on so forth.
Account of Landscape
Having created these Offerings and Buying Centers in the account, DemandFarm generated an account of Landscape. This is how the account looked in the beginning, we had all the Offerings as the Columns and the Buying Centers as rows. One can see Opportunities & Engagements at multiple places. The account was well placed then, but the revenue growth of the account had stagnated. Because of the standard offerings like Engineering Consulting, Enterprise Security, etc. which were less relevant now. So, the company introduced new Offerings. One such example is when DemandFarm acquired a big Salesforce competency shop enabling them to offer services around Salesforce practice.
The challenge was to make the account managers embrace this change and grow the existing platinum accounts which seemed stagnant. Then, Salesforce was configured as a new offering and started appearing on the account Landscape as the new column. Since this was a new Offering the account managers were made to think where this new Offering could be sold. Obviously, it cannot be sold to the existing Buying Centers and therefore two new Buying Centers were identified & created namely Sales and Marketing. The combination of these new Buying Centers & the new Offering became the focus area or the ‘white-spaces-analysis’ for growth. White space mapping helps you to map areas to grow your service or product.
After this, the Account Manager created a plan to grow business with the new offering in the new Buying Centers. While the old buying centers were not generating new business, the account manager was still able to plan for an additional $1 million in Marketing and another $1million in Sales Buying Centers.
A similar exercise in all key accounts for all new offerings leads to an additional plan of $40million in 2017. They are well on their way to achieving $28 million of that plan. There is a lot of power in simplicity and visualization. However, it should not be concluded as ‘easy’.
How do you approach white space analysis and mapping for your Key Accounts? What are your biggest barriers to spotting and leveraging opportunities for growth and value creation with Key Clients? We would love to hear!