Whitespace – Anything But White Space
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 lunch time and a welcome distraction) on whether it qualifies as an oxymoron or not, but it set me thinking….
Theory, Practice & All the In-Betweens
Whitespace 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 Key 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 ‘Whitespace’? 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 Whitespace 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 Analysis. 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!
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 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 Key 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 Whitespace 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, whitespace 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 Whitespace and its meaning. Two things are certain – the meaning of Whitespace 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.
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!