10 November 2009

Using Internet / Online Marketing & Social Media as a powerful tool to leverage Key Account Management and Relationship Marketing

Using Internet / Online Marketing & Social Media as a powerful tool to leverage Key Account Management and Relationship Marketing

In the previous article (Key Account Management: It’s all about Relationship Marketing) we discussed the significance of building a relationship with the customer by identifying mutual benefits to both the customer and the company and working on this relationship to drive forth sales and profits for the company. Marketing as a subject on its own is changing dramatically. With the onset of internet / online marketing, ecommerce, inbound marketing the dynamics of marketing have changed rapidly. Any company that does not tap into the large consumer base on the internet will severely find themselves weighed, measured and found wanting. The internet has dramatically and rapidly in an almost blitzkrieg type manner changed the entire world of marketing. Marketers today need to be familiar with terms such as SEO, business blogs, PPC and Social Media. These new mediums have also dramatically effected the world of Key Account Management ad Relationship Marketing.

Going back to the concept of key account management and relationship marketing, I was at a hospital the other day and seated waiting to see my General Practitioner (GP). I had a few nights back hurt my ankle while doing some exercises at home. On the onset of the injury I went straight to a hospital that offered 24 x 7 treatment and seemed to wake up a doctor who had a very quick look at my ankle and once realizing it was not serious quickly prescribed me a few pills and sent me off. The total consultation that took three and a half minutes. I would never see this doctor again and do not even remember her name. The pain did not go away over the next day so I went and saw another doctor whom I had been to a couple of times before amongst many doctors I tend to visit. There was no result in the pain. I went and saw a doctor our family used to visit regularly. We used to have to queue up for long hours to see this doctor hence my hesitation to visit him initially. We knew the doctor by name but the consultation was a professional affair with little chatter, a quick symptom check, a mild smile and a prescription. This had always been the same scenario for as long as I could remember. He was the doctor and I was the patient and our relationship was transactional. Being my luck, my pain did not reside and it was now getting a bit disturbing. One morning at work I switch my mail client on and find that my old friend, my long standing doctor and friend had sent me an email stating he was back in the country after a holiday in Devon, UK. This doctor and I met randomly some time back when a friend of mine recommended him to me. Since the first consultation which took a good thirty minutes we had exchanged business cards and kept in touch. He took a while to note down my history on a file and whenever I saw him he updated it. He would periodically mail me articles or advise on my usual ailments and often asking me how my rugby injuries were and how I should avoid them. I would often recommence him to all my rugby team mates and our coach as well as family. After being seated in the waiting area I was ushered into his room and a tall grey haired gentleman welcomed me in standing up. I inquired how he and his wife were and what happened in Devon. Instead of making a joke of the obvious and asking me why I was there he said that he realized I was there to seek his professional advise but that I need not hesitate to call him on his mobile if I were to need help from him. After a thorough examination and investigation, with his knowledge of my history and knowledge of which medication works best for me, it was a matter of time before I was soon back to playing active rugby. All my friends and family were updated on how I managed to get back up again and with whose assistance.

I have described above some of the types of relationships we encounter on a daily basis. These range from seeing people once only, or seeing many people over a period of time, having a normal but somewhat unsocial relationship and finally we have a relationship which is a win-win partnership. Both the customer and the company are extremely pleased. This 4th type of relationships is the goal of Key Account Management and Relationship Marketing.

We know that the internet has dramatically changed how we interact in business. The world of key account management and  relationships marketing has also faced some dramatic changes, and in some ways the work of these managers has been simplified and made even more powerful.   

Networking, interacting and building powerful relationships is what drives successful key account management. Social media has certainly made these facets a lot simpler. Sites such as Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, Hi5 and Twitter have dramatically changed the landscape of being social. What makes these systems really powerful is their ability to empower managers to communicate directly with their consumers. Marketing information in the form of content could be presented to consumers. Content that adds value and engagement is what truly empowers key account managers online.

Content. Engagement. Nurturing. These are 3 steps in relationship marketing for key account managers. Once customers and key accounts are selected they must be presented with useful content. This is free information that must add significant value to the customer. Speaking about products is not productive. Speaking around products is what is needed. For example, if you are a hotel it is rather boring for customers to hear about hotel facilities. However discounted tickets to theatres next door to the hotel, information on special promotions or tourist attractions or special treatment adds value to the consumer. Content must add value else it becomes clutter. Engagement allows the key account manager to speak to the customers. By engaging customers with content the key account manager is able to elevate him or herself to form powerful partnerships with customers. Using the doctor example above, the key account manager wants the customer to return to the company and build a relationship that is mutual in value and recognition. In return for their custom, the company will provide frequent value added content that would be of use to the customer. Nurturing is process in which the content that is indirectly related to a product causes a customer to ask for more information on a product or service and with the sending out of value added content the company is able to work down the buying stages until a sale is made.  

There are many tools on the internet at the disposal of a key account manager in harnessing his relationships. Blogs are very popular. They allow customers to subscribe to them and provide frequent short updates with content, images and video that is of interest to customers. Many CEO s have taken to blogging relating their mission and the company’s direction in the future. Blogs allow readers to comment on posts. The commenting on blogs allows consumers to interact with the blogger. Articles that deliver content and know how could be written and published online. In the case of a doctor, articles on living healthy lives for diabetic patients or lowering cholesterol with the right food would add significant value to patients. Sending out timely emails with content that adds value in a timely manner using autoresponders adds significant value to consumers.

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In allow companies to build communities around them. For example Facebook Fan Pages or Linked in Groups allow companies to add customers to a social community where members are able to interact with the company and one another. Images, discussions, news, posts, etc. could be exchanged. Customers are able to talk with other customers and exchange their ideas and opinions around products or services. This close interaction with the consumer truly allows a company to work with the customer in product enhancement or development. Customers are made to feel as if they belong to a community and a company that listens to the voice of the customer.

The timely use of content that is used to engage with customers and provide them with value whilst nurturing customers towards sales is where key account managers are able to obtain as much leverage from the internet in order to add mutual value to both the company and the customer. The internet has provided key account managers with dynamic tools and platforms that allow them to directly engage with customers using tools that they themselves use on a regular basis. Using these tools and platforms they are able to develop powerful partnerships with customers.

For more information on how to use social media and platforms for business, key account management and relationship marketing, please do not hesitate to contact johann@MasterBusinessChronicles.com

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Key Account Management: It’s all about Relationship Marketing (KAM & RM)

Key Account Management: It’s all about Relationship Marketing (KAM & RM)

For the past few years I have been a member of a programme named ‘Club Vision’ by a mobile operator in Sri Lanka named Dialog Telekom. It did not surprise me much when I received a gold member card from the telco introducing me to the programme. My welcome into this membership programme was on my birthday when two lovely ladies walked into my office with a cake in hand and asked for me. I was unable to speak to them but word soon got around the office and a friend of these two girls who worked with us asked them how does one become a ‘Club Vision’ member and was soon informed that my phone bills were that much more than most customers! My frequent travel to Europe and America had notched up a fairly large monthly roaming bill which whilst on the radar of the mobile operator secured me a position in their key account management programme. As a key account member I appreciated some of the new benefits I secured. My favorites include having access to one phone number for all queries, a specific counter for all key accounts at all mobile operator service stations or outlets, a premium lounge in some of the larger head quarters, annual gifts, cakes and personalized cards on my birthday. It felt good to be appreciated by the operator.

Key account management and relationship marketing have often worked hand in hand together. For customers the benefits they tend to offer include special service, the notion of being unique in comparison to other customers, one contact point with the company, quality products and promotions, enhanced credit facilities and margins.

The idea of contrasting and differentiating between customers can cause criticism. However from a company’s perspective not all customers are profitable. Some customers despite brining in revenue actually cause the company to run at a loss rather than breaking even. These customers often require more work than they are willing to pay or do not allow the company to achieve economies of scale. These cash traps should often be discontinued however the focus on any company should be to identify its shooting stars or cash cows. Companies are able to increase revenues either via sales (sales to existing customers, new products/services to existing customers or products / services to new customers) or via the restructure of pricing / terms and improved negotiating with customers. Companies have the capacity to boost profits by 100% by retaining just 5% more of their customers. In order to achieve this, key account management and relationship marketing are a necessity. Key Account Management is aimed at building a portfolio of loyal key accounts by offering them, on a continuing basis, a product / service package tailored to their individual needs. Key account management is a partnership approach. It is a long-term relationship and focuses on building relationships. This is what drives relationship marketing. 

In the development of a key account or relationship marketing programme a company must identify its key customers first. In order to identify key accounts the company needs to determine which customers perform well on scales of transaction volume and transaction value. These two criteria, ideally the combination of them is what makes a key account. The company must examine the expectations for both the customer and the company. My loyalty on most airline routines is often led toward the Emirates airline. Other airlines do offer the same the benefits however as my loyalty points have gathered most with Emirates together with their high standard of service I often opt in to flying with this airline. As a Silver Member I am allowed an extra 12 Kg on luggage which I find most assuring. I am allowed impartial entry into the airline without queues and also access to the Emirates business lounge in Dubai. Flight stewardesses always personally welcome me on board and ensure that I am treated somewhat differently in spite of sitting in Economy. The airline differentiates their treatment towards me and I continue to differentiate in choice of airline.

The company must decide on how they are able to differentiate with the customer and work more closely with them. They must also determine how access between both parties is simplified. The appointment of a key account manager or a relationship manager is important and I would advise the Emirates airline to look into these steps. Appointing a regional or country based key account or relationship manager is not too complex and often forgoes the necessity to pursue travel agents or colder generic websites (some airlines allow key accounts more access than others to facilities such as seating arrangement or food / beverage options). As in the case of the airlines, the company needs to target small win-wins to build and grow their relationships with key accounts. Mutual benefits and their visibility are key.

Key account management is all about relationship marketing. Traditionally, marketing would refer to the 4Ps (or 7 Ps in some instances) i.e. product, price, place, promotion. Traditionally, relationships, networks and interaction would orbit around this central core competence. However in today’s context – relationships, networks and interaction form the central core with product, price, place, promotion orbiting around it. This shift brings key account management and relationship marketing to the core of sales and marketing functions with the company.

Key account management and relationship management are key marketing and sales functions within any
company. A key account manager or relationship manager represents the company to the customer. I used to have to represent my company (an online room reservation company) at all travel trade fairs as a buyer. Most suppliers we worked with, despite having worked with us for over 5 years only know my face within the organization. I was the face and ‘person-representation’ of the company. My face was associated with the company. As a key account manager or relationship manager a lot of corporate power is vested in the individual and that person must represent the person, persona and mission of the company. They key account manager or relationship manager must be a value creator. They are responsible for developing the relationship and should have pleasant, friendly and most certainly people-oriented personalities. These individuals should not drive for hard sales but more so work on building the friendships, trust, dependability, security and faith in customers. They should be able to put people at ease with their genuine concern at heart. They should also be savvy business people identifying opportunities for business. They should be able to identify mutual value and present it as such to consumers. Being the sole representative of the company the individual must be allowed complete transparency into the goings on within the company such that the customer knows that this single point of contact is a knowledge hub and all that is required from the company.  Communication, planning, analytical and management skills are a necessity. The key account manager or relationship manager must have the ability to manage the customer, internal customers, relationships, resources and him/her self.

A good key account manager and relationship manager is able to position him or herself as a middle man between the company and the customer. He works in the best interest of both parties to drive mutual benefits to them. The ROI from a key account manager is a key account who constantly pushes sales for the company on a regular basis. The ROI from a key account manager is a customer who speaks proudly of a company to his friends and family and recommends the company to them.

In the next article on Key Account Management and Relationship Marketing we look at using the internet as a powerful tool to leverage Key Account Management and Relationship Marketing.

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