Key Account Management: Marketing’s Impact. An interview with Bev Burgess

Recently, SI interviewed Bev Burgess, a B2B services growth specialist, on the topic of marketing’s role in Key Account Management (KAM) programs.  Bev is Director of UK-based consultancy The Capsicum Group, and a recognized expert in the process of applying strategic marketing insight to grow key accounts.  She has assisted many technology-based corporations across Europe successfully implement an account-based marketing (ABM) model. Bev gained wide recognition for her marketing acumen in the technology sector through the book that she co-authored in 2010 titled “Marketing Technology as a Service”.  More recently, she published an article in Velocity, the Strategic Account Management Association’s members’ magazine, titled “Steria: Why Account Managers Need Strategic Marketing”, which described her experiences in working with one of Europe’s largest technology-enabled business process outsourcing companies. Matt Leary, a Principal at SI and an expert in KAM and ABM, recently had an opportunity to talk with Bev about her opinions on a range of topics, including the importance of selling high value solutions through KAM programs. ------------------------------------------------------

Bev: For many large B2B organizations it is the 80/20 rule. The impact of a few accounts on the business is significant enough to warrant the investment -- and the fact is that, in this environment, the revenue from those accounts must be protected and nurtured for a firm’s survival.  It’s the same issue as deciding whether to have any other type of resource dedicated to an account – from commercial through program management to account directors themselves.
Once the decision is made to allocate a marketing resource, their contribution needs to be more than just campaign-based.  We need to look past our traditional view of marketing as simply a “marcom shop” and bring the full marketing mix to bear to the account.
Bev: In order to expand the engagement with them, marketing should create content-rich materials or events that help executives with the critical business issues they are facing. Ideally, this will include demonstrating that the supplier understands a key issue, perhaps with new thinking or research around the issue, and then stories of how others have approached it. It’s human nature to want to listen and learn from someone who understands your problems and can share stories of what other companies have done in the same situation. Combined with this, marketers can help their technical colleagues to articulate the value of their own solution to the client’s problem – using the client’s language and not their own.  Marketing can help them be very clear on why the client would buy from their own company and not a competitor, highlighting the company’s differentiators and the benefits the client receives from those differentiators. This seems so obvious and yet takes care and thought, and is rarely done well. Bringing the solution to life through powerful messaging, interactive demonstrations, creative process presentations are other ways that marketing can help to make solutions engaging for client executives.
Bev: A successful KAM program is essential in selling complex, high value offerings. It’s very different from a high volume, lower value business where you can afford to take a broad-brush approach. If you contact enough people in more of a mass-market sales and marketing program, where you’re typically selling lower value products, there will inevitably be some that you hit at the right time who want what you have to offer – it’s essentially a numbers game. When you are selling a solution that will transform a client’s business, such as making a retailer or bank fully integrated across multiple channels, you’ll need a different, highly targeted and nuanced approach. It requires a deep understanding the client’s business – and marketing can help deliver that when working closely with the account team. Complex solutions generally have a long sales cycle, and success depends upon constantly building and managing relationships with numerous stakeholders. The average account team often will not have enough “shoe leather” – the time and energy supplied by senior sales reps -- to manage that.  In key account programs, marketing can keep the dialogue going and the supplier front of mind to leverage that shoe leather.
Bev: It depends on the nature of the partnership. In a well-defined partner program, where each company’s contribution is already clear and the client engagement is agreed, then it’s a good idea to include the partner from the beginning of the planning process. Marketing can help establish the joint agreement to build business inside top accounts as part of the partnership program.  Partner coordination with account teams should include sharing target lists and organizational reach inside an account, sharing insights into the account’s situation, and mapping the right vertical or horizontal solutions to help solve an account’s top challenges. For example, I worked on a program for a large IT services firm focused around smart metering solutions.  This firm had the solutions concept to solve the problem, but marketing had to reach out to the mobile communications partner as well as bespoke software and specialist hardware partners to pull the approach together for major utility accounts.  That was all done in the account planning process.

Whether driving account research, helping expand engagement with key customer executives or driving the adoption of complex solutions, Bev’s feedback and experience certainly support our research findings that marketing is essential to the success of KAM programs.

If you’re interested in reading the full interview with Bev and get her opinion on several other key issues related to KAM programs, click here...  

Check out SI’s recent posts on KAM programs:


Comments (1)

Cynthia Lin

Through this Q&A recap, it is evident that Bev is experienced in her realm of things and is very happy to share, as I experienced when she was a guest speaker for one of our classes. Bev not only provides insights but also realistic actions to take to become a better solutions marketer, for example, when she expressed adapting to your client's jargon which will actually help the process of writing up the client's value proposition. When transitioning to a solutions company, one of the most important changes is utilizing business value messaging and a simple step of using the client's wording can make that clear to a client of what really makes their offering different. Initially, I was surprised regarding the use of co-selling, and based on the answer, it seems rather common. But, after reading Bev's answer, partner coordination seems like a way to have another differentiator and provide further value where the client and first solutions company both gain fortes from a third company.