Key account planning is a process that is beneficial to key account managers and customers alike. With proper planning, account executives can enhance their competitive edge in the marketplace while building customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Below are five planning strategies that are useful to key account managers as they strive to strengthen and optimize their relationships with their top customers.
1) Follow the blog activity of your key accounts to stay on top of company and industry news.
An excellent way for key account managers to demonstrate dedication to their key accounts is to be well-versed in industry news and company initiatives. Many customer websites have blogs that discuss product launches, news regarding industry regulations, and other helpful tips. Blogs are typically short, informative, and easy to read. They provide a great way for key account managers to keep track of customer initiatives and industry activity that may affect their relationship with that customer.
2) Invite happy customers to provide testimonials, photos, or videos.
When a customer expresses gratitude for outstanding service or satisfaction with a new product, key account managers should thank the customer for the feedback. Then, the account executive should ask if the customer would mind serving as a reference or providing a testimonial for inclusion on their company’s website. Examples of testimonials may include the following:
- Inclusion of a positive customer quote with photo on your website
- A video of a customer’s facility that features the product or service in use
- A client’s willingness to serve as a reference for new customers
This strategy helps build brand reputation while simultaneously making the customer feel important and valuable to your organization.
3) Ask to be added to the e-mail and newsletter distribution lists of key accounts.
Key account executives should proactively express an interest in the achievements and activities of their customers. One of the best ways to do this is to request to receive copies of customer newsletters and outbound correspondence. When major goals are met by clients, key account managers should contact their customers and offer congratulations on a job well done. Such measures help solidify existing relationships between the key account manager and customer.
4) Consider developing a key account rewards program to incentivize activity.
Key accounts are critical to the long-term success of an organization, so maintaining their loyalty should be a top concern for key account executives. One way to help build loyalty is to offer rewards to customers as they exceed specified buying tiers. Examples of effective rewards include the following:
- A discount (specified percentage) on all order through the end of the year
- Free products or services
- A spending allowance that can be applied to future purchases
- An all-expense paid trip to your company headquarters
5) Proactively notify key accounts of planned absenteeism and staffing adjustments.
Top customers should have a dedicated key account manager that is committed to meeting their specific needs. Customers often heavily depend upon key account executives for everything from order updates to pricing changes. Key account managers should, therefore, proactively notify customers when they are scheduled to be out of the office for an extended period of time. The customer should receive as much notice as possible, in addition to the name of a team member who can respond to any needs that may arise in the account executive’s absence. This proactive strategy reminds customers that they are in good hands and always have a point of contact that can provide assistance.
Clearly, account planning is an effective solution to foster connectivity with key accounts and bolster customer loyalty. Key account managers should demonstrate a high level of interest in their customers, as well as a willingness to stay abreast of industry trends that may impact their customers. By proactively remaining engaged with customers and following market trends, key account executives will be armed with the knowledge and tools required to anticipate customer activity and their specific needs.