Protecting and growing strategic accounts requires that you constantly look for ways to create value for your customer. However, creating value won’t mean much if it goes unrecognized. Yes, you need to help your customer achieve their desired outcomes, and you must do so in a way that creates a positive customer experience. But, you also need to invest the time and effort to ensure that the right people in your account understand your contribution. Don’t take this for granted, and don’t assume. Value not communicated is value not perceived.
Three Steps for Communicating Value and Growing Strategic Accounts
So, how do you communicate value and to whom? There are three basic steps:
- Quantify your impact.
- Identify key players who need to appreciate your impact.
- Develop a strategy to communicate your impact to those key players.
Step 1: Quantify Your Impact
This is much easier if you establish objective metrics at the outset of your work with the customer. This requires you to establish the right key performance indicators (KPI’s) and goals and to track progress toward those goals through verifiable outcomes. All of this is easier said than done. Many customers will resist if it feels hard, if the data isn’t readily available, or if it will open political issues.
In the absence of objective measures, you can fall back on subjective measures. These will help you, at least anecdotally, determine if progress is being made, even if it’s difficult to measure at present. These success stories are valuable for communicating early achievements and building momentum or commitment for further work. Subjective measures include net promoter scores, attribution surveys, and “look back” surveys, such as customer satisfaction surveys. Although they are lagging indicators versus leading indicators, they can still help you substantiate the impact you are making in a strategic account.
Also, consider investing in activities such as presentations, case studies, articles, and awards that motivate your customer to tell their story and potentially get recognized for their success by a reputable third party. These provide a satisfying win for your customer contact, and the third-party validation helps to legitimize your impact in your strategic account.
- Co-presenting a case study with your client at an industry or trade conference can be a wonderful relationship building experience. You and your customer will most likely spend time developing the presentation, spend time together at the event, and spend time afterward basking in the glory of a job well done. It also gives you and your client valuable exposure in front of prospective clients and peers. Also, the honor should create some buzz in your client organization because your client will probably need permission from other key players to participate. That in and of itself will help raise awareness. Afterward, your client will have great material to use for internal co-worker education meetings, thereby adding more value.
- Articles serve a purpose similar to presentations, and co-authoring a case study for an industry journal or analyst publication can have a similar impact. The experience may not be as intimate because you won’t actually be on stage together, but it can be more enduring because a published article lives on in the form of reprints and blogs and usually becomes part of your client’s professional resume. An article is not only a source of pride for the individual but also for the organization in which they work. If the organization has a PR or communications department, the article will provide superb content for newsletters, intranets, and websites.
- Awards are also very nice gestures and forms of acknowledgment. Nominating a client for an industry award is a wonderful gesture, and it will be a tremendous achievement for them if they win. Most legitimate awards programs require a comprehensive application process that includes the impact that you made. The beauty of awards is that you can give them to an entire team, not just your immediate contact. You can also send one to the CEO or other influential people in the organization that you want to get to know.
All of these tactics will help you to quantify the impact of your work in a strategic account. However, as we mentioned earlier, value not communicated is value not perceived. Now you need to identify other key players in the account and create a PR strategy to spread the news inside your client organization. We’ll discuss this in Communicating Value to Protect & Grow Strategic Accounts Part 2.
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