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In my last blog entitled “The Strategic Account Conundrum,” I expressed concern that approaches to strategic account management need to change to more effectively support organizations that have complex and diverse product (service) offerings. While I suggested changes to the sales aspect, I ended the blog having said very little about the potential marketing impact on account management.

In order to look and act like one company, marketing organizations need to ramp up their own programs to provide the right field support on an account-by-account basis for key clients.

Most companies spend a majority of their marketing budget on early-stage customer acquisition and very little on cultivating client relationships. This, in spite of the fact that we all know there is a much lower cost of sale associated with up-selling into existing clients versus acquiring new ones. Those that do spend on client marketing may be wise to revisit the channels and initiatives used. According to Forrester Research1, most marketers (75%+ in a recent survey) rely on in-person meetings –at physical events or 1-1 with an executive in their office–to build upon existing relationships.

This is where social channels may play a more prominent role in customer account management in the future. Forrester suggests a holistic approach to account management marketing-one that combines online and offline activity-will build greater relationships. I completely agree. Why online? Because executives love talking and learning from their peers. Product and service reviews; case studies; best practices; trends and testimonials are more easily shared through online communities. Physical events, because of planning and cost, can really only cultivate an existing relationship 1-2 times a year. Is that enough? I invite our clients to events all the time, sometimes even promising to pick up the travel cost. While appreciative, most of them say no, citing an inability to get out of the office for 2-3 days

Enter online communities. I believe that online communities, when managed properly, could be the “gift that keeps on giving,” building a heightened level of connection and communication to your clients year-round. I came across the following 3+ video on You Tube, from Dr. Patrick Dixon, in 2008. If done right, your community initiative can help you create and market your own “tribes.”

What steps does one need to take to successfully integrate communities into an account management strategy successfully in 2010? I will write on this in my next blog.

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