A stage model for transitioning to KAM
Iain A. Davies, University of Bath, UK* Lynette J. Ryals, Cranﬁeld School of Management, UK
Abstract This paper investigates the under-researched area of key account management (KAM) implementation through a systematic review of the literature, syndications with a panel of industry exemplars, and a survey investigating how organisations implement KAM. Through this we identify a stage model that identifies not only how companies currently transition to KAM in practice, but also suggests how they could improve their chances of success in transitioning to KAM. We demonstrate the fundamental elements of a KAM programme and the extent to which companies feel KAM has met their pre-implementation expectations. Keywords Key Account Management, Strategic Account Management, Sales management, Industrial marketing, Implementation
Key Account Management (KAM) has emerged, over the last 30 years, as one of the most significant trends in business-to-business marketing practice (Abratt and Kelly 2002; Homburg et al. 2002). It focuses on adding value to relationships and creating partnerships with a company’s most important and strategic customers (Ewart 1995; McDonald et al. 2000). The emergence of KAM has been driven in companies of all sizes by an increase in large, powerful, global, centralised purchasing customers becoming the norm across multiple industries; KAM provides our current best model for servicing these customers (McDonald et al. 1997). Despite the rapid growth in the use of KAM by companies, research into the process of KAM implementation and how companies transition from traditional sales to KAM orientation has been scarce (Kempeners and Hart 1999; Napolitano *Correspondence details and biographies for the authors are located at the end of the article. JOURNAL OF MARKETING MANAGEMENT, 2009, Vol. 25, No. 9-10, pp. 1027-1048 ISSN0267-257X print /ISSN1472-1376 online © Westburn Publishers Ltd. doi: 10.1362/026725709X479354
Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 25
1997; Sengupta et al. 1997; Wengler et al. 2006; Zupanic 2008). This is a gap that urgently needs to be filled. Without some agreement about which approaches to KAM implementation work (and which do not work, called for by Zupanic 2008), there is a danger that companies will continue to struggle or even fail to implement KAM appropriately (Homburg et al. 2002; Napolitano 1997). In this paper we use empirical evidence to develop a cross-industry stage model of how companies transition to KAM, including what elements of a KAM programme they implement through this process and the success this has led to. We identify the elements of KAM implementation programmes through an in-depth systematic review of the literature. Using a survey based on this input we investigate 204 companies with explicit, formal KAM programmes and build a model of the key principles important to KAM implementation over time. A syndicate of seven leading companies was also used in isolation of the results of the survey to add context and analytical input. The synergy between the two methods provides a robust and original contribution to both KAM practice and literature.
KEY ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
The emergence of relationship marketing in the late 1980s led to a growing interest in getting and keeping customers through relationship management (e.g. Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne 1991; Grönroos 1994, 1997; Sheth and Parvatiyar 1995; Aijo 1996; Gummesson 1997). Relationship marketing was extended and developed during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in business-to-business markets where formalised programme s of customer management have gained increasing importance including: national account management (Shapiro and Moriarty 1980, 1982, 1984a, 1984b; Stevenson 1980, 1981; Tutton 1987; Wotruba 1996; Weilbacker and Weeks 1997; Dishman and Nitze 1998); major account management...
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