• From key account management to strategic partnerships: critical success factors for co-creation of value

      Lawson, Alison; Longbottom, David; Veasey, Christian Michael (University of Derby, 2019-09-27)
      Background and rationale for this study: This study investigates Key Account Management (KAM) from a Marketing and Business to Business perspective. A review of literature finds that in recent years marketing scholars have proposed that KAM is developing from its traditional roots in sales management to a greater focus on relational aspects; for example, including elements of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Service Dominant Logic (SDL). However, whilst the principles of CRM and SDL are well grounded within the marketing literature there is little empirical evidence to show practical application within KAM, which this study will seek to address. Aim: To establish the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for KAM and the personal characteristics of Key Account Managers (KAMs) in order to develop a new model to inform and guide practitioners and academics. Methodology: The study aligns with a pragmatic research philosophy, where mixed methods are applied. The primary research includes a survey (n=71) and semi-structured interviews (n=15). Respondents were primarily KAMs from a variety of business sectors. The decision to follow pragmatism supported the use of mixed methods as well as modes of analysis and a continuous cycle of abductive reasoning while being guided by the research aim and objectives and the desire to produce socially meaningful knowledge. Pragmatism offers a strong emphasis on research questions, communication, and shared meaning making and seeks to achieve a balance between subjectivity and objectivity in research findings. Findings: This research captured a shifting contemporary KAM approach where KAM is seen as a facilitator of on-going processes of voluntary exchange through collaborative, value creating relationships, leading to the development of strategic partnerships. The study finds that amongst KAMs whilst there is strong recognition of CSFs in KAM, CRM, and SDL, there are inconsistent and weak applications in practice. The study explores the reasons for this and proposes that more work is needed to better interpret and translate the language and rhetoric and theoretical principles. Contribution: A new model for KAM is proposed showing the CSFs for implementation and a shift of emphasis from KAM to Key Account Relationships (KAR). The model covers the CSFs in CRM, and SDL, and provides guidance for issues in business processes, leadership roles, role clarity, remuneration and performance measurement, knowledge management, and skills, competencies and experience.