by Tommy Wright – July 2013
Key Account Management
Key account management (KAM) may take on a different meaning depending on the size of your organization. Coming from a smaller property, key account management is essential for us to be successful. In comparison to major college and major league franchises who may consider its five to ten primary or anchor sponsors as key accounts, just about every account we have needs to be treated like a “key account.”
We must approach all of our customers with a different mindset and philosophy. To us, EVERYONE is important, but we need to be careful to not cross that fine line that may damage value down the road. [dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]
How to compete
We compete with the big boys in three ways. We offer great:
- Value. We have the same footprint as the SEC, but partners don’t have to pay a premium just for the association.
- Access. Our staff is easy to access and we treat our partners with more care than our larger competitors can afford.
- Accessibility. Partners can get access to athletic directors, coaches, sidelines and the venue to really activate the brand in ways you often can’t other places.
Our fans are just as passionate as anywhere else. The difference is we can really integrate the brand into their experiences in ways the big boys have a hard time doing. [/dropshadowbox]
How to compete with the big boys
At the conference level we are more than just raising funds through sponsorships. We are educating, providing scholarship opportunities, enhancing the student-athlete experience, and off-setting costs.
- It’s not a technique; it’s how your organization does business. The organization needs to commit to work differently with each customer. Recognize that up front before the process begins.
- Get high-level buy in. Obtain support from the member school presidents, athletic directors, coaches, and other key stakeholders. A smaller property will obviously not have the same resources of a major league team. Get creative to enhance your corporate strength.
- Gain support from the top of your organization to facilitate interactions with member schools.
- Work with the head decision maker in your department.
- Have an open communication style to discuss new opportunities.
- Identify key accounts.
- Identify the sponsor category or type: product trade, off-setting costs (travel agreements), media exposure and traditional cash partnerships are a few examples.
- Rank each partner’s level in each category. A partner may not spend $50,000 a year with us, but they may provide merchandise or media exposure just as valuable. The account paying $5,000 but providing other assets valued at $50,000 is more valuable than the $10,000 straight cash sponsorship.
- Set expectations fitting each account level, but recognize how small the sports industry is and how quickly word gets around when expectations aren’t met.
- Understand potential lifetime value. You may struggle at times, but don’t sacrifice long-term relationships for quick dollars. You may get the quick dollar at your current organization, but poor decisions can produce long term damage. You may not only lose clients at your current property, but also lose the lifetime value of that customer (and positive word-of-mouth) over your career. In other words, don’t sacrifice ethics or relationships for a $10,000 deal one year, in what may turn into $1,000,000 over your entire career.
- Keep the fresh ideas coming. Changes occur in needs for the conference or for the sponsor. For trade partners, be sure your needs continue to be met with what they can provide. On the flip side, an existing key account may completely change their needs. Be known as someone who is flexible enough to adjust what you can provide for them.