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A big part of what makes companies successful is the loyalty of their customers. But in order to grow and sustain that in B2B, you need a good account management team. To find out what this means, we grilled our Key Account Manager Antony Humphreys. We also talked about holidays, the future of email and technology, and how to use them better in the year to come.

AN: What do you see as the role of Account Managers nowadays?

AH: I’ve been working in sales and marketing since the 90s, so I have seen this role change over the years. I think it used to be the case that Account Managers were there to cross-sell and up-sell to clients, and perhaps it still works like that in some companies. The way I see it, we’re there to facilitate the wishes of the client into the company. If you don’t do that, if you don’t provide the value they seek, you get customer churn.

In my role specifically, I make sure I’m there for fire-fighting and for hand-holding. On one side it can be technical, knowledge issues, and on-boarding processes. On the other, it can be making sure deliverability is optimum and marketing objectives are met.

AN: If we were to make a last-minute checklist, what are your top basic email tips coming up to Christmas?

AH: I don’t think the tips change whether it’s Easter, Christmas, summer. What is key is bearing in mind the fundamentals of marketing: the right person, at the right time, with the right message in the right channel.

Because we’ve got lots of tools and gadgets to play with, we might sometimes forget the basics. Between now and Christmas, we are going to be inundated with messages containing words like “frozen”, “jingle”, “glitter” – all these are wonderful ideas. But make sure they’re relevant if you want to cut through.

Don’t give everything away in your email, make subscribers want to go through to your website and find out more. Don’t give too much, but don’t give too little either. And the only way to work out what is right for your audience is to test.

If you have a larger database, large enough to make your results statistically significant, go beyond A/B testing. Make sure you really understand your data and your demographics. For example, you might have a product aimed at children, but you need to aim your message at the audience with the buying power – parents, grandparents, etc.

AN: What about some advanced tips for holidays to come?

AH: Two come to mind right now that I’ve seen deliver results.

Understand customer behaviour. We know many people open on mobile first and revert to desktop for purchasing. But the reverse  can also be true: customers might open some emails on desktop first, and then again on mobile. The best example is retrieving a voucher to use in store. Why not give them more incentive to use it by embedding the location of the nearest store? And link to the mapping app to show them how to get there.

Secondly, take advantage of technology. I’ve heard of people who put products in a basket just to find out the delivery options. Be clear about things like this upfront. And when people have gone through the trouble of adding something to the cart, don’t let your sale fall because of a delivery fee. Send them an email and offer them something of value to get them back – even if it’s just money off their next purchase. But don’t make that a habit because they’ll start abandoning their basket just to get the deal.

Or be targeted and boost your sales by using technology to recommend upsell and cross-sell items in a purchase confirmation, or in product lifecycle emails.

AN: In wrapping up the year, what do you think are the biggest changes we’ve seen in marketing?

AH: The technology landscape has grown tremendously. And that should make companies evaluate the value of the services they use.

I’m impressed by how powerful email has become, after many predicted its death for years. As technology develops and our ways of consuming email change, it will become even more important. What we’re seeing at the moment is exciting but I don’t think we’ve seen it all yet.

Another big topic is the growth of mobile with the ever-expanding capabilities of smartphones. Although a lot of people predicted that we will shift our purchasing habits to mobile as well, I think it’s not entirely the case. We need to make sure that marketing serves both mobile and desktop users, in a way that feels natural on each platform.

AN: What do you predict will the focus for next year?

AH: I think data is going to be a major focus – we’re in the shadow of new regulation coming from the EU as people are more and more concerned with the ethical use of data.

If you want to improve deliverability and improve marketing ROI, you need to grow your list organically and give contacts the chance to update their preferences. If they ever feel like they’re not getting value from your emails anymore, give them additional options just in case their interests have changed over time. For example, they might not want to get emails about gardening anymore, but they want to read about home DIY.

About Antony

Antony is one of Adestra’s Key Account Managers. He works with clients like Media10 (the publishing company behind Grand Designs and Icon), other publishers like Henry Stewart Publications and Dods, but also retailers like Glasses Direct.