The Evolution of Account Planning

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by: David Armano

In Cathy Clift's recent article titled Account Planning in the New Age of Customer Centricity, Cathy makes some compelling points about how traditional Account Planning is poised to evolve into a discipline that analyzes the customer journey as a collection of experiences—and provides insights on how to reach the customer on their terms.

She also references Ideo's method cards.  Interestingly enough—I recently busted these out at a meeting to help fuel some ideas.  It will be interesting to see how this dialogue continues.  Worth reading.  Below are a few select quotes:

“Account planning, a staple of multi-national networks in the bust era, is enjoying resurgence as clients once again focus on strategies for growth. But our world has changed radically since the core tenets of account planning were established by Jane Newman in the late 1980’s – and now it’s time for a re-think.”

“Clients are reacting by shifting their marketing dollars away from mass media and towards a more targeted strategy, incorporating more customized content. But what’s changing is more than just media strategy. What is emerging is a profound shift in clients’ marketing philosophies—away from the product-centric culture that we’re all familiar with, and towards a new age of customer centricity that leading retailer Best Buy calls “a journey towards a deeper relationship with the customer.”

“The lesson for agencies is that our old product (advertising) tells consumers what to expect from the brand—but the real equities are created by experiencing the brand in action.”

“A third short-cut is to take a leaf out of the book of leading design companies such as Ideo, which have been finding imaginative ways to understand brand experience for many years. Ideo has crafted a set of systematic research methods for understanding what the firm calls “human factors”, organized under the headings “Learn”, “Look”, “Ask” and “Try”. If you don’t have time to undertake even a compressed ethnographic study of actual brand users, Ideo has developed techniques for enabling you to re-create the experience for yourself. And after years of internal use, it has collected those techniques into a set of 51 funky oversized cards that anyone can buy for $49.”

“As the power of the image makers is eroded, we now have an opportunity to re-invent ourselves as “experience planners” and borrow new tools of insight from the worlds of anthropology, psychology, biomechanics and similar disciplines to power our success. While unexplored territory for some, the more we can guide the overall brand experience across the customer lifecycle, the more value we will add to both our agency and our clients.”

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