Case 1 - KAM in a UK distribution service supplier


Brady, N., 2004, In search of market orientation - an experiment in key account management

Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 22 (2), pp. 144-159


Norman Brady of Regents Park Business School has helped fill the gap in pragmatic research in Key Account Management through his work with “Romalia” (a pseudonym used to protect the anonymity of the company), a large (L8 billion turnover) UK distribution service supplier.  Brady reports that between 1999 and 2002, “Romalia” implemented a key account management (KAM) strategy targeted at its top 50 UK corporate clients.  A designated Key Account Management unit was created, configured to a large extent as virtual KAM teams.


Within the “Romalia” KAM unit, the Key Account Managers or (Client Directors) were given a pivotal position in performing the task of intermediation between the company and the corporate client.  The Key Account Managers’ role was defined formally (in the KAM job description) and informally (by the KAMs themselves) as consisting of six elements. These were:

(1)   to act as a powerful knowledge manager for the client;

(2)   to develop a strategic partnership with the client by relationship building to board level;

(3)   to assist in the development of new solutions/opportunities for the client;

(4)   to act as the client’s advocate and “trouble shooter” within Romalia by ensuring the successful delivery of the existing solutions;

(5)   to negotiate major contracts with the client on behalf of the MFUs;

(6)   to influence the company’s strategic direction regarding product and solution development for their client.


However, Brady found that, with a few exceptions, “Romalia” had not moved client relationships beyond the early Key Account Management phase (Millman and Wilson, 1995).  He attributes this resistance to client relationship development to the legacy of long term transactional relationships between the company and its customers by whom “Romalia’s” distribution service was perceived as a cost to be managed downwards.  The author also suggests that the inability to deliver innovative solutions at competitive prices and on time seriously undermined “Romalia’s: Key Account Management strategy.


Brady observes that the operation of Key Account Management might have been improved if:

(1)   there had been a greater degree of commitment at board level.

(2)   the effective collection and dissemination of vital information on the state of client relationships had been allowed to provide useful glue for the KAM unit and the internal network.

(3)  strategy formulation had become a wide ranging process not just between the client and the KAM unit but encompassing all of “Romalia’s” internal stakeholders with at least three-year horizons.

(4)   greater consideration of issues relating to organisational culture had been taken.


Kempeners, M.A. and van der Hart, H.W., 1999, Designing account management organisations, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 14 (4), pp. 310-27.

Millman, T. and Wilson, K., 1995, From key account selling to key account management, Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science, 1 (1), pp. 9-21.

Millman, T. and Wilson, K., 1999, Processual issues in key account management: underpinning the customer-facing organisation, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 14 (4), pp. 328-37.




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