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Unlocking potential in the field of key account management

The key to good business

Managing corporate client relationships is fundamental to the success of any global business. That’s why BP Castrol wanted to analyse their own procedures across Europe and Africa, and gain a clearer understanding of how they compared to best practices in the field of key account management (KAM). Nick Ellis, Professor of Marketing Management at Durham University Business School, led a team to help them do just that.

The study focused on several elements of relationship management from scholarly B2B marketing literature including customer interaction, branding, culture, organisation, information technology and knowledge management.

Under Professor Ellis’ leadership, two MBA students and an external consultant interviewed key BP Castrol employees, as well as managers from non-competing sectors, to establish a relevant context to understand best practices.

Informing strategies

Through a combination of deductive and inductive analysis of the results, the study showed that BP Castrol’s key account managers were performing very well compared to best practice. It also highlighted some areas with room for improvement.

Professor Nick Ellis explains the main findings, “BP Castrol had been doing well in establishing partnerships and pioneering its brand within the lubricant business. However, there were elements of relationship management that needed to be better understood including the use of information technology, knowledge management, and the need to adapt the company's organisational structure by setting up cross-functional teams.”

BP Castrol used the conclusions when rethinking the firm's sales and marketing strategies.


"We found working with Durham Business School to be very straightforward ... the quality of the research and analysis was excellent." (BP representative)
Petrochemical plant with engineers and a train