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Strategic account management: building lasting partnerships


Uncover the secrets to successful strategic account management. Learn how we build trust and forge long-term partnerships by delivering value for our corporate clients. 

Cerstin Steindorf joined MCI in 1995. She has been instrumental in establishing MCI's global healthcare community, supporting new clients and guiding teams to foster successful partnerships.  

In this interview, she shares her thoughts on strategic account management and the advice she gives our account managers on how to build value for our clients. 

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What is your definition of a successful strategic account management? 


CS: As a people person, I firmly believe that the account manager or the account director is the voice of the customer into MCI, and MCI’s voice into the customer environment. The definition of successful account management is collaboration, co-creation and building a successful future for the customer and MCI. It is a long-term investment in a partnership – a marathon, not a sprint. You need perseverance, endurance and you need to be an optimist.  

I believe that successful strategic account management should be centrally coordinated and locally deployed. There should be one guideline, one guiding light that you can deploy anywhere in the world, adding the cultural flavour of the different countries. 


What are the key steps to building a value-driven strategic relationship? 


CS: For the client, the journey begins with MCI's partnership-focused mindset. It’s important to immerse yourself in the customer’s day-to-day reality and business to understand why they do what they do. Listening is key step number one.

Go on site with them and have several touchpoints in the business. The more you connect with your customer and integrate into their processes and systems, the more you can make life easier for them, and the easier it becomes to measure success.

If you aim for long-term development, you have to become an octopus. You cannot have just one connection in the company – aim for multilayered relationships.

Consider what services or solutions you can provide to the client? Ask yourself how you can create synergy and become a trusted ally? Can you come up with unique solutions for them? Can you tell them what they need when they don’t know they need it?  

To ascertain all of this, we in MCI use proprietary methodologies and tools. We conduct client needs assessments and create SWOT analyses. Based on these and other insights, we build account action plans to build long term development, growth and retention.

Position yourself eye to eye or shoulder to shoulder as a partner they can lean on. Care, kindness, transparency, respect and the human side of things are essential. MCI is human at its centre.

Be strategic, creative and flawless in delivery. 

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How do you align your strategic account management approach with the specific objectives of your customers, especially if campaigns are global?  


CS: Create team energies and synergies on global, regional and local level. MCI is local everywhere and therefore we are global. And we are global because we are locally credible, with local teams who have a deep understanding of cultural nuances. It's a lot about team energies, how we come across and what we present.

Yes, there is global coordination and we have methodologies and processes that are applied. We can support consistency for our global customers with these methodologies. When we’re speaking to a local audience, we can do it in the Italian way, the Spanish way, the Indian way, the Australian way… but the thread is the same.

How do we ensure we drive value for our customers? 


CS: Again, ask the right questions and be sure you know how your client defines value. Value is driven by the company in certain aspects, but it is often very niched or very business-unit focused. Value for procurement is different from the value perceived by a marketer. This is why, when we conduct our client-needs assessments, and when we take a brief for any solution or service, we ask, “How do you define value for you? What does success look like?”

Based on the answers we receive from our customers we can measure success and impact to prove our value to the business. It's tangible. 

The recipe for success, if you want to drive value for your customers is to be in the know. Understand what they do. Create and co-create, implement and deliver. Measure and share what you have measured. Gather data and transform it into insights. Tell the story behind the figures.

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What advice do you give MCI account managers regarding key strategies that have proven effective? 


CS: Be curious and learn to deeply understand the ecosystem your customers act and live in.  As an account director or an account manager dive into your customers’ universe - their values, their missions and what keeps them awake at night. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don't hesitate to turn to your colleagues who know things that you don’t! If you need a service that is out of your realm of experience, invite your subject-matter experts of other business units to your client meeting. Show the customer that MCI has an array of services and that we walk the talk of One MCI

Peer to peer also works well. It might be that you’ve solved a similar problem for another customer in a different industry – let them talk for you. Be a connector - propose referrals!

It’s also a good idea to invite the customer to your office – let them come and see who we are, show them around. Or invite them to another event – one who is not a competitor, obviously to make them feel the magic

Be present. Go to their industry congresses or industry meetings – be interested. Don't only show up at the year-end review meeting. Go to their office, join the round tables and discussion forums, co-present in industry meetings. Invite them to present at our internal training sessions.

Be proactive and use business-review meetings to talk about global trends, what it means for the client’s industry and the best practices required.


From what you’ve said above, can you give us a round-up of the skills that are essential for the role of strategic account manager? 


CS: Be genuine and convince with what you do. Work towards building a long-term relationship. Be a grower, not a hunter!

Be enthusiastic and curious and embed yourself in their ecosystem – the more you know, the more you can help with solutions the clients might not even know they need.

Be empathic and authentic. Don't play a role – be yourself.

Be fearless. Know your weaknesses and your strengths and ask for help from colleagues. It is important to surround yourself with the right people.

Make the client shine, not yourself!

Don't forget that the picture you paint of an event or a campaign to your customer and the realization in the delivery of services is what you’ll be judged on. Never oversell.

Be the guardian of the quality that is delivered – when you are on site, help and support your team in all tasks.  

Be human, be proud and not arrogant.

And finally, have fun!


Find out how to unlock the value of strategic account management for associations.  

Join our team and work with thought leaders in the events and engagement marketing industry. Visit our careers page. 

Cerstin Steindorf - Global Account Director: Healthcare, mci group