3 Essential Steps to ‘Living the Person Accounts Life’

How to determine if leveraging the power of person accounts in your AppExchange app is right for your business

Editor’s note: Jeff Golembiewski is the Director of Product Management for NimbleUser, a Salesforce ISV Partner and the creator of Nimble AMS app on the AppExchange. Jeff recently presented on person accounts in our weekly Partner Marketing Power Hour series; for more information, please check out the full recording of Living the Person Accounts Life in the Partner Community.

If you have been part of the Salesforce ecosystem, you have probably heard of the concept of ‘person accounts’ — or the notion that an individual could also be a customer. Salesforce recognizes that this is a growing and important Salesforce configuration model where the organization can receive commerce from either a business (company) or a consumer (individual). With more and more organizations configuring Salesforce with person accounts, it is important for anyone building an app on the AppExchange to understand this model and consider ‘living the person account life.’

For NimbleUser, living and breathing person accounts was a clear choice for us. We created the first association management software (AMS) package on the Salesforce platform and in the AppExchange with our product Nimble AMS, and our product was built from the ground-up using person accounts. Organizations using Nimble AMS get to leverage all of the versatility and innovation Salesforce has to offer because with person accounts, they can manage the commerce and engagement for ANY of their customers, regardless if they are a business (company) or a consumer (individual). At NimbleUser, we are truly ‘Living the Person Accounts Life’— and the following steps can help you determine if this approach may be right for your business, too.

Essential Step #1: Understand the Basics of Person Accounts vs. Business Accounts

Before we dive deeper into what it means to ‘live the person accounts life,’ let’s first understand the fundamentals, and keep in mind some of these key concepts regarding the two different ways you can configure Salesforce.

The first configuration model is Salesforce’s traditional approach for a Business-to-Business (B2B) company where all of the business exchange, engagement, and transactions are only at the company level. This method works well when the individuals are only the facilitators to the end purchase(s) by the business. Manufacturing is a common example of B2B. For example, an automobile manufacturer makes numerous B2B transactions with vendors to purchase steel, glass, rubber hoses, and much more for its vehicles.

The other model is the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) approach where the business exchange, engagement, and transactions can happen with the consumer (individual). This is the pure person account approach. Salesforce specifically developed the person accounts model to support the vast Business-to-Consumer (B2C) market. For example, person accounts fit your customers whether they are online shoppers, gym members, vacation travelers, or other individual consumers.

The last model is a combination of the two approaches. This “hybrid” model blends the needs of both the B2B and B2C together. This is needed when the business exchange, engagement, and transactions can happen with both the business (company) and/or consumer (individual). This is also a perfect fit for the person account approach. Salesforce recognized that in one organization, you can have the seamless blend of consumer (individual) online shoppers as well as business (company) opportunities and transactions. Person accounts give you the best of both worlds!

Essential Step #2: Know Your Market

When living the person accounts life, you need to be true to yourself as well as know the market you are building an app for. I have been working in the association, society, and membership industry for over 25 years. Being armed with that industry knowledge gave NimbleUser the insight to be true to ourselves when deciding to build an app in the AppExchange for membership based organizations.

From the beginning, we knew that any membership based organization would be a hybrid of the B2B and B2C approaches. Every ounce of what these organizations do are at BOTH the consumer (individual) and/or business (company) level. A consumer (individual) can purchase a membership as well as a registration, solid B2C. While a business (company) can purchase a membership as well as advertising, solid B2B. We want the consumer and the business to be equals. We need them to be equals. The traditional Salesforce B2B approach has a barrier which limits the consumer (individual) to only a supporting player or facilitator role for the company’s ultimate purchase(s). The consumer (individual) has no actual purchases themselves.

Knowing that 100% of interaction, engagement, activity, and transactions come from BOTH the consumer (individual) and/or business (company), the path for us was very clear — person accounts! Organizations manage transaction opportunities and purchasing of memberships, subscriptions, donations, event registrations, merchandise purchases, and much, much more. All of those transaction opportunities can be made by the consumer (individual) or the business (company). Person accounts represent everything that the association, society, and membership based organization industry needs. With person accounts, the barriers are removed. This empowers consumers to be on equal footing with businesses.

Essential Step #3: Understand the Benefits of Person Accounts

If you are like us and built an app on the AppExchange using person accounts, or if you are considering building an app that will serve customers in both the B2B and B2C markets, you too can find huge success with person accounts.

Here are the top three benefits of using person accounts that I’ve learned along our AppExchange journey:

  1. You get a level playing field architecturally. When you are doing any sort of building (within your app or within an implementation for a client), you only need to add a lookup link to the Account object. This will provide you with the universal lookup to both the consumer (individual — Person Account) and the business (company — Account). This is person accounts at it’s finest. No need to have one lookup link to Accounts for the companies and then another link to Contacts for your individuals. That just adds another layer of complexity that is not needed.
  2. You get a streamlined user interface. Users only need one place in Salesforce for managing all of their constituents — Accounts. Accounts means “all” constituents. It does not matter if it is a consumer (individual — Person Account) or a business (company — Account). From what our clients tell us, this saves their staff users time. They like having less clicks and less navigation between Accounts for the companies and Contacts for the individuals. I also like to think that person accounts is more like how associations and societies view their own members and constituents. When using the term “member”, it could mean an individual or a company. There’s no differentiation. So why have them in different silos within Salesforce?
  3. You get easier and more centralized reporting. Personally, this is my favorite aspect of person accounts. In our industry of associations and societies, membership organizations want to report on all of the various transactions, activities, engagement, and opportunities. All of the different points of interaction will be associated with the consumer (individual — Person Account) and the business (company — Account). Person accounts make this simple and architecturally a straight line. You only need to have one object in your report: Accounts. Non-person accounts need to deal with the more complex and messy situation of including both Accounts and Contacts objects in their same reports.

Salesforce customers in numerous industries (insurance, airlines, healthcare, financial services, associations, etc.) are utilizing person accounts as their data model. There are, in fact, more than 15,000 Salesforce customers using person accounts today. I love this quote from Paul Brandt: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” With person accounts, I feel there are no limits to what you can do in Salesforce.


Nimble AMS provides innovative association management software solutions for associations, societies, and other membership-based organizations. Learn more about NimbleUser here.