March 14, 2017
As we were interviewing new account management candidates recently, I read an article in AdAge that pretty much summed up an industry shift that was making the selection process much more in depth than it traditionally has been.
Creative capabilities, budget, and case study history have been the standout criteria for clients when they select an agency to work with. But increasingly, account managers are recognised as one of the most important roles in the process. Account managers synthesise what the client needs and relieve the pressures they are under. Knowing how to manage and understand clients, while helping them make sense of a changing business landscape, is what the best account managers do!
Becoming your client’s wing(wo)man however is only part of the job – gone are the days of just making sure the creative output matches the brief and that agency targets are hit. The new generation of account managers not only has to make sure everything runs smoothly, on time, and on budget, but has also morphed into having the capacity to advise and steer confused and overwhelmed clients through the endless possibilities of digital and traditional channels to achieve their communications objectives.
Becoming an account manager at Media Frontier means having a skillset that includes a deep knowledge of the digital landscape, attribution models, and social platforms, as well as content and communications strategies that will help our clients decide how they should allocate their not unlimited marketing budgets. We actively look for employees who are true problem solvers and who can gain the trust of our clients to help them achieve their objectives and margins. (But let’s not forget the traditional account manager qualities that are still absolutely essential today, thick skin, a love of late nights, and knowing when meetings need chocolate. These are still a very good start indeed!)
From the get go of a brief it’s vital that expectations, goals, and priorities are clear to everyone. The only way to truly see the wood for the trees is to constantly ask questions whilst continually sharing updates with all involved parties. The best account managers proactively dig into issues and don’t wait for someone else to decide to talk to them. But, once you’ve opened that line of communication, know when to be quiet, it applies to many areas in life… listen more than you talk!
When we arrive in the office of a morning, we have a good idea of what lies ahead for the day….(she says laughing!) We don’t. Every day can throw new and unexpected challenges in our paths and the only way to handle this is to greet the day with motivation and a great attitude. This usually means that there are no boundaries to our jobs, in fact we actively push them, and make sure we are always doing more than our job description. This way we know that when we speak, we can do so with authority, because we have taken the time to immerse ourselves in aspects of a brief. In fact, it’s the only way we can offer our clients trust and confidence – by giving attention to whatever needs our help.
Is it performance? KPIs? Pleasing internal stakeholders? Their campaign engagement? This is where listening comes in! Once you know your client’s priorities, take the time to update them on progress at agreed times and make sure they know you are committed to achieving and exceeding their interests.
A good account manager advocates for both the agency AND the client. It’s a tricky tightrope, but getting agency staff to understand your client’s thinking is essential. Likewise, it’s important to help your client understand why your agency is recommending certain things. If your internal team is confident of their solution, advocate it, and take the client out of their comfort zone so you can help them achieve the impact they’re looking for.
Genuinely care about meeting your client’s as well as your agency’s expectations, and about each individual as a person. If someone is having a bad day with their brief, it’s our job to help fix it. When you don’t show you care, it’s obvious, and clients feel it. When your client feels something is not right, make it your mission and number one priority to let them know you care. This is where chocolate comes in handy. 😉
We know we have high achieving competitors. Anyone in this job knows their client has a rich selection of agencies to choose from. And living in a digital world means competitors are no longer just those down the road. Good account managers don’t just execute the day to day delivery but become a valued partner to their clients. We want to help them manage their budgets to achieve their objectives and we know how to quantify just what value our own agency is bringing to the table. Growing an account is a win win, fostering a valued long term client for your agency, and a trusted experienced partner for your client.
Most of the account managers I know are constantly looking to improve their knowledge through reading, online, and at school learning. It is our job to know when Google’s algorithms have changed, where channel trends are heading, and how our clients can be leaders rather than late adopters. We never want to leave time-poor, under pressure clients searching for answers on their own. Being up to date on the latest trends helps to discard the old one-size-fits-all account management approach and replace it with a tailor-made version that suits the client’s specific goals and objectives.