What makes a good Account Manager and why should you want one?
Zoe Pedersen - Head of Commercial Services
Big Picture Thinker
Half Strategist / Half Expert Administrator
Being an Account Manager, in today’s agency world, can be a hard role. Being a good Account Manager is, perhaps, even harder.
What does it take to be a good Account Manager and why is that Client Service role, still, so vital in the connection between Agency and Client?
There is never enough time
Clients are also multi-tasking, juggling, planners and doers. They are also time-poor.
Account Management is about partnering with that time-poor client to try and stretch that limited time as much as possible without just creating further stress.
It’s about the internal relationship management that encourages fellow agency team members to pull together harder, work that extra time in when it’s needed and to maximise efficiencies, processes, resources to make that time work hard for the client.
Good Account Managing is about being comfortable, not panicked, by tight time frames. You have the skills, tools and tricks up your sleeve to get that time working for you, not against and to help Clients do the same.
There’s no such thing as a job description
Agencies are quirky circuses made up of diverse, strong, creatively energetic individuals. We all have roles that we have to fill but the role of an AM is often made up of a lot of messy little things hidden behind a pretty simple-sounding job title.
That list at the top? Let’s add a few:
Client Expectation Manager
Team Capacity Sympathiser
Multiple Question Fielder
Account Managers thrive in the space between things. We join dots and pull all that information into something workable. Our general rule of thumb? Don’t think about what you could be doing...think of what you should be doing.
Good AMs ask things like: what is going to mean the most to the client? What will give them the most value? What needs to be delegated? What should I delegate? Where can I help? What is important vs urgent? Then help clients see the wood for the trees and step across various processes to keep moving forward.
Connections are human things and we need more of them
Reach out and touch someone...preferably the client and definitely in an appropriate manner.
Clients and agencies get busy and we all are a bit guilty of playing ostrich when that happens.
Emails are the business world’s safety blanket and it has to be ripped away at times. The phone is your friend. Face-to-face should be your BEST friend.
We are all human after all and often, that human connection is what has to be recognised. Recognition is often the first need that a client has...letting them know they have been heard...even if the actual, more detailed answer may then come a little later.
Good Account Managers get into a connection rhythm with their clients. They understand not just how a client prefers to be communicated with, but when, as well as what information is going to be important, useful and helpful. They are the information highway that makes a client feel calm, in control and taken care of.
Without trust, failure is inevitable
Relationships are hard things. Just think back to those awkward First Date days and you’ll remember how tricky starting from Ground Zero can be.
Clients and agencies have to get to know one another. There is, more often than not, quite a bit of money and trust on the line. There are deadlines, expectations and KPIs all being handed into an agency’s hands with the hope that they are going to do what they said they would in the pitch.
Agencies are hoping the client is going to be a partner, be available, answer queries, commit to the creative process.
Account Managers have to reassure clients that they are a capable set of hands, that they have the power and might of the entire agency team behind them.
And clients have to understand that sometimes, their account may pass through more than one Client Service pair of hands: people join agencies, skill sets change and team members sometimes move on from the agency.
New Account Managers are no second best, they are simply different.
Good Account Managers are skilled in what they do, and they are supported by strong agency leadership and creatives to help them deliver the very best experience to the client.
Information overload is a good thing
Clients may hesitate at this but please trust us! Agencies love information overload.
Your Account Manager will ask for it, chase for it - and probably more than once. We, quite seriously, can NEVER have too much information.
A good AM will ask questions, summarise back to you what you’ve provided and then ask for more. We’ll want background, team info, collateral examples, reports. We’ll sign up to news snippets, stalk you via LinkedIn, sign up to your competitor newsletters and send you the things we find interesting...we think sharing is caring with this kind of thing.
Good Account Managers are hungry about information. They want as much of it as they can get and they’ll probably invite you to eat at their table.
Expectations are our responsibility
Account Managers are the client connection point. It’s ultimately up to the AM to ensure the client gets off on the right foot and understands the process, the deliverables and has the correct expectations from start to finish.
Clients can only respond to what they are told...and not told.
Good Account Managers don’t just say: “Sure, I’ll have that for you soonest”.
Good AMs will typically give a definitive timeline or, at worst, they will set the timezone: “I’ll have that for you, latest Friday before COB - is that acceptable?”.
Good AMs are prolific to-do listers. We make lists, assign items to various people, tag team with our projects team and report back step-by-step to our clients. We help not only our teams stay on point and organised, but we do the same for our busy clients.
Sometimes, we don’t bend
“The Client is always right” is an old mantra, and the sentiment of that mantra is still at the heart of many service businesses. Agencies are no different.
A happy client is our ultimate goal and we will, nearly always, do whatever we have to to get a happy client.
However, we are also experts in our field; clients appoint us for specific reasons. We have to have the trust and relationship that allows for clear, simple advice and there will be times when the client is not always right.
Disagreement doesn’t equal arguments or being dismissive. Good Account Managers have to professionally stand their ground when it counts, highlight examples and suggest alternative actions to ensure they are giving the client their absolute best.
So, in summary, Account Managers are the vital glue between client and creative team.
They juggle, they navigate the complex world of the relationship/commercial balance and to the client? They are your Champion, your Organiser Extraordinaire, your Strategic Thinker, and great ones will get you great creative campaigns, smooth website development projects and seamless measurable business value from the agency partnership.
We are incredibly proud of our Client Services team and the entire Escapee creative team that seeks to connect with our clients in everything we do. Get in touch with us and chat to one of our Account Managers about how we can best partner with your brand in 2020.