Effective Account Management
Over the last decade the agency/client landscape has evolved insofar as we’re now in the age of ‘polygency’ where clients no longer retain the services of a single agency, leading to a real need for an agency to really go beyond their core offering or area of expertise, be that design, content, social, PR or a multitude of other niche services. Nowhere is this more apparent than in developing and nurturing both long-term and fully-aligned client relationships. Going that extra mile has never been more prescient.
As anyone who’s worked in client service or any other client-facing role will attest, client relationships are not always made in heaven or conducted on a level playing field. The maxims ‘the customer is king’ or ‘the customer is always right’ are often guiding principles within the service sector but it could be argued less so within the creative industries. After all we predominantly deal in subjectivity underpinned by the hard yards of research, analysis and number crunching.
Invariably agencies deliver their best work off the back of the time invested to develop real partnerships built on the foundations of understanding, trust and honesty. These are the bedrocks of building and sustaining enduring partnerships between client and agency. Agencies long for the freedom that allows them to stretch themselves creatively and work with clients who ‘really get it’. This creative nirvana is only unlocked through trust. Great work will help grow their business, enhance their reputation and get them noticed.
This is where proactive and experienced account management comes in. It’s this that enables us to elevate client relationships from the good to the excellent and earn the ‘creative capital’ needed to deliver something extraordinary and while successfully managing the often challenging internal suits v creative dynamic on behalf of clients.
Clients expect you to know their business and align your expertise with their brand, strategic communications objectives and budget.
Adopting a partnership approach goes some way to ensuring that an agency needn’t continually acquiesce to client requests that might comprise creative and strategic output. It’s where this deeper understanding of their business and the key stakeholders will prove pivotal in enabling the agency to successfully navigate any potential political minefields as well as anticipate the challenges ahead.
There’s no silver bullet to embedding new client or reinvigorating existing relationship. But effective account management goes beyond just being armed with credit card and an expense account.
At Ponderosa we like to think that an effective Account Manager is someone who puts the client front and centre and espouses the following:
‘Scientia potentia est!’
Knows their client, their business and what matters to them. By showing they’ve done the necessary legwork it starts to build confidence in them and the agency in general.
Communicates frequently and never assumes everyone knows what they know. Isn’t afraid to ask a relevant question and listens. It enables them to manage expectations better. Oh and picks up the phone once in a while rather than defaulting to email. It’s good to talk.
Not every project goes swimmingly and such is life. If they’ve got some bad news to deliver ensure they’ve got a workable solution or two to hand. If not be honest and take it on the chin whilst retaining your dignity, although that’s easier said than done when a client goes nuclear.
They’ll be part of a team and act like it. Irrespective of their role, gets stuck in when possible and do their bit. They’ll also end up with a better understanding of the client service engine room and the challenges therein.
Wants to do what’s best for the client and are prepared to put their neck on the block or say no when it’s not in the client’s best interests whilst wearing the obligatory client service flak jacket whilst taking cover from incoming fire from either the client and creative or invariably both.
Finally, account management is not an exact science and it’s said that ‘people buy people’ but whether that’s your experience or not, one thing is true. Clients want and need a partner to deliver for them and its your job to ensure that they’ve got one in you. They don’t necessarily need to be your friend but they’ve got to believe in you to get the job done. And using the expense account on them once in while is also no bad thing either.