When strangers or new friends ask me what I do for a living, I find it difficult to explain the full scope of my role within the three words ‘Agency Account Management.’
I may argue that I don’t have the foresight or vision of a Brand Strategist, the superior sales acumen of our Managing Director or even the creative ability of our incredibly talented Art Directors and Designers. And yet, I would insist that my role at Dugan & O’Sullivan is integral to the business; Account Management being the bridge that connects my clients and my team.
As Account Managers, we live and breathe budgets, processes and timelines. We plan, structure and manage, both our teams and our clients’ teams. We speak creative fluently like it’s our first language but also seem to translate business and marketing plans into written briefs. All of these skills are learned and can be sharpened over time. There however are five key learnings I’d like to share, that have greatly helped me service my clients better and create lasting relationships.
#1 Think like the client and act as a team member
Some of the most successful Account Managers I’ve worked with function with this perspective – It’s not ‘us’ vs ‘them’. Even on the busiest of days, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a client-side or an agency-side. It’s the solution or the idea that solves the problem for our clients, in the most effective and efficient manner, that scores the home run.
In the end, we’re all working towards a high degree of unity, purpose and intimacy with our clients for a better outcome.
#2 Play five steps ahead
Under-promise and over-deliver. This popular project management technique is the guiding light for any successful account service team. It involves a little bit of common sense and a whole lot of predicting the future but when done right, it is also another way to allow for unforeseen circumstances and obstacles in a project timeline.
As a part of managing expectations for your clients, it also becomes important to preempt their feedback, their preferences and tie it all back to the brief.
#3 Respect the process
If we mass-produced bottle caps and we were judged by our ability to make as many bottle caps as physically possible in a day, sure, more hours would mean more productivity. This is not how agencies work. This is also far from the process our creative professionals rely on. As an agency with expertise in our field, we’re engaged and paid for our ideas, our strategy, our design and our guidance.
Agency-life is deadline-driven. While it’s important to stay aware of those due dates with regular time-checks, remember to empower the team and educate the client about never missing a step in the creative development and review process.
#4 Share the wins and own your mistakes
No two days in an agency are the same. Most often we’re rewarded with compliments on the progress of a task, receive a pat on the back for a great idea or we’re congratulated on the results of a successful campaign. But sometimes, we can also find ourselves in the perfect storm. Sharing positive client feedback, celebrating small wins and milestones, whether in morning WIPs or even in the form of email – it can turn your team’s day around.
On the flip side, when a mistake comes to light, resisting the urge to point fingers and instead reflecting on our briefs and processes allow us to prevent them from happening again.
#5 Listen. Really listen!
As tempting as it is to interject with an immediate response in a meeting, it is always more rewarding to pay careful attention to the challenges your clients are facing. Understanding the frustrations and listening to the problems faced by your clients and their stakeholders will help you and your team develop the type of product that the client not only wants but their business also needs.
The above isn’t necessarily hard and fast rules but a set of virtues that guides us. It provides our team with standards to attain, a handbook of fair engagement and defines the purpose of our roles within the business. It’s something we all buy into when we choose the agency account management career path. These values stand especially true in my role at Dugan & O’Sullivan, where I am tasked with building and nurturing rewarding client relationships that last.
So what do I say now to new friends and even strangers who still want to know what I do for a living?
I tell them I solve problems for my clients and make their life a little less difficult with the help of the best and the most creative people in the business.