As the person who has the most regular contact with clients, it could be said that an account manager has one of the most important roles in a marketing agency when it comes to maintaining client relationships. While this is essentially true, one of the issues faced in many agencies today is that account managers are too focused on management, paying little attention to leadership of their clients.
But surely, you ask, an account manager’s responsibility is client management, ensuring that projects are completed to result in positive relationships?
Yes. And no.
The basic responsibilities of an account manager can be broken down into 5 areas: growing business with existing clients, collaborating with others in the agency to create great work, achieving the client’s marketing goals, managing the account’s profitability and of course making sure that clients are happy.
Skilled account managers however, add a further dimension to their work: leadership. It’s one thing to take orders from a client and then make those requests happen. Leading a client and providing marketing solutions based on their needs, not necessarily their wants, is something else entirely.
So how exactly do you learn to lead rather than just manage your clients?
Make them want what you know they need
You may have an idea for a new project that you believe will work extremely well for your client. Springing a new concept on them is unlikely to work. Seeding your idea over the duration of a few months – by mentioning it in passing and occasionally sending them articles – is more likely to result in them being on board with something new. And they’ll think it was their idea.
Learn to say no
This might be one of the most difficult skills for account managers to embrace. Some client requests may be unethical, some may not be possible within budget and time restraints, and others may be possible but damaging to a brand’s overall identity. Learning to say no successfully is possible when you focus on uncovering the real problem and providing a solution, often giving far more rewarding results than if you had simply done exactly as a client had asked.
Master the art of meetings
Agency meetings are notorious time wasters – both for clients and agency employees. Skilled account managers know how to get the best out of their client meetings: from deciding whether a meeting is really needed in the first place, and exactly what goals that meeting should accomplish, to determining relevant follow-up actions that all involved are responsible for.
You may believe that implementing leadership into your client relationships is unnecessary if your clients are happy and work is going well. Consider this however – just about any account manager can give a client what they want. Account managers who focus on delivering solutions to a client’s needs however, make themselves indispensable.