What makes a good Agency Account Manager? To answer this question, we need to start at the very beginning. I remember when I first started at Magnetic, my CEO kept repeating a list of principles and structures to follow. The more time I spend at the agency and the longer I’ve worked with clients in various industries, the more I catch myself repeating the principles in my head while sitting at my desk.
But let’s start from the beginning..
What are the responsibilities of an Agency Account Manager?
At an advertising agency, the accounts team works in direct communication with the client and translates that to the project team. And vice versa. They are managing, overseeing and delivering the work and need to make sure everything gets delivered to the client on time, on scope and within budget. Therefore the Account Manager needs to be included in every communication about the project to keep an overview of the project and to raise any red flags if anything derails ahead of time. The Account Managers are the ones who know the client and the brand best, we live and breathe their brand and are therefore their spokesperson within the agency.
An Account Manager’s Responsibilities
Of course, all agencies work with different workflows and internal processes. One thing is always the same: We are the ones who report to the client, manage their expectations and communicate all sorts of deadlines, timelines, deliverables and concerns with them. We are often asked to give advice and recommendations and consult with our team. The Account Managers also keep an eye on the budget, make sure to avoid scope creep and look out for upselling opportunities.
An Account Manager’s Career
If starting at the entry level of the Account Management / Project Management career, you will usually be hired as an Account Coordinator or Executive. If you’re in this position, you are responsible for the daily management of a project. This can include making sure the deadlines are met and responding to questions from both the client’s and the agency's side.
Within 1-3 years you can be promoted to Account Manager, which will give you more responsibility to actually manage the clients, look behind the scope and make sure the work completed reaches the desired outcome.
Lastly, the Account Director oversees all accounts and supports signing up new clients to the business.
Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty, here’s what you came for:
5 Tips to Include in Your Day to Day Routine to be a Better Agency Account Manager
It may be obvious, but to be a successful Account Manager and to be in charge of projects and team members, you need to be able to manage yourself and your own responsibilities first. The harsh reality is: If you’re not able to manage your own tasks, how can you expect to manage an entire project and client? Once you’ve made sure you have what it takes, here is a guide with 5 tips on how to be a better Account Manager at an agency.
Tip #1: Excessive Planning
This will become your favorite word ever: Planning. I often catch myself getting excited over spreadsheets and Gantt charts. Planning is the most important thing when it comes to managing projects and your clients. If a project isn’t planned properly, it’s set for failure. You won’t be able to account for last-minute changes, feedback or reverts. If you have however taken the time to carefully plan out the scope and make sure that everyone is aware and on the same page, you’re already halfway there. Actually, more than halfway. The successful way to a project includes 80% planning and 20% execution.
Make sure you’re getting everyone’s agreement and approval on deliverables and timelines ahead of time, to avoid any confusion or bottlenecks. Be clear about what needs to be done and who is responsible for what.
Tip #2: Consolidation
You will likely work with more than one client at the same time. While they will probably never talk to each other or know of each other, every single one of your clients must have the same experience within your agency. This will also be of help if one of your accounts gets handed over to a different AM. The client won’t have to get used to a different way of working but can stay in their comfort of working the same way, just with a different person.
Mandatory for this to happen is for you to standardise all of your templates, workflows and documents. Each client should receive the same structured status report, each timeline should be in the same (agency-branded) design, and each presentation needs to be in your agency's look and feel.
There’s a reason why you’re successful and why you’re the expert, so make sure the client sees the agency’s and your value.
Tip #3: Clarity & Alignment
Another principle you will keep telling yourself during your day-to-day work. My CEO has a saying that I can’t write here, because it includes a swear word. Basically it means: Waste in, waste out.
What he means is, if the information you’re communicating isn’t clear or incomplete, you can’t expect a high-quality result.
Your first step for that will be to find clarity. Whether that’s from your client or if it’s from your team. Everyone must know exactly what needs to happen and not leave anything up for assumptions.
Once you have found clarity for yourself, communicate and reiterate that with everyone. For bigger projects, we need to have a kickstart with everyone involved to brief them in person, and later in written form. The same goes for a client, if anything has been discussed during a meeting, the information needs to be summarised on email afterwards to avoid any confusion or miscommunication.
Tip #4: Communication
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. Communication is key. Any updates or changes need to be communicated with both the team and the client. Rather over-communicate as opposed to leaving out information that can lead to confusion. Working at an agency can get very intense and fast-paced, so it’s important to make sure everyone’s focus is still on the right track.
Tip #5: Be Their Go-To
Last but not least, make sure the client knows your worth. You need to be their go-to with all types of queries and requests. It helps to read case studies and news about their industry for the client to see you’re invested in their brand. The client should rather see you as a partner, not as a service provider or agency. This is why we don’t speak to our clients using the words “you” and “we”. We speak in “us” terms. The client needs to be able to trust you and your abilities. In the agency, we’re the face of the client, and for the client, we’re the face of the agency.
So there you have it. These five tips will help you become a better version of your Account Manager self. Each client has their own challenges and requires their own focus, but these 5 guidelines are always crucial for a successful relationship.