Top insights on account management from a Creative Director and an Account Director.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR POV
If you wish to succeed as/alongside an agency account manager, thou shalt:
1. Remember it’s a service business.
While it’s different at every agency, the person who feels 100% responsible for delivering service to the client is the account person. They’re at the front of the house, always on, and while the creative may dream up the dishes, the account person has to put it down on their plate. They’re on the front line all the time. Always listen to the account person. And if you don’t, the food’s just going to keep coming back.
2. Remember it’s a creative business.
Every client is excited about getting noticed—especially for an innovative new ad. And where do these eye-catching ideas come from? The writers and art directors—the chefs, if you will. My advice: give them all the time they need, so they can cook up something amazing!
3. Have empathy—Creativity takes serious focus.
It can also take pizza, Red Bull, and a walk around the block. Great ideas come from putting things together in new and shocking ways. Sometimes it comes together fast; sometimes painfully over many hours. It takes persistence and patience.
4. Have empathy—Managing accounts takes serious focus.
Absolute focus, in fact. There are so many things that can go off-track during a project, and it’s the account folks that make the project go smoothly. So, always ask account people what they think about the creative.
5. Walk and talk more.
Email and IMs are constantly lost in translation. Or accidentally deleted. The only sure-fire communication method is to get up, walk over, and talk. Works every time.
6. Meet less.
90% of most meetings are occupied by stuff that should happen well before. Plan your meetings carefully and send thoughtful questions in advance, so that folks come prepared and ready to contribute, not just take notes. Invite only the essential people and cap your meetings at ten minutes—watch how much more productive they are.
7. Welcome all contributions.
Back in the Mad Men
days, the creative folks were the only creatives. Today, the whole agency is part of the process. So, it’s important to build your ideas together. Respect each other. Give everyone the right to be wrong.
8. Lean on others.
Advertising can be intense and exciting. And overwhelming. Intensely overwhelming. So, ask for help when you need it. Embrace guidance. Divide and conquer.
9. Be brief.
(…see what I did there?)
Advertising moves at the speed of right. But diving right in can be the fastest way to misunderstanding.The Creative Brief is the smartest way to start everyone on the same foot. And ensure all arrive at the right destination, together.
10. Exude confidence.
Your client is rooting for you. Some clients hug. Some are stern. Some are silent. But remember, they all want you to succeed—so don’t be afraid to. Ask the tough questions you need answered. Mine them for insights. Be a partner not a pleaser. Invite them to participate. Embody the confidence they already have in you.
ACCOUNT DIRECTOR POV
If you wish to succeed as an agency account manager, thou shalt:
1. Remember, the client is the center of your universe.
Without clients, there wouldn’t be account managers. Clients rely on us to be a “force multiplier”—to help them get things done and meet their goals. Do your best to make them a hero in their organization!
2. Walk the tightrope.
Account management requires delicate balance. We walk that suspended (and suspenseful) tension wire between client and creative. Our job is to make sure that the client’s vision is understood and implemented by the creative team. To ensure creative stays on-message and on-brand, as well as on-target and on-time. And yet at the same time, allow the creative team room to offer surprising (sometimes suspenseful) ideas to the project. All without losing the account and toppling to our death.
3. Be a diplomat.
You must lead the client and creative talent toward consensus on a winning idea. See #2 above. But as you walk that tightrope, it’s so important to put things…constructively, stoking imaginations, encouraging exploration, and instilling confidence. Because without those things, you lose forward momentum—which, we know, on a tightrope means, again, toppling to your death.
4. Communication is key.
There are so many things to communicate and so many potential misunderstandings. An Account person must dedicate themselves to being painfully clear. Though being clear can really seem slow and feel agonizingly repetitive, the hurt comes if you’re are less than thorough. Establish goals, set expectations, discuss needs, restate needs, build a roadmap with milestones, establish next steps, revisit expectations, and then do it all again in a wrap-up email.
5. Solve problems.
We work in a world of design and communication challenges. Keep in mind that we don’t just provide answers to problems—we deliver thoughtful, informed solutions. Solutions that meet the objectives of the client, resonate with the audience, and add value to the relationship that we have with our stakeholders.
6. Become an expert juggler/multitasker.
Every day is exciting, others challenging, and some outright insane. There’s always a lot to do. Account managers race to meet deadlines, run to (and prepare for) meetings, manage teams, manage individuals, manage schedules, deepen relationships, expand business opportunities, set aside time to think/strategize, prepare presentations, write briefs, kick off projects, track projects, give feedback, offer creative suggestions, put out fires, and do a little proofing on the side…in order to deliver everything the client needs (and a little more). Whoever said there’s no such thing as multitasking was never in charge of an account. With practice, it becomes second nature and we love it!
7. Be organized—scratch that. Be a control freak.
With all that juggling to be done on that tightrope we walk, you simply must be a control freak in order to provide expert value. What helps is when you have excellent support staff at your side. Some great IT. And plenty of coffee. And chocolate.
8. Be wise.
It’s not enough to have an opinion. You must bring an informed point of view to the table, providing industry insight and a deep understanding of your client’s customer base. Good account management develops over time, not overnight. It’s about partnering and working with your stakeholder—not telling them what you think they should do. They hired you because you are smart, insightful, and great to work with!
9. Grow business.
You have to have empathy. For your agency. For the client. And for the stakeholders you work with every day. Remember, at the end of the day, everyone is just trying to grow business. So, do great work and always be proactive in creating new opportunities.
10. Understand your client’s business.
It’s their baby. You’ll never know it as well as they do. But you better try to. You better be a doting uncle/aunt. And like any uncle/aunt, there may be times you’re sure you know what’s best. But it’s their baby. And sometimes the client knows more than the creative studio, more than you.
Co-Authors: Evelyn Wells; Roy Beauchamp
Illustration: Britt Goh
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