6 easy ways account managers can better serve clients
The mechanics of handling brand accounts are fairly straightforward. Within most firms, there is a step-by-step process for supporting clients throughout an engagement.
But there are a few subtle changes you can make to the way you communicate, to the deliverables you provide, and to your handling of issues that impact the client’s overall success. Luck aside, these proven methods will increase the likelihood of winning referrals and renewals.
Prioritize their brand
“Use the client’s brand as your true north,” says Joshua Torrisi, SVP management director at Philadelphia-based advertising agency Tierney. A firm commitment towards their business will produce limitless returns. Torrisi suggests, “Cultivate mutual respect by representing the best interests of your client’s brand.”
Take a holistic approach to serving clients. Account managers deliver the most value when they dedicate themselves to supporting a brand’s long-term goals.
Join their team
You are an extension of your client’s team, but despite your best intentions, some team members may not treat you as an equal. To ensure fluidity and earn respect, you need to work alongside your new peers and learn to navigate the firm’s unique dynamics and politics.
Tierney’s Torrisi advises, “Build strong relationships beyond the teams you deal with directly. Get to know the people they serve.” Only then can you act and operate as part of a well-coordinated and unified front.
In due time, “Product managers, operations teams and web developers [will] know and trust you,” says Torrisi. At that point, “They are more inclined to follow you. It can also help your client better navigate his or her own internal battles… and unearth additional engagements for your agency.”
Leave labels behind
While it is commonly understood that the client is an account and you are its manager, labels like these create a sense of formality and rigidity that is unfitting for successful brand-agency partnerships.
Douglas Bonilla, an account manager with brand communications agency Jacob Tyler, says, “I made a conscious effort a long time ago to never manage an account. No client wants to be just an account, nor do they strive to be something that needs to be managed, so I always make sure to speak to clients not only as their advocate but as an actual person.”
“The only thing you should ever have to manage is expectations, never the client,” Bonilla says. “Do this, and you will see that you can reach an unprecedented level of client intimacy and satisfaction with all your clients to truly propel your agency and your career forward.” Once you move beyond the artificial structures perpetuated by job titles, you can focus on helping people achieve their goals.
Make them laugh
Strong rapport is an essential element of successful client interaction. Talking strictly business may be enough to retain a customer, but you’ll never be someone’s first choice.
Jeff Maggs, a 30+ year advertising industry veteran reveals, “Clients, especially senior clients, are looking for some comic relief. I have closed many deals after a good laugh with a senior client or two.”
As the chief client officer at Brunner, a Pittsburgh-based agency, Maggs knows the importance of developing meaningful relationships which add character to otherwise monotone conversations about business.
Source second opinions
Flawless work and spotless presentation go a long way. Santy’s director of client services, Maria Dillon, recommends “always double-checking your work and collaborating with other teams to get their opinion and perspective.”
A first draft should never be the final deliverable. At Santy, “We have at least two sets of eyes on every outgoing project to make sure we are catching any and all errors, large or small. Blow the client away by showing them the extra effort that your team applies to their projects.”
Mistakes give off the perception that the work was rushed. Plus, perfect work makes it harder for a client to say “no” when it comes time to pursue a new engagement.
Surprise and delight
Christmas cards and company swag get old very quickly. Most clients who are already happy to recommend your agency get turned off by frivolous spending masquerading as “thought-filled gifts.”
At Green Rising Marketing, each agency employee is offered $1,000 per year to delight either colleagues or clients. “I’ve seen this go toward purchasing a hot toddy kit for a client who was sick [and] a baby bottle for a client who just welcomed his first child,” says assistant brand alchemist Gina Lorubbio.
Too few agencies will go out of their way for a client and will only over-invest resources in their largest accounts. The fact is, though, a little really goes a long way. With small changes in habits to encourage more positive and productive behaviors, you’ll soon deliver happiness to all of the clients in your roster and find your overall billings multiply.