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Three of my colleagues and I were fortunate enough to attend a seminar here in Pittsburgh hosted by the 4 A’s entitled “New Leadership Skills for Client Service Professionals: Moving from Account Manager to Brand Leader.” This seminar, led by Tim Williams, forced us to think about our role in a different way and taught us how to create the transformational switch from simply managing client accounts to leading our clients in new and dynamic directions.

Below are a few takeaways that might help in your every day client interactions.

Lead the client, don’t just manage the account.

Sometimes we are so consumed by the day-to-day activities of our job we forget that clients actually pay for the value we add to their business. It is not just about answering emails and making yourself available for the occasional 6pm conference call.

Clients can go to just about any agency and get good service but what they are really looking for from their Account Managers are useful strategic insights about their business to help drive results. Those are the differentiating factors. They expect advice from their agency on their marketing strategy but what they rarely expect or get is proactive thinking on ways to grow their business.

Despite our busy schedules, these are the types of things we can not ignore and should be taking to our clients to demonstrate that we know their industry and brand. Sure, there are always excuses why we are not doing this – it is time consuming, there could be partner agency conflicts, etc. – but great client service professionals act, not just react.

Clients don’t buy your efficiency, they buy your effectiveness.

Speaking of results, the number one frustration listed by clients is lack of agreed upon set of analytics and metrics that define success and failure. In order to showcase the value of the agency, we need to make sure to align with the client up front on what key metrics we’re looking for to define the success of a campaign. These initial meetings to define KPI’s are crucial to the success of the project.

Below are six suggested questions that can help better focus a client on the metrics and the value they’re looking for from the agency. Not only will these help establish benchmarks to begin measuring against for current and future campaigns, the answers will also help the Account Manager and Planners develop better creative briefs for the team to work from.

  1. What are the client’s desired outcomes?
  2. What has the client done in the past with similar objectives – and how did those initiatives perform?
  3. How will the client measure success next year?
  4. What can we measure? (And to an extent, what can’t we measure that we wish we could?)
  5. What service standards is the client looking for from the agency?
  6. What resources can the client devote?

Tim also brought up another interesting idea regarding measurement. When we hear the term KPI we all know that the meaning of this acronym is Key Performance Indicator but what we really should be looking for are Key Predictive Indicators.

While Key Performance Indicators, like sales and market share, are obviously important to measure, they are sometimes hard to tie directly to our marketing efforts. Instead we should look at other things that contribute to positive success like website visits, social shares, engagement, etc. and see how these correlate with sales. Tim offered the auto industry as an example, stating that the top three predictive indicators are test drives, lot traffic and website visits. These are things that are results of our efforts that we can actively monitor and report on.

Lead with what’s important, not just what’s urgent.

How often do we find ourselves responding to urgent emails and putting out fires all day? A truly great client service professional leads with what is most important, not just what’s urgent. You should always manage your workload by placing more focus on the most important things first and not respond to things as they arrive in your inbox. We often tend to procrastinate on the important but not “urgent” things, like researching competitors or taking the time to learn more about our clients’ industries.

These are actually the things that add the most value. If we’re more proactive and focus on the important things then ultimately, we will become less reactive and not have to deal with as many urgent/unimportant things.

Lead a better process earlier, get better work later.

It is the Account Manager’s job to make sure interdisciplinary collaboration is happening early and often. The best collaborators have the “giver” personality and can set aside their own personal preferences for the success of the team. They are good listeners and contribute thoughtful and strategic ideas. Collaboration also contributes to better creative briefs resulting in better work.

A brief shouldn’t be about checking the boxes or filling in the blanks. This makes for a prescriptive list of tactics and doesn’t give the creative team much freedom. If the consumer doesn’t understand the language used then it shouldn’t be in the brief. Account Managers should set up interesting and memorable briefing presentations to keep the team engaged and inspired. Tim even made the point that what goes on around the brief matters more than the brief itself.

I will give you the same advice that we were all given – to take something from this list that you think is valuable and start using it in your client dealings and share your findings.

Ashley Rader
Ashley Rader
Senior Account Executive

Ashley joined the Client Service team at SBA in July of 2013. She is a highly creative and multi-talented marketer with 3+ years of experience in digital and traditional advertising. Ashley began her career as an account management intern while in college. Since then she has worked on some larger CPG brands including Aquafresh, TUMS, Sensodyne, Pronamel, Nicorette, NicoDerm CQ, Drumstick and Red Bull. She is knowledgeable of the latest trends and enjoys researching new and upcoming market strategies.
Ashley is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and a minor in Political Science.