I found and committed myself to marketing early on in college, however; it was not until I started my first marketing job when I found account management. I started out supporting five Account Managers on five different client projects. The experience lasted about seven months providing me exposure to different account management styles. For example, asking other people for things is part of account management; one can go about asking for things in many different ways. I got to see first hand the different approaches to take.
After seven months, I was extremely fortunate to become an Account Manager. It was time to adapt my own style. Today, I hone account management and practice responsibilities just as much (if not more than) my marketing skills.
Some Quick Macro Thoughts Connected to Account Management in Marketing
The rapid shift in human behavior towards spending time online has facilitated a need for marketers to pay attention to how to connect with audiences online. The need for marketing to know how to execute good online marketing has led to many new marketing agencies popping up. The growth in digital that led to the growth in agencies tells me there is growth in account management jobs. That would mean there should be more people looking to develop account management skills now more than ever.
Below are some general observations and skills I find important in account management:
The Account Manager’s Dynamic Circle
Account Managers usually manage multiple things at once, whether it is client needs, internal projects, or updating processes. You might be handling 4-6 client programs at once, on behalf of your agency. You have client needs to tend to, internal teammates to interact with, and managers to inform. At one point or another, you might find yourself letting the day-to-day dynamic circle below dictate your overall mission:
- A client might send an email asking a question.
- Maybe an internal team member just asked for feedback on a deliverable.
- Director just asked about program direction.
- All the while, the three items above are de-railing you from the 3 pieces of work you had on your radar for the day.
It can get pretty crazy. In one of my favorite books, The Four Disciplines of Execution, they refer to the day to day of a job as the whirlwind. I think account management is a very good representation of a whirlwind. You can be pulled in so many different directions as indicated above in the circle, and it is your job to prioritize and do what’s best for your clients, your agency, and yourself (never neglect yourself!).
Simplifying the Circle
When I was first turned onto the idea of becoming an Account Manager, I remember telling the person guiding and mentoring me, how I looked at the role. I broke the role into three important responsibility buckets based on whom you interact with:
- Client – ensure all clients are satisfied with results and service through driving strategy and executing results
- Team – inform internal team on client goals and delegate tactical work in a way that keeps them invested
- Director / Team Lead – update leadership on project direction and results
Assuming a normal schedule, I like breaking my weekly time up as follows:
- 70% of time on clients
- 25% of time on internal team
- 5% of time on informing director / management
It is subject to change, though. For example, if I begin working with an internal team member for the first time, I allocate more time to working with him/her to help get on the same page sooner. In that case, my time would break down like this:
- 50% of time on internal team
- 45% of time on clients
- 5% of time on informing director / management
By allocating more time to working with someone at the start of the relationship, it saves time a few months out when a project is in full force. When deliverables are flying and strategy is executed, you and internal stakeholders are a true team that can handle the tasks.
General Traits of an Account Manager
I outlined key traits that I believe are important to hone and build on as an account manager.
Account management is a form of leadership. At a young age I was exposed to leaders through playing hockey. From there, I was super drawn to those captains and coaches who had a sense of poise about them; they were calm in the wake of chaos. The demeanor—when practiced correctly—can help others around you. It was no surprise that I was impressed with the first few account managers that exhibited poise both around clients and internal stakeholders. Poise will help you stay loose and focused on what is important rather than letting the day-to-day dynamic circle dictate your day.
As an Account Manager, other peoples’ work and ideas are coming in and out. Whether it is a client or internal teammate’s presentation of an idea, it is the Account Manager’s job to listen to what they have to say and provide an answer / feedback as to whether the idea is worthwhile. Active listening will keep others around you engaged in the goals and execution of a program. If stakeholders don’t feel listened to, they may end up not owning the work you ask for.
I am big on this one because it was drilled into me at the beginning of my account management career. My Account Manager at the time gave me the task of pitching an idea to a client. I had never done this before and was both excited and nervous for the responsibility. Following the pitch, I was told if you want to get others excited about an idea, you must deliver them with energy and enthusiasm. You bring a lot of ideas to the table so developing the ability to do it with energy and enthusiasm will get others’ excited about the execution.
Client projects have many moving parts. There are different set goals for each program, there are different deliverables in the queue each week, and there are always updates to how we can do better digital marketing. Finding your own ways to organize information is key. I like Evernote for all things personal, work, family, etc.
Both written and verbal communication is important for an account manager. You are responsible for delivering information throughout the week and it is vital not to overlook the delivery. Are you writing in a way that is easy for someone to digest? If you are writing paragraphs with numerous thoughts and questions scattered throughout your message, you likely won’t get the answers you are looking for. On the verbal end, heading into a meeting knowing what you want to ask and share can increase the chances of getting what you want out of the meeting.
I hope you enjoyed my break down on account management. If you think there are other good traits that I missed or if you have other ways of looking at the dynamic circle, drop me a line!