I’ve always placed high value on agency client relationships. To create work that is in the best interests of clients, agencies and consumers, strong relationships are fundamental. While many people in the agency are important to building and maintaining them, the account manager is usually the lead.
But what else? As account managers, we don't always own the strategy, we don't own the creative, we may not own every piece of project management, production or delivery. With constant change at our clients and endless variables in our industry, where else can we deliver value?
The answer is in our name. In the age of transparency and immediacy, accountability is a cornerstone for building business and brands. By employing many of the same skills that build relationships, account managers can keep everyone accountable.
This means we keep the agency accountable to the client, and the client accountable to the agency (to a degree). And production partners accountable to the project. But most of all, it means keeping everyone at agency and the client accountable to consumers.
Here are seven skills you need to be your agency’s chief Accountability Manager.
1. Think customer first
To be accountable to consumers, you need to know them. Commit to becoming more knowledgeable about your clients’ business and customers. Look for insights. Get out of the agency and immerse yourself. Go to the shops, service centre, estate, campus. Talk to members. Watch the social posts. Ask questions, ask to see strategy and plans. Talk to the sales guys, not just the marketing team. What are customers looking for? What can we solve for them?
2. Champion authenticity
If you know your audience, you’ll know they want authenticity - from brands, products, services, companies. Your client knows it too. How will you help them deliver? Stay focused on what’s real, what’s really being delivered. Think as a human first. Does it feel right? Is it believable? Can we substantiate? Everyone has a highly tuned filter for BS. Make sure you’d be willing to buy what you’re selling.
3. Bring clarity
The simplest answer is often the correct answer, but finding it amongst complexity and change is not easy. Compelling communication, seamless experience and great outcomes require clarity and discipline. To be clear about something, you first need to understand it. The project, the client, the situation, the outcomes - then translate clearly and concisely for everyone involved. Always - be clear, be considered, be concise.
4. Maintain relevance
Smart thinking and great creative is our lifeblood. To make a difference to consumers, communication needs to connect and compel - in its message, its appeal, its experience. These are three useful tools to check the proposition, creative idea and channel:
CRT // The proposition is... Competitive, Relevant, True
ICP // The creative work is… Impactful, Clear, Persuasive
TCS // The experience is… Timely, Convenient, Seamless
5. Focus on outcomes
Accountability demands a relentless focus on results. Of campaigns and initiatives; of meetings, emails and phone calls. Look for and document key decisions and outcomes. Know what your campaign is meant to achieve, and know how you’re tracking. Keep everyone updated on how the work is performing - don't wait to be asked. Keep the consumer front and centre - what is the benefit for them? What are we trying to achieve? How are we doing?
6. Scope accurately
Poor experience is often the result of poor management. Overruns in cost and time inevitably affect the outcomes for customer, client and agency. This means we need to scope projects properly at the outset. Ask questions at the client - what are the requirements, the expectations, what else is in play. Ask questions at the agency - what did we do last time, what did we learn. Follow the finance, use JCRs day to day, not just at months’ end. Own the timeline, know the key dates by heart. Respond early and decisively.
7. Hold yourself accountable
‘Broken windows theory’ was a controversial policing program in the 1980s and ‘90s in New York, with the idea that if you prevent and control small crimes, the rate of more devastating and serious crimes will go down. It could just as well apply to agencies and consumers. We need to aim for zero moments of dissatisfaction - for our clients, for their customers. This means owning the fundamentals of our trade and holding yourself to account to deliver them.
With so much choice, information and expectation, and so little time, attention, and tolerance, the need for accountability has never been greater. Clients and customers crave it. As Accountability Manager, you can deliver it. Go get em.