What does it take to be an account manager today? What skills and knowledge are necessary, and how have they shifted over time? Client service has definitely evolved from what it was 10 years ago. There are more ways of building a brand and reaching audiences. While we used to be fairly limited to traditional outlets like television, print, radio and outdoor campaigns, the digital explosion has created exponentially more opportunities to communicate with customers. This landscape has upped the marketing game, and we are seeing a lot of new possibilities. The fundamental role that account managers play hasn’t changed. Building trust with clients, having a sense of leadership and looking at a client’s business from strategic perspectives are still necessary, but the means of doing those and what clients expect from them have changed. The challenge for account managers is how to make themselves more valuable experts in today’s digital world.
A successful agency-client relationship is built on trust. Clients want to know that their business is important to us, and that it’s being well taken care of. To recognize the needs of clients, account managers need to have a broad knowledge of digital platforms and how they work in brand building. It’s about being educated on new tools and trends in the market because account managers help the clients make sense of it all. How can we recommend solutions to clients’ problems when we’re not familiar with the latest developments in marketing? It’s good to know what other brands are doing and, at the same time, try to look for new ways to market the brands for which we’re responsible.
Luke Sullivan, author of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This,” coined the term T-shaped person, “T-shaped is used to describe a person who has very deep skills in one area (the deep vertical stroke of the T) as well as the ability to collaborate across disciplines they’re not an expert in (horizontal stroke).” As account managers, we strive to have a deep understanding in marketing communications principles and be able to apply them across different disciplines, whether those are traditional or digital marketing.
To have knowledge of the digital landscape is one part of the challenge. The other is thinking strategically about our clients, so we can market their brands better. Often, there are plenty of ways and opportunities that can help our clients, but, as proactive problem solvers, we must filter out the less effective ones in order to recommend only what’s best for clients and their objectives.
At M/C/C, our account managers serve as brand stewards for their clients. They’re expected to intimately understand our clients’ brand and messaging and their objectives and then champion those internally and externally. Throughout the branding process to planning, execution and reporting, the account management team is responsible for ensuring the development and efficacy of client programs.
You should expect your account manager to go beyond what you ask of them. It’s not just the day-to-day coordination and project management but also understanding your customers and the market and taking personal pride in the brand your company has built. You should look to your account manager to be a marketing partner that helps your brands’ growth and development.