Are you new into an account exec or account manager role?

Here are eight lessons to learn.

As preface I should say, I’ve never worked in an agency, but I have been a client and also met and worked with lots of agency bods.

There are many articles like this on the internet, this is just my take on common business sense.

1. Don’t shirk the groundwork

Account managers (AM) must pray at the church of research.

Even if you are only working on a niche project – perhaps some copywriting or a microsite – and not a brand-defining above-the-line campaign, that doesn’t excuse you from research.

It doesn’t take long to get an appreciation of brand and industry history, to follow/subscribe to brand comms, to experience a service or product, to trawl through owned media, to read an annual report – and that’s before any discipline-specific research (e.g. SEO analysis).

Then, of course, an AM should understand how a client’s competitors stack up.

This should really be instinctive, like preparing for a job interview, and helps the AM understand the context of a client’s wants and needs.


2. Think preparation before communication

Nothing can make a client (or any human being) as angry as sitting on a conference call, waiting patiently for their account manager to join, only for the AM to wing it.

However smart they may be, account managers must not improvise even informal meetings – they need the latest figures, timeline and must be abreast of recent communication.

Being late or underprepared for a meeting or a phone call completely negates the client’s feeling of being valued, i.e. it’s better to reschedule than to fudge it.

But remember, although the client wants to feel the AM is in control, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions or admit where your knowledge is limited.

Clarity is key to meeting expectations.


3. Clients want opinions not minions

Yes-men rarely deliver everything they say yes to. Account managers mustn’t shy away from constructive disagreement, but shouldn’t be truculent or self-righteous and detached. 

Knowing when to back yourself and when to shut up might not be something that comes naturally – this is where your senior colleagues can lead by example. Learn from them where you can.

Lastly, building a ‘personal brand‘ (chiefly via social media) can be a good thing, helping to place you within the context of a knowledgable community and letting clients know you’re a respected figure.

However, AMs shouldn’t be controversial or divisive, as this leads back to self-righteous territory. Discretion is paramount, too.


4. Zeal seals the deal

Zest is best when interacting with a client. Just be enthusiastic. Smile, laugh in the right places, but not a feigned laugh.

You can’t fake this one very easily, so perhaps its inclusion here is pointless.

Maybe the correct message is to find the angle that allows you to be most enthusiastic about a client or the work in hand.

5. The devil is in the detail

An old sentiment – check everything thrice before it goes over to the client.


6. The fiend is in the fact

It’s not just spelling and formatting that matters – where the client’s data is concerned, a high degree of accuracy is a must.

7. Bring order where there is none

Have you noticed people at your agency moving data around from one place to another, manually, making work for themselves?

Are your colleagues making best use of appropriate collaboration tools?

If AMs can make processes more efficient, even by a relatively small degree, they are potentially saving their future ass.

new order

via Dennis Brekke

8. Be likeable, but not at all costs

This is the nub of successful management. Being respected is more important than being liked.

AMs and PMs sometimes have to deliver news that isn’t going to be met with universal positive regard (about cost, time or just a flat ‘no’).

Sugar-coating or, worse, prevaricating is the wrong thing to do – tell it like it is.

For more insight into agencies, see the Econsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies report.