A hat wearer extraordinaire? That's your multi-talented account manager!

Written by Lisa Rippon - 23 Jun 2021

When you think account manager, what do you imagine? The messenger? Collecting and delivering instructions from a client to technical or creative teams? The socialiser? Perhaps the most likely in the agency to be enjoying a hearty lunch (most often with clients, but not always). Well, we're those and then some.

We account managers are more than merely the champions of client relationships. Behind our calm, outward projection, we are plate-spinners and hat-wearers supreme. Read my thoughts on why account managers have to wear so many hats and why it's (sometimes) alright to call us Jack.

Being on-hand to help our clients solve their challenges genuinely makes every day different, exciting and rewarding. To meet those challenges, we do have to wear many hats and, more importantly, know when to swap/change each one.

Lisa Rippon, Account Director

Jack of all Trades, does that accurately reflect account managers? To an extent, the following statement is true (and supports the 'Jack of all Trades' comparison):

An account manager will need a strong understanding of all the specialisms that an agency delivers, but specialists have expert knowledge for each channel.

Account management requires a breadth of knowledge across channels, sectors and a deep understanding of each clients' business. An account manager needs to be a people person, forging strong partnerships with every client, the in-house team and third-party agencies. Account management is the cog that keeps all the other activity moving and pulling in the same direction.

Therefore, we can summarise the skills required to be an account manager are broad and varied. So while the Jack of all Trades matra does kind of fit, I like to see us as extraordinarily skilled hat-wearers. Keep reading as I break down the different hats account managers have to wear every day.

The navigator

Working out the best strategic direction to take for our clients, what activity and support can we provide to help clients reach their goal - we are natural navigators.

For example, this could include assessing the client's digital maturity and objectives to identify where the most significant opportunities to improve performance exist. The navigator also determines whether hands-on support is required or whether we should be upskilling our clients and their internal teams.

The financial advisor

Scoping and creating proposals to drive success, incorporating the cost of activity delivery, the client's budget, and impact against client briefs. In our role, we need to provide strong financial acumen and a focus on delivering value for clients, striving to maximise a return from taking an integrated services approach. The financial advisor hat is perhaps not the most exciting to wear, but it is essential that we use it often.

The planner

When wearing the planners' hat, we need to ensure that all activity is scheduled on time to meet multiple deadlines. We take a bird's eye view of all client milestones, be on top of seasonal spikes and trends (depending on the brand/sector), and ensure holistic planning across all services and disciplines to meet client expectations.

Account manager looking for a hat to wear

The conductor

Think of an account manager/director like a conductor in a grand orchestra. Only this conductor can manage and pull together all elements of digital marketing activity to achieve the desired overall effect and encourage collaboration across the internal team, external suppliers, and clients.

We ensure specialists do not work in silos. Instead, we bring in the right people at the right time to meet the brief and deliver against the objectives. This practice allows technical and creative teams to come together in a collaborative and integrated fashion. For example, you can't launch a new website without technical SEO support to inform site structure and redirect mapping (if you did, it could be a disaster). Nor can you launch a new website without ensuring that Google Analytics tracking is in place, ready to measure impact.

The juggler

Working across multiple client accounts, the account manager needs to have their eyes on every aspect of the activity, ensuring that all work streams progress in tandem as required. With hat firmly on the head, the juggler needs to ensure urgent requests from one client are acted on quickly, without derailing deliverables and set timelines for another.

The cheerleader

Bringing the client's point of view to the table is part of being their cheerleader, ensuring that documentation and deliverables meet the clients' expectations and brief while also championing the agency's expertise. In addition, the cheerleader often helps clients with business case proposals to help get buy-in from other senior stakeholders internally.

The surveyor

Measuring and evaluation. Performance review is critical to understand the impact of work, the value-driven and knowing what other tactics will deliver further impact.

A great example is a CRO test we ran for our clients, which provided more than £200,000 potential revenue return for the year. As we were going into peak and the client needed immediate results, we recommended a temporary uplift in CRO retainer to run a higher velocity of tests in the run-up to the client's peak trading period.

This agility and understanding allowed us to help generate a 32% uplift in revenue and a 216% ROI. This is because the surveyor knows which levers to pull at the right time based on sector knowledge and generate all-important returns.

The agony aunt/uncle

A crucial aspect is listening to clients, learning about and understanding the challenges they face while at the same time offering advice and solutions to help overcome them. Therefore, the agony aunt likeness is accurate. We're there to step in when clients cannot always resolve issues or need a second opinion. In addition, time is often a factor for in-house teams - the ability to quickly understand the challenges and help with a solution is an essential part of the job.

The carer

As standard, account managers need to engage on a more personal level. What starts as a professional relationship often develops into long-lasting friendships.

It's not unusual for the carer to send gifts for life events like birthdays, weddings or a new baby or book the client's favourite restaurant for lunch, going for drinks (in those halcyon days pre-pandemic). 

Lisa, I just opened the most beautiful parcel!!! Thank you all so so much. That is so kind. You didn't need to do that - I love it!

Being human and wearing the carers hat makes you see that with a little thought, and genuinely caring goes a long way to making someone's day.

In summary

Personally speaking, I love my role as an account director in the Client Services team. However, each day in account management brings its own unique set of challenges.

Being on-hand to help our clients solve their challenges genuinely makes every day different, exciting and rewarding. To meet those challenges, we do have to wear many hats and, more importantly, know when to swap/change each one.

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