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Why do you need an account manager?

Working with an agency that delivers strong account management is vital to the success of your video marketing and advertising campaigns.

Account people focus their efforts on understanding you and your brand, so you can focus on the important tasks in front of you, like making sure the campaign or video...

  • Accomplishes the project and company goals and objectives
  • Speaks to the right people
  • Will be leveraged across your organization
  • Is work you and your key stakeholders are proud of
  • Fits in with everything else you are doing or blazes a trail in the right way

Read on to learn how account managers make sure your marketing and advertising work hits the mark and help you deliver marketing success.

What is “account management?” How does it differ from "project management"?

Hubspot defines the role of an account manager with this simple sentence: “It’s the account manager’s job to understand how the campaign fits into the client’s long-term strategy and high-level goals.”

While account team members have varying titles based on their experience (account director, account manager/supervisor, account executive, etc.), we will use "account manager" as our catch-all term.

Looking at the big picture, along with the smaller details, is the key differentiator between a project manager and an account manager.

An account manager is a trusted ally who is always making sure that the long-term strategy and goals you’ve worked hard to create are driving all of the work you are making, big and small.

Project managers help coordinate all of the necessary resources and keep the project on track, but the responsibility for delivering effective work ultimately falls on your account manager’s shoulders.

What does account management look like within an advertising or marketing agency?

In the case of ad agencies, an account person is your main advocate within the agency. They work with the full agency team to optimize the work and ensure you are presented with viable creative options that will make a difference for your brand.

This includes presenting work that aligns with your expectations, work that pushes the brand in ways you may not have seen before, and work that will do its job.

While Mad Men doesn’t always get it right, this quote from a frustrated Heinz executive looking for true counsel during a creative  presentation with Peggy (a creative presenting work sans account partner) demonstrates the continued importance of account management in the creative process: “Stop writing down what I ask for, and try to figure out what I want.”

Great marketing is the product of different perspectives coming together to find the best solution. It is also dependent upon a strong account manager working with you to listen and understand your business and your needs (diagnosing your pain) before the agency writes you a prescription (developing strategy and creative concepts) that may or may not solve your issue.

In the Mad Men example above, the Heinz executive is frustrated because he feels like he's paid for an expert to do three things:

  • Listen to his take on things
  • Combine the provided information with their expertise to diagnose his business issue
  • Prescribe a treatment plan to take the brand to the next level

What he feels he got instead was a doctor who asked no questions and then shoved him a prescription based on his original self-diagnosis, with no explanation.

The agency's creative recommendation failed to demonstrate the expertise they were paid to provide and left the executive questioning why he came to them in the first place.

An account person is there to ensure that agency recommendations are vetted from every angle and that rationale for recommendations is clear.

Having a strong account manager doesn't ensure you will never see concepts you don't like. It does mean that your agency takes their duty to listen and provide expertise seriously and aren't skirting those responsibilities in favor of presenting safe creative that may or may not work.

What does an account manager do all day? How do they figure out what you want?

Understanding your needs and expectations, and balancing them with your longer term strategy and how best to get it done within your budget and timing constraints, is a lot of what an account person does on a daily basis.

Speaking from experience as an account person, we also don’t do it alone. We spend our days collaborating with our internal teams, including strategy, creative, production, post-production, project management, and operations to find the best solution for your specific challenge and project.

Figuring out what you like, what you don't like, what you need, and what you expect requires taking the time to build a relationship with you. We want to better understand you as a person, so we can deliver for you again and again.

When your account manager understands what you’re struggling with (or what’s going really well!), we can watch out for things that may not be objectively wrong, but don’t fit your brand or campaign. “Cool creative” is really great until it doesn’t deliver the goods. We want to help avoid that.

How does account management deliver value to you as a marketer?

Your account team and agency understanding you, your team, and your business delivers a ton of value, and it’s the reason you can sit in a creative presentation and know the agency gets you without having to spell everything out for them every time you work on a project.

What does this look like in practice? Let’s use the below example:

Your company is set to trounce competitors as the foremost leader in trendy hand-delivered floral arrangements.

A member of your team is in your agency briefing, pushing hard to include key copy like “offering traditional arrangements” and a testimonial calling your company “the Amazon of flowers” in your latest brand campaign. They support this with comments like, “Amazon is a big name and dependable. Of course we should use it.”

This language also goes directly against the strategy and communications objectives that your team vetted and approved months ago.

If your account person and agency know your business, they know to politely acknowledge the request, and also ask:

  • Does this approach align with the overall brand strategy and positioning we are all working towards?
  • Does this copy make sense for a florist that is creating a competitive advantage with trendy arrangements that are carefully hand-delivered?
  • Do people think of “trendy” and “traditional” in the same vein?
  • Do people think of “careful and personal delivery” when they think of Amazon? Or do they think of brown boxes with blue tape tossed over the fence into the neighbor’s muddy grass yard?

In light of these questions, your team should feel empowered to say you still want to move forward with the proposed language. At the end of the day, you are the ones in the trenches with your brand day-in and day-out. But your account team is there to make sure ideas moves forward intentionally, in light of all of the important information and considerations.

Tough, tension-filled conversations like the above are a much better long-term approach than getting “go fever” and driving full speed ahead with this language only to find loads of “thumbs down” clicks on your latest video (and comments saying your brand has changed and they want their old florist back.) Or potentially worse, you spend a bunch of money to get no results at all because you’ve thrown yourself back into the sea of undifferentiated florists.

A strong account manager can help guide these conversations in a way that is productive. And move things forward once a decision has been made.

Why is working with an account person better than just working directly with a creative leader?

While working with a smart creative lead is an important component of finding the right marketing or advertising agency, a creative’s primary focus is coming up with and making great and effective ideas. And you want it to be. That’s where the magic happens.

They are also very close to the work as it is their heart and soul being poured out for approval or criticism (even if it’s constructive).

It’s the account person’s job to inform the creative team of your preferences, your challenges, the competitive landscape, and any legal watch-outs, and help create fantastic work that has been vetted for these things before you even see it.

The account person is there to make sure we don’t send you wardrobe recommendations with a slew of purple knowing that purple is your main competitor’s brand color (unless we are cleverly poking fun at them). And to make sure there is phone dial-in information in the Google Hangouts call invite for your boss who hates video chat. And to make sure we avoid using sensitive product claims as RTBs (reasons to believe) when you are involved in ongoing litigation with a feisty competitor.

And sometimes, you’ll have additional insights or perspectives that still result in changes. The important thing is the productive thinking and conversations between your team and your agency that enable the best work.

How much does an account manager really care about your business? Your company’s success? Your success? You as a person?

Having spent some time in account management, I have worked with clients who have been treated in ways that made them question whether or not their agency cared about them - about their needs, their business and their career. Or if the agency just cared about creating work they could post on their website to win more business. Or to win arbitrary ad industry awards regardless of business results.

I can confidently say that a good account person cares about you, your business, and your career.

And while caring about you is vital to being good at our job, it's also something we don't talk about often. It can sound like patting ourselves on the back or indulging in self-promotion. At the risk of doing just that, I also believe getting it out there is important in helping folks with less positive experiences know that there are good account people out there who want to help you!

Examples of account people giving a hoot include:

  • Wanting to know that you have to pick your child up from daycare no later than 5:00pm this week (or every week), so we can get our final video into your inbox no later than 3:00pm, and you can give it one last review, love it, send it on to the right people, and still leave work on time.
  • Wanting you to reach new heights in your career by helping you create work that delivers results. We want to help you hit this year's bonus target and land the promotion you’ve been working towards for so long.
  • Acting as a hand model for the year’s biggest campaign shoot when the talent had a family emergency and won't be able to make it.
  • Pushing for what could be unpopular creative because we truly believe it will work - even in the face of harsh criticism or pushback.
  • Picking the right products for your shoot and knowing not to show that delicious looking ham because it is a special buy and quantities are too limited to advertise it heavily.
  • Guiding the creative team away from showing cool (but clunky) looking server rooms in this video because your next big services push is around digital transformation and encouraging clients to move everything to the cloud.
  • Delivering the most value for your dollars and being honest about how far they can go. This includes being upfront when we aren’t the right fit and providing you with recommendations for trustworthy folks to help you accomplish your goals for less.

We believe in doing what we say we are going to do, telling you ahead of time when we can’t, and finding different solutions to help overcome obstacles.

We do this job because we want you to succeed. We truly believe that your success is our success.

Final thoughts on the value of account management in marketing

When you are looking for an expert to help make your next greatest piece of marketing or advertising content, be sure to evaluate the strength of the agency's creative and account teams.

Overvaluing creative prowess while undervaluing fantastic account partners has led to plenty of disappointment for brands when the excitement of the pitch or agency search ends.

Many great ideas have languished and died in the throes of a rush (re)brand or product launch due to subpar communication and your agency's inability to deeply understand what you do, your needs, the needs of your business, and the challenges of your industry landscape.

Get to know your prospective, new, or tried and true account team, let them get to know you, and watch your marketing and business results reach heights you never thought they could.

P.S. Be sure to tell us about it! We knew you could do it!





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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