So you think you may be ready to take the step toward the Account Management model for your creative team, but you’re not sure. You currently have a hybrid Project/Account Management model in place, but how and when do you take it to the next level and what does that look like in practice? Here are some insights to consider:
If you find that your major accounts are doing more Tier 1 campaign work that require Creative Briefs you may want to establish dedicated Account Managers.
It’s time to elevate the hybrid Account/Project Manager role to an Account Manager (AM) position. This step requires that your stronger Project/Account Managers look at their accounts more strategically and holistically, not just on a more tactical project by project basis. They’ll need to work in partnership with the Account to discuss their department’s/area’s goals for the quarter and even the year and determine the communications projects and approach that will achieve those goals. They will be evolving their previously tactical client relationship into a consulting partnership.
As clients are doing more Tier 1 work, the Account Manager will be spending more time with those clients on creative briefs.
The AM will need to ensure the creative briefs are accurate and thoroughly complete before the creative team begins work and also arrange client meetings before the work begins to ensure a thorough understanding of the brief and to provide an opportunity for the team to ask the client questions.
The Account Manager will be “training” their clients to elevate their communication practices and strategies.
Rather than a series of projects that the clients determine, dictate or think they need to support their business goals, the AM will work with clients on their business goals to enhance or in some cases redirect the deliverables, timing and strategy to help better achieve their goals. As the consulting relationship grows, hopefully clients will proactively invite the AM to provide input as a business and communications partner.
The Creative Director can begin accompanying your hybrid Project/Account Managers to client meetings to support a more strategic perspective when filling out creative briefs with clients.
This approach will help evolve your current P/AMs into full-fledged AMs. As this evolution progresses, more project management work should be assigned to dedicated Project or Traffic Managers for follow-through on details and execution. The AM will take on leading internal kick-off meetings with the Creative Director to ensure the creative team understands the project objectives, their roles and associated hours and the schedule.
The Account Manager will participate in new business development.
The AM should scout out new business prospects by working with existing clients to recommend peers who might be potential new clients. The AM might also partner with creative team leadership in marketing and business plan development.
As the Account Services team grows, you’ll want to carefully integrate Account Managers into your existing client relationships.
The AM should accompany the P/AM as you determine your clients’ comfort level with this change making sure to leverage the P/AMs’ client relationships and account-specific institutional knowledge. Slowly, the AM should begin to attend client meetings with the P/AM, introducing strategic insights and a more holistic perspective in the filling out the creative brief. The AM can also mentor P/AMs so they develop a more strategic vision and consultative relationship with their clients. The P/AMs can then be assigned to new less strategic accounts as an AM to further enhance their account management skills. Dedicated Project and Traffic Managers will retain the responsibility of following through on the tactical project tasks.
Introducing the Account Management model is not only a path to more effectively handle Tier 1 work, it elevates your creative department to a strategic partner within the greater organization by establishing a more consultative approach and the leveraging of your group’s creative expertise. As your clients begin to perceive your team as the communications experts they will begin to turn to and depend on you to help them achieve business goals.
Cella Consultant Susan Hunnicutt is an expert in using marketing and communications to achieve business objectives. She works with organizational leaders to assess their needs, determine their goals, analyze their resources and develop an action plan and recommendations to meet these goals. Susan’s value proposition is taking a growing in-house creative team “to the next level,” not only in metrics but also in systems and processes, quality control and increasing the number of high-profile and quality client projects.