THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING A GRIP ON THE BIG PICTURE
Account Management is a bit of an enigma in the agency structure. We’re often perceived as part order taker, project manager, accountant, researcher and even therapist, all bundled into a cheerful persona. Sure, we make stuff happen, keep things moving. But, we are a group whose value to clients and the agency (and our ambition) should go beyond just managing timelines, scoping, feedback forms and scheduling meetings.
At our core, we are stewards of our client’s brands and the agency’s creative, which requires us to balance two, often times very different perspectives that can lead to uninspired outputs or stagnant results if not orchestrated carefully.
So it’s the ability of an Account Manager to use “big picture” strategic thinking to organize chaos that can make them so important to any client relationship. “Big picture” thinking means understanding and marrying the agency viewpoints of planning, creative, media and specialty groups with the client’s business objectives.
Here are three techniques that we use to practice “big picture” strategic thinking on our accounts:
- Focus on what is being accomplished versus just being completed
Sometimes there is no better feeling than marking an item off your to-do list and moving on. But it benefits us to take a step back to evaluate what we’ve just accomplished – what impact are we having on the business? How are we tracking all key performance indicators? Setting our eyes on the specific, measurable, and relevant elements of our individual roles will lead to better understanding of the bigger business vision. With practice, this becomes second nature and will span to planning, project initiation, and insights for future initiatives (and lead to easier practice of #3).
- Practice anticipating versus reacting
A great Account Manager practices anticipating potential outcomes, questions, or problems in their work. They seek to understand how long a project needs to thoroughly execute, identify missing information or gaps in deliverables, diagnose any potential issues early in the process, and have constructive debates among internal teams. All to ensure we meet our client’s expectations and reduce obstacles along the way. Because, a world with less “fire drills,” is one we’d all like to live in, right?
- Be a leader versus an order taker
To address this misperception, we must be (or allowed to be) more engaged throughout the process. I learned early on that one of the best tools an Account Manager has is the question “why?” This isn’t about an unending list of questions for clients or teams, but inquisitively digging into key business documents – research, performance reports, etc. – to understand the “why” behind a request or strategic objectives. Once we have internalized the data we are able to provide good, clear direction to our agency teams, prioritize initiatives, and collaborate with our clients to guide the business forward.
While execution is critical to a successful account team – getting to great work and building client relationships that last comes from immersing ourselves in our client’s business. Ultimately, in order to organize the chaos, there must be a strategic focus on the bigger picture. Perhaps it’s a bit of an idealistic outlook, but the best client relationships I’ve built over the years have come from an ongoing curiosity to know more and being a partner as invested in their business as they are.