The role of the account manager can often be overlooked. After all, at the end of a project, designers and developers have tangible products to show, but account managers only have proposals and tech-specs.
I’d like to give you my five top tips for account management based on my 10 years of experience, working with household names like Carling, The Premier League and Barclays, through to local companies such as AMP Wire and John Ryan by Design. These tips can be applied to all types of client relationship roles, from digital to advertising to print.
1. Always be honest and upfront
It’s easy to say yes to every client request, but then you may be putting unfair pressure on your development team. It may also lead to problems down the line if you have to go back to the client and retract your promise. If you’re not 100% sure something can be done within time and budget, then be honest about it: say you’ll speak to your team and come back with a firm answer.
By being upfront from day one, you’ll avoid having timescale or budget surprises down the line.
2. Regular phone calls
Communication with clients is key. Avoid relying too heavily on email or project management tools — to help the relationship it’s important to speak directly.
Tone can be lost in text and you can get to the bottom of an issue much faster with a five minute conversation than a 20 minute email. Use Basecamp and emails to support calls and meetings.
3. Meet face-to-face
You can have hundreds of emails and phone calls, but I’ve found the best way to really get to know a client and build a relationship is to meet them face to face. By meeting your client they become more than just an email address or a voice at the end of a line. Your client will also feel more comfortable if they’ve had chance to meet you in person. That connection can play a crucial role further down the line.
4. Capture everything
Account management is all about spinning plates. You can be managing multiple projects of varying sizes at any one time —it’s impossible to keep all that information in your head.
I’ve written reams of notes and kept to-do lists, but paper can easily be forgotten or mislaid. The best solution I’ve found and the one piece of software I value above all others is Trello. Every time I’m given a task I add it to a Trello list. By reviewing the list first thing in the morning and last thing before I leave the office, no tasks can be forgotten — no matter how many I’m given in a day.
I can then see the status of each job — which brings enormous satisfaction when you move it into the Done list. I can also access the list from anywhere via my mobile.
5. True understanding of the brief
You can think you know what the client wants, but unless you spell everything out and make sure you’re both singing from the same hymn sheet there’s a chance of issues further down the line.
Ask as many questions as possible and then make sure you put the requirements in writing so there can be no ambiguity as to what you are going to deliver. As long as everyone knows the plan there can be no surprises for the client and if the client wants something above and beyond what was originally agreed then further discussions can be had.
Some of these tips may sound obvious, but they can be easy to forget. If you form good habits around these, your account management skills will improve massively and your projects will (hopefully) run smoothly. Good luck running your next project!