Why the Best Digital Agency is Only as Good as their Account Managers

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A huge part of working with digital marketers is the partnership and interaction between the Agency and your business. Andrew Nguyen, shares his years of Account Manager experience to discuss what makes and what breaks these partnerships.

5 minutes required reading time
By Andrew Nguyen /SEO Account Manager

 

First let’s start with a big question. What is it a business should look for in a digital agency?

In today’s digital landscape, there is a tonne of noise that makes it difficult for business’ to find the right partner.

Every agency boasts the best service and products but how does a business differentiate between what is best in market against what is best for them?

The biggest and most well-known agencies might not be able to service a client who is just starting out due to limitations such as resources and budget.

This is why the most important thing for a business to look for in a digital agency who is the right fit.

This is a stereotypically broad answer so I’ll break it down into three main questions that you should answer when speaking to different agencies.

 1. Do they understand what I am trying to achieve and are they actually interested in what my business or product is?

This one is very important because there are a lot of cowboys out there who will act and play the part but won’t follow through after they have you through the door. How invested do they actually appear in helping you?

Is it transactional or do they truly believe that their services/products are going to benefit your business?

2. Does it sound too good to be true?

Did the ‘marketing’ professional just promise you a Ferrari in 3 months?

If so, run.

There is no golden key to digital marketing, it is simply a matter of learn and earn. If you look at all the campaigns that run successfully, there is a clear common denominator in trial and error.

 

There will always be rules and standard operation procedures that remain consistent but it’s the old strategy of build, implement, optimize and repeat that takes an underperforming campaign into a return on investment goldmine.

Don’t waste your time and effort with agencies that promise the world because while it may sound great, it quickly becomes a slippery slope due to unrealistic expectations and a break of trust.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

3. Campaigns aren’t built on promises, they’re built on trust.

Digital marketing alongside its advertising and marketing cousins requires copious amounts of trust and communication.

This is a flow-on point from the previous one in that if you cannot trust your agency, the relationship might as well not exist.

Credibility and accountability is something that is often synonymous with corporate business’ so it can be scary to invest in partners you know nothing about but propose great solutions.

Hot tip: you don’t have to! Check them out on social media, Google Reviews and even ask for referrals from their current client base.

Any agency worth its salt will have this ready to go and be eager to show off the results they have achieved for their clients.

Remember, even though digital marketing is the hot topic on everyone’s radar, mouth-to-mouth is always going to be the highest converting tool out there.

Next question, how does the Account manager fit in. Specifically what is the role of an Account Manager? Their responsibilities?

The Account Manager is your first and last port of call. We are developed and constantly trained to help our clients maximise their marketing budgets and improve upon what they are currently doing.

Account Managers in the traditional sense were simply people that managed client accounts but in today’s landscape the young professionals who occupy this space are so much more.

As trusted advisers to our clients, we aren’t afraid to have the tough conversations to extract the insights and information required to take businesses to the next level.

Account Managers are at the core, service professionals who will put the noisy and often complicated digital landscape into layman’s terms to guide our clients through their digital journey.

On top of the large communication requirements of our role, we are also responsible for managing different departments and timelines to ensure that work is completed for our clients.

While this is not all an Account Manager is responsible for in terms of day-to-day operations, it does take up a large chunk of our time because of the importance it has in growing campaigns and getting results.

What are the traits and habits of a bad account manager?

One of the worst habits and a clear sign of a bad account manager is a tendency to be obscure and vague.

A good Account Manager is accountable for work and results and as such should be open and honest with how campaigns are performing.

A lackluster account manager will sugar-coat or shift attention away from the clients goals and objectives and instead speak about things that bring little value.

For example, if a client is seriously focused on ROI, the conversation should not be about keyword performance. Yes, keyword performance does have a direct impact on future ROI but as much as an Account Manager is supposed to service a client, it is also their job (as a good Account Manager) to educate and communicate to the client how everything works.

The conversation should revolve around more than just digital marketing as some of the best Account Managers out there are seen almost as business advisers as opposed to just digital experts.

Alright, let’s talk about what an amazing Account manager is. Not a good one. A great one.

A great Account Manager should be in the trenches with their clients. Urgency is key in every aspect of their role and this should be a given.

Accountability and by extension communication is one of the first things that I would look for in an Account Manager as I believe a great Account Manager doesn’t know all the answers but will always find it eventually.

There are more campaigns than grains of sand that have been labelled as broken or impossible until a great Account Manager comes along and identifies the path to success.

I would deem people in our industry who are good Account Managers are those who are able to service a client beyond expectations. But for the elite Account Managers out there, the outstanding trait is the ability to take initiative and think like a business partner to their clients.

All for one and one for all.

How often should the client be in touch with the AM?

This is a tough question to answer because every business has different requirements, so I think it’s a case by case basis.

I would say that weekly or fortnightly in the first 2 months is quite normal and then once or twice after that is quite normal.

The more communication the client has with the Account Manager, the better but touching base too often can have an adverse effect too because that can lead to unrealistic expectations against the time it takes for production to be completed.

The short answer should be as necessary.

Harder question, are their proactive ways to ensure your account manager is always working hard for you?

Through my time as an Account Manager, I have worked with myriad clients of different styles and personalities.

You can’t ensure someone is working hard for you unless you are working alongside them and I think that is the key.

If a client is willing to not just delegate but work with Account Managers in a team environment, the results are generally better.

The reason behind this is because the vision is shared and there is a level of personalism attributed to the campaign.

If the conversation that is being had is always negative and not constructive, the Account Manager will still work on the campaign, but a motivated partner is going to always work harder.

Account Managers are still at the end of the day human beings. My tip for clients who want to maximise the potential of their Account Manager:

Be honest, be open and treat them like you would somebody buying into your business. Give them something to work towards and believe in and they will always do their best for you.

What is a common mistake that businesses make with AM’s

Account Managers are quite tough-skinned individuals because we’re problem solvers. A common mistake that business’ make is to blame Account Managers but this comes with the territory so no complaints here.

I cannot stress the importance of transparency and clarity from the get-go and constant reinforcement of this open and honest relationship. Below are things to avoid when working with Account Managers:

  • Don’t be vague. Tell them what you want! They may not be able to get it for you right away, but they will find a way.
  • The Account Manager wants you to succeed as much as you want to succeed. Happy client, happy life!
  • If an Account Manager is unresponsive or not reachable, just try again. Depending on the agency, some Account Managers have 100+ clients meaning that they are spread thin so they may need a nudge. For personalized service and responsive Account Managers, call Adaptify (shameless plug).

Let’s talk trust. Is there a balance between trust and vigilance?

I’ve touched on this quite a lot so far and the answer remains the same.

An Account Manager is still human, and you may not necessarily like them but that’s okay. There is more than one Account Manager per agency -and from my experience- it’s a preference thing.

Maybe Account Manager 1 is just too technical and doesn’t explain it in a way you understand, or Account Manager 2 is too chummy, and you need somebody to remain professional.

These are very real scenarios and I believe that like normal every day relationships, the client and Account Manager are both responsible for the foundations and construction of the relationship. You get what you put in!

In terms of the fine balance between trust and vigilance, I believe this goes back to how you set the tone from the very first meeting/call.

If you are a client who for example must report to your superiors on a specific timeline, you should alert your Account Manager to this. Remember, we’re here to make you look good!

What’s the hardest thing about being an AM?

Digital marketing is scary and full of information that isn’t always helpful.

I believe that hardest but also the most rewarding part of being an AM is educating clients to see the value of digital marketing.

Due to the nature of technology and entertainment available to us in 2018, everyone wants everything now.

It’s all about that instant gratification but with digital marketing, it’s still about investing right and putting in the hours.

I often tell clients SEO is not going to happen overnight or even within the first 3-6 months depending on their industry -but this often ignored. However, I don’t give up there and constantly nurture and develop my clients to not only understand but become digitally savvy themselves. The more well versed my client is in our space, the more equipped they will be to provide me with information that is going to help me help them succeed.

On the other hand, what is the best thing about being an AM?

It sounds quite cheesy but helping a business achieve their goals, objectives and actually make some serious ROI is a very rewarding feeling.

I have had both start-ups and established businesses come to me and together we have revolutionized their business into serious powerhouses.

The gratitude from my clients is something that is hard to forget when after a years work, you can look back and tell them that you’ve managed to double their sales year on year or increased their site traffic from non-existent to well over what they would ever dream of.

Educating and guiding clients through such a complicated landscape is rewarding for me because I have literally changed someone’s life.

Your skill-set is catered towards SEO, how is that different to other AM’s

My main role is an SEO Account Manager however I do have expertise in other areas of digital marketing.

Regular Account Managers don’t specialize in any specific sector of digital marketing and instead act as conduits between all the different departments and acts as a mouth piece for the agency.

I believe that to have expertise in any form greatly benefits the client in that I am able to provide more value as an Account Manager.

While I find it can be condescending to call AM’s tools, we are sometimes just that in that we are more useful the more we know.

As a rule of thumb, I read and keep up with our industry news everyday to keep my wits sharp because in today’s landscape, your lack of knowledge is someone else’s edge and while I can only speak for myself, Account Managers are generally born competitive.

Last question, talk about one success you’ve had as an account manager that you are truly proud of

During the early days of my Account Management career, I was given a portfolio that contained what was considered low-performing or limited campaigns.

I was able to turn this portfolio into an incredibly secure and successful portfolio through some seriously long hours of hard work and tough conversations.

One particular client who was flying under the radar with a generic campaign was the catalyst for my style of Account Management now.

I spoke to John (not his real name) and discussed what he had hoped to achieve with his campaign and why he was doing digital marketing.

He told me that I was the third Account Manager and the second agency he had worked with but was the first to ask him these questions.

He told me that until somebody cared about his business, he wasn’t going to invest because he knew the difference between a salesman and a partner. Together, we came up with a 12-month marketing strategy, got a new website built and through trial and error, built a behemoth-level digital campaign.

He is now one of the biggest if not the biggest in his industry in Melbourne and all it took was for me to speak to him as a normal human being without the jargon, without the pretense and with some old school honesty.

This is an example I use often when asked about specific cases of success and for me, it doesn’t highlight my skill set or capabilities but more the style of which I believe Account Managers should operate, with transparency.

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