Monday 31 July 2023

A jack of all trades but be a master of one.

Ed Hughes, BMF Australia Client Services Director & AdSchool Advanced Account Management facilitator.

How do you define great account management?
And further to that, what serves to make a great modern-day account manager?

You’ve likely asked yourself this already.
It’s not an easy thing to pinpoint.

For a start, we call ourselves different things.
The term ‘suit’, besides being very outdated, doesn’t really cut it.
Being a well-presented, well-connected client schmoozer used to be the thing.

But building and nurturing a strong and productive agency-client relationship today takes a lot more.

Some agencies adopted different titles: business manager, lead, consultant, thinker. In recognition that the role encompasses and inspires more.

You may’ve been told:
“You’re the glue”.
“It’s enabling great creativity and results”
“Protect the craft”

These all ring true. So what does it take for you to be good at those things?

Whatever the title, I like to think our role can be best surmised as:
A jack of all trades but be a master of one.

A “north star” if you like, for any aspiring individual.
And an essential principle for a strong account management department.

So, what do I mean by it?

A jack of all trades …

A former mentor at my first agency said something that’s always stuck with me: “Be the second best at everything”.

Am I? Probably not. But what an excellent proposition and interesting position to take.

In your team, you’re blessed to work with at least one amazing strategist, creative, producer, financier and so on.

It’s no lie, you won’t do a better job than they can in their craft. However, your unique skill is needing to know enough about every single one.

If they’re not present, can you still add considerable value for your client?
Importantly, how effective can you be as a companion to your strategist?
Can you fight for a killer idea without the creatives?
Do you have enough knowledge to spot the right gaps and guide the right opportunities?

Likewise, you hopefully work with some great marketing managers. Do you know their brand and business almost as well as they do?

If you can tick those boxes, you’re already on the path to being very good at your job.

But it’s no easy feat. And as marketing grows in complexity, the list gets longer and longer.

However, no one will endeavour to take on that role as well as account management.

And by accomplishing that skill – of learning and integrating different specialties – you’re preparing yourself to become a very strong lead of any business.

But a master of one…

It’s a commonly held belief, and mistake, that those in account management don’t specialise in any one thing [a master of none].

Consider for a moment the sphere of influence you have at any level of account management? And I’m not just talking about senior management.

The number of hands, minds and different personalities you interact with from start to finish on any project – internally, between client stakeholders, and even third parties.

A series of infinite micro conversations and decisions that all inevitably decide the final craft and efficacy of a project or product.

It’s therefore an integral part of our role to be able to nurture, protect and draw the best from every talent. All the while making sure each is aligned in delivering against one common objective, not just their own.

So what is it you need to master?

Well, IQ is one thing. EQ is another.

As is the ability to lead and adapt your style. To consistently inspire an atmosphere of collaboration and problem solving, whatever your audience.

If you can become a master of this, you can become the binding force that draws the very best from each talent. Maximising potential at every step. Thus, driving the best results for your agency and clients.

In summary

Endeavour to be a ‘jack of all trades’ – the second best at everything.

Devote time to learning and understanding each specialty as best you can. Don’t excuse yourself for thinking “Well, they’ve [your specialist] probably got it”.

Strive to be ‘the master of one’ – a leader that can adapt and inspire an ethos of collaboration and problem solving, empowering the talent around them; to tackle whatever challenge it is you’re confronting.

It takes constant practice and there’s no definite finish line.

So my challenge to you is:

How much time are you personally devoting to learning and improvement?
And just how dedicated is your agency in supporting you with that task?


AdSchool’s Advanced Account Management course will help you make the jump from account manager to leader in just eight weeks. The next courses start August 3 in Melbourne, September 21 online, and August 22 in Brisbane. Learn more and register here – places are limited.

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