The leadership evolution of account management
By Bryce Coombe, Client Partner, CHE Proximity

As client problems and agency execution become increasingly complex, the need for outstanding account management has never been more important than right now.

The most significant shift is the increasing requirement for account management to lead the entire customer experience on behalf of our clients, not just someone who implements marketing strategies.

This requires a step change, not just in terms of skills and experience, but in mindset and attitude. Leadership for agency and clients requires the ability to create opportunities and find solutions and experiences that haven’t existed previously, and the ability to lead a large group of stakeholders and partners through the entire journey.

When we recruit for new account managers, there are a few key attributes we look for:

Great account managers need both left and rights sides of the brain to be firing. That is, people that understand how their clients make money, how to deliver a positive ROI and how to significantly improve their agency and their clients bottomline; whilst also having a passion and critical understanding of the power of creativity and the ability to identify solutions that have never existed previously.

Advertising and customer experience is not a single player sport.  It requires complex, interesting and diverse teams.  And that means it isn’t always easy.  People have differing opinions, they don’t always play well with others and, because of the unique nature of modern agency teams (ie: user experience, developers, technologists, etc) there are varying levels of introversion that need to be managed.  And they must be managed.  Without this management, the right solution isn’t given the opportunity to come to the surface and sacrifices are unintentionally made.

With the average tenure of a CMO being just 3.5 years now, the window of opportunity for any agency or marketer to impact a business is limited and requires identification, insight and implementation, delivered at speed. The greatest joy for any marketer is to find a meaty problem that no-one else has encountered and try to solve the riddle. The best way to do this is with constant improvement to your skill sets, filling knowledge gaps and being exposed to the best thinkers and the biggest problems.

A curious, dynamic account manager, is a crucial driver of agency success in an era where new media comes and goes, budgets get tighter, categories die, disruptors disrupt and we are pressured to deliver more with less. The challenge for account executives and account managers in this environment is to deliver market leading thinking, problem solving and, most importantly, results in a tight timeframe. To do this, you need to be educated with an arsenal of processes, insights and references that you can quickly call upon to solve a client’s problem.

‘Asking why?’ is probably the single most important attribute. We want people to look at the world they live in and constantly ask, why? Why are the accepted norms accepted? Why can’t things be better? Why do things work the way they do?

As the expectation of agencies to deliver class leading innovation across multiple categories, channels and audiences continues to multiply, the agency of the future will own the complete customer experience – every touch point a customer has with a brand.  Account managers need to be ingrained and aware of every consumer touch point and be able to deliver a creative innovation strategy that improves outcomes for both the client and the customer.

And that’s what makes the job exciting – we can impact and improve our clients’ businesses across a wider spectrum beyond marketing.

Bryce Coombe is presenting the 2018 AdSchool Account Management for Tomorrow courses in Melbourne from April 4 and September 5. The course is also running in Sydney from April 10, Brisbane from April 24, and in Perth from May 24.