Monday, 17 November 2008

Account Management

Here is a great description of the job I am going to have!

Account Management, or Client Services, is the focal role in the development of an advertising campaign. You know your client. You know their objectives. You know how to harness your own and your agency's energy and resources in pursuit of those objectives. And you know the buck stops with you!

Account Management is complex, demanding, challenging. And very rewarding.

You are in overall charge of the relationship with your client. On their behalf, you manage the whole advertising process - ensuring, too, that your agency's objectives and values are faithfully represented and the account profitably safeguarded. In short, you are the spokesperson and mediator working for both sides - a sort of double agent.

In account management, there are normally several layers. You will start off as a graduate trainee and spend your first few months learning about the industry you have joined. After your induction period, the next stage is to become an account executive. You will be expected to acquire marketing skills (understanding the role of advertising, how to relate to marketing objectives, gathering brand information, analysing competitive activity) as well as advertising skills (the difference between marketing and advertising, how advertising is developed, what is involved in production, research techniques, the importance of the creative brief).

You will also start to learn organisational skills (day to day admin, team coordination, timing plans) and communication skills (contact reports recording the outcome of a client meeting, ensuring all of the team are kept informed, status reports). And, perhaps most importantly, you will begin to develop the vital people management skills that are the bedrock of our industry (how to gain commitment, how to generate respect, how to instil trust, how to negotiate effectively) — all these are essential to effective team work, both within the agency and with clients/suppliers.

Once you have established yourself, the next stage is to become an account manager. The marketing skills you will need to develop are, for example, strategic understanding of your client’s business needs and objectives, the ability to understand and develop marketing strategies to achieve those objectives and a broad knowledge of strategies used in other markets.

You will need to expand your advertising skills to include media/creative brief writing, ability to judge creative work in relation to your brief, job supervision and active participation in research presentations. You should also have an up to date understanding of new technologies and consequent opportunities. Your people management skills will develop to enable you to train and develop people who report to you, to manage upwards as well as downwards, to motivate members of the agency team, to absorb anxieties and resolve conflict.

Your presentation and communication skills will be developed through client presentations, selling creative and media ideas, learning to listen actively to read sensitive situations accurately, preparation of strategy papers etc. Negotiation Skills will be developed through budget presentation, liaison over creative issues between client and creative and motivating the team to keep to deadlines. And Financial Management Skills will become important as you take on responsibility of budgets, billing, profitability and financial forecasting on your account.

This career ladder will take you through Account Director, Board Account Director and possibly Client Services Director (ie the director with overall responsibility for the Account Management department). As you progress, as well as fine-tuning the core skills, Leadership Skills will become increasingly important as you take on the direction rather than just the management of accounts and as you accumulate direct reports within account management that will require your input in their career development through delegation, coaching, feedback and appraisals.

You will also be responsible for maintaining and developing the agency’s relationship with the client in such a way that effective advertising is produced which is profitable for both client and agency. You will acquire a good understanding of Business Issues to enable you to participate actively with senior client management debate, to be successful at the all important New Business pitch — the lifeblood of agencies, and to contribute to the management of the agency.

All of these skills will be developed through a mixture of training, coaching and practice throughout your career.

Key characteristics of an excellent account person are integrity, commitment, articulateness, numeracy, team motivator, charm — and a sense of fun!

Recruiters will be looking for a good degree (but not a particular subject — in fact, diversity is key to good agency teams) and demonstration of personality/team leadership.

Average starting salaries are c.£16,000 and can rise to £300,000, if you reach executive management level.

Account Management is the most usual route to the top.

*post curtesy of Musa Tariq (Facebook)
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