“Why I am being charged for account and project management time? What do I get from it?”
Two questions we dread hearing and often find challenging to answer on the spot. I’d wager that most people would find it difficult to answer these questions; it’s not always easy to articulate the features and benefits of your role, and the value it adds.
A common misconception of client services is that we don’t physically produce anything, so for some clients, and indeed some agency-side colleagues I’ve worked with in the past, it’s easy to dismiss account or project management as an unnecessary add on.
Not true; the role of client services is vital, and all successful agencies have this dedicated department. Good account and project managers will provide you with the following skill set:
- Internal client representation
- Crisis management
- Quality control
- Leading meetings and calls
- Relationship development
- Knowledge of multiple marketing channels
In this post, I hope to help my fellow client services colleagues answer these questions confidently and help educate in-house marketers everywhere on the importance of this role.
Keeping everyone updated
As a client, I’m sure you’d want as much of your investment going toward producing the physical, tangible things that are going to make the difference to your business. We share this approach and we’d rather have our strategists, designers, developers, writers, etc. putting all their efforts into delivering quality work.
However, someone needs to ensure you’re kept in the loop with progress and developments, and that everyone working on the account has all the information they need to do a great job.
This is where client services steps in. Good account and project managers are able to seamlessly link up the internal with the external and provide clients with direct access to exactly what is going on within the agency. Likewise, we’re there to keep everyone internally up-to-date with the latest information from clients and their industries.
Giving clients a voice internally
A large part of the value we’re able to provide brands we work with is internal representation. It’s our role to ensure clients’ needs and objectives are met regardless of the thoughts, opinions and workloads of our internal delivery teams.
It’s our job to shoot down creative ideas that don’t suit the values of the brand, to review content to ensure it carries the right tone of voice, to give our delivery teams that extra push to meet urgent deadlines and to ensure every strategy will drive the results clients need.
To support our colleagues internally, it’s the role of client services to manage client expectations and provide recommendations that will make things better.
Organisation and resource planning: Getting the most from investment
Successful agencies are efficient with their resource and are able to match available delivery hours with available budgets. Managing this resource requires skill and a strong understanding of how work flows.
A good example of this would be to look at producing a landing page. In Branded3’s case this could include involvement from search strategists, analysts, content strategists, CRO staff, designers, and developers. The easiest way of production would be to let each team work on their own section independently, and then meet somewhere in the middle.
However, this approach isn’t cost- or time-efficient and doesn’t lend itself well to meeting deadlines. You need a strong project manager to step in to ensure teams can work concurrently and that each stakeholder has everything they need to complete their individual tasks. Only then can you ensure that tasks are completed in the shortest period of time, for the lowest budget and to the highest specification.
Crisis Management: When it hits the fan…
Even the best laid plans can come undone for a variety of reasons. When they do, someone needs to step up and make everything right again.
From a client’s point of view, the process of crisis management should result in no more than an email or call to say, “this happened”, so “we’re doing this” to make it better. It’s the management of the crisis internally where the client services team really earn their metal.
When something goes wrong, plans need to be updated, which means the plans for other projects and clients need to be updated too. Priorities, budgets, personalities, and politics all come in to play to ensure things can be made good whilst keeping everyone happy.
By doing our best Frank and Claire Underwood impressions, we’re able to beg, borrow, steal, and manipulate our way to ensuring our clients get what they need. Just as importantly, we’re then able to establish why the issue occurred in the first place and stop it happening again; services well worth investing in.
Jack of all trades, master of…more than you think
When I first started in client services, no two days were the same. One day I’d be working on pulling slides together for a client presentation, the next I’d be thumbing through magazines to see where brand adverts had appeared, and on other days I’d find myself updating content management systems with copy that I’d written myself that morning. Over the past decade, I’ve picked up lots of skills in multiple disciplines.
Most in client services will have trodden very similar paths, working across a number of marketing disciplines and being exposed to multiple areas of expertise. Whilst we’re not always the experts in the room, there is no one that has a better understanding of how different elements can be brought together to make a marketing strategy perform better, something that is surely worth every penny.