When friends or family ask me what I do in my job, I used to find the role of an account director at a content marketing agency difficult to explain.
Arguably I don’t have a tangible technical skill, certainly not compared to the lateral thinking of our strategy director, the creative vision of our designers and the ability to manipulate language like the editorial wordsmiths around me.
But the position of account manager in an agency is integral to the business and what we have is a particular set of skills that requires us to be flexible, adaptive and to speak different languages.
The top skills an account director needs to succeed
We need to understand business – budgets, planning, process and timelines are our best friends. We need to understand and have a passion for strategy. How can we implement the team’s thinking if we don’t comprehend?
We also need to love creative in all its forms, have opinions, be on top of what’s on trend and understand how our vision aligns to our client’s brand. One thing that’s consistent with the role of an account director is the lack of consistency. Two days are very rarely the same and that’s what I love about it.
“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” –Richard Branson
But our biggest strength comes from our ability to create trust, have empathy, communicate and build relationships.
While this is something that can be learnt, it should also be inherent. There needs to be a real, deep-down desire to understand the challenge, ask questions and listen. Always listen.
Establishing rewarding client relationships
As the face of our business, we need to have a foot firmly in both camps. We are the bridge that joins our client’s marketing team and their internal stakeholders with the agency team that will deliver on the brief and requirements. We are one team with a common, shared goal. Everything is our responsibility. Their problem is our problem and we’re here to fix it.
If anyone comes into this type of role with an “us and them” mentality, they will never succeed. It’s all “us”! Working with clients is a privilege and should never be seen as transactional.
If we’re successful, we can build relationships that last years and create results that can define careers on both sides.
Recently I have taken my twenty years of experience in client service roles and developed an account management manifesto for the HGM team.
While client service has always been an integral part of our business, it was a great exercise to galvanise the team by putting something in writing.
These aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules but a philosophy that guides us. It gives us some standards to work to, rules of engagement and defines the purpose of our roles within the business. It’s something we all buy into to ensure we’re providing the level of service that’s delivering above expectations.
So, what do I say now when family and friends ask me what I do?
I tell them I solve problems for a living while getting to work with some amazingly talented people.
Scott Elmslie, account director