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Borrowing Wisdom

I have been using Friday Feedback as a forum to share tips, knowledge, experience, etc. about being the best account managers that we can be.

And to that end, I want to share with you the key points of a presentation entitled, “The Account Person of the Future” recently made by Jon Bond, CEO of Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.  Jon is a personal acquaintance of mine and also an excellent account guy.

In the “old” days (read 1960s – 1970s), the account manager’s role was that of a generalist.  He got lots of different things done and he was the primary strategist, and he was in charge of the client relationship.

The 1980s saw the introduction of account/brand/strategic planning.  And the role of the planner was to be the strategist, to write briefs, to manage research and to interact with and guide creatives.  The net of this for the account manager was to lose his role as strategist.

The agency business has also seen the rise of project management, which replaced the conventional traffic system.  Project management became true experts in managing logistics and work flow.  And the best traffic managers (as we have here) wield significant power and influence, and are much more than mere executors.  The net of this for the account person was to lose his role as the person who got things done.

Recently, we’ve witnessed more and more agencies promoting their expertise in the area of integrated marketing.  This has resulted in budgets moving from advertising to direct marketing and interactive primarily for ROI reasons.  This, in combination with the continued importance of PR and promotion, has meant that specialized account management skills have often undermined the need for general agency account people.  Clients don’t want four account people in the same meeting, and they won’t pay for it.  The net of this for the account manager is to lose his role as a generalist.

So, if the account manager has lost his roles as strategist, as the person who gets  things done and as generalist, then all that is really left is the relationship.  But if there’s no real job to do, how can there be a relationship?

Thus the question becomes, what should the account manager do?

Jon Bond’s opinion is that account managers should do less and think more.

There are many very tough issues facing the advertising industry today.  The account person of the future should be thinking about how to address these issues.  Here are a few examples:

  • How should we deal with the integration of diverse marketing disciplines and new creative opportunities in our business and in the outside world?
  • How can we measure the effectiveness of what we do in a world of insufficient tools?
  • How can we justify our fees when everything we do is not quantifiable?
  • How can we best manage client relationships in a world of flux?

On this last issue, Jon has some specific thoughts around what he calls Client CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

They are key “moments of truth” when it comes to client CRM.  And great account people need to know how to manage client CRM because in today’s sometimes unstable environment, these “moments” can take on added significance.

Jon goes on to identify five key client CRM moments:

  • The CMO leaves, or CEO leaves, followed by the CMO as soon as a new CEO enters.
  • When you replace an old campaign with a new one or if an old campaign precedes current/new client management.
  • A merger or acquisition, especially if your client is not in the power seat.
  • Your campaign performs poorly – bad research results, is disliked internally or is perceived to fail in the marketplace.
  • There are budget cuts, tied to poor business results.

When one of the key moments occurs, the key steps to take are:

  • Spot it early
  • Develop a plan to address it
  • Take action early
  • Get senior management involved (on both sides)
  • Monitor the situation until the danger passes

While much of this may be self evident, there is a lot of sound advice here.  And we all can benefit from paying attention to Jon Bond’s counsel.

 

Bruce Kelley

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