Account management in today’s era is not solely about marketing, digital or creative anymore. It has all blurred into one. This then leaves account managers in a precarious position where no one really understands what they do, and as such, they run the risk of being axed.
A study by brand consultancy Hall & Partners titled "The Future of Account Management" also adds that the function of account management has become overcomplicated with multiple levels within one agency or team, with overlapping roles and responsibilities. It is a structure that implies breadth over multiple accounts rather than a depth of knowledge on a few accounts. This then leads to clients wondering who is responsible for the work – especially in large teams. Moreover, if teams cannot explain and justify each individual role, it is difficult to justify the cost of the team.
Collaboration between account management and the procurement department is also vital as many in the latter might not see account management as well defined, and this is an opportunity to reinvent the role, according to the brand consultancy Hall & Partners.
How account management needs to change
With clients and agencies changing at an aggressive pace, account managers need to embrace the future now, so that they can be the ones to lead the change both within agencies and with clients. The study states that account management teams need to be the "glue" and orchestrators to take the responsibility in connecting people to the right solution. Additionally, account management needs to be brilliant leaders, not just great project managers and need to obsessively think about clients' needs first.
The study added that account managers should also be navigating the new reality and find more agile and fluid ways of working, embrace the role of connecting clients and the agency team, and develop new ways to deliver at speed. Relationships are what account management should excel at, and agencies and account teams need to value the return on relationships, not just the return on investment.
Account management at its core is growth and strategic management, said the study. The value of the role becomes evident when it is clearly linked to the quality of project outcomes. Its value may be intangible, but the role is undeniably important to overall success when it is clear and well defined.
3 ways to future proof your roles:
- Client-agency relationships are more important than ever and account handlers have a critical role to play in them. The last three months has seen huge disruption to people lives and habits, client’s businesses and brands. The positive to come from this is, it’s been a moment to strengthen relationships, show proactivity in finding creative solutions to the newest, toughest challenges that clients are facing, and being the enabler between the client and the agency team for fast-paced change.
- Self-development is going to be vital this year. As businesses will have been impacted, training budgets will no doubt be affected. Account managers are in the driving seat of their careers. They must all take responsibility for their career development and the impact that they can make on clients and their own businesses. They will get out what they put in and they need new inputs in order to grow.
- Diversity is a necessity. As an industry there is a lot more to do. Account managers need to constantly challenge themselves and hold themselves accountable - from how they find and recruit talent to how they cast teams to solve briefs. Everyone has a role in making the industry more diverse.