There are some days when I think anyone can be an account person, but most days I think very few can be a good account person.
Having had the benefit of working on the client side for the first 10 years of my career, and having grown up with a creative director for a father, I have a different and perhaps more critical view of what being a good account person means. Here’s my top 10 list. I would love to have others chime in (especially any clients reading this)!
1. Be a King/Queen Maker: At the end of the day, it’s all about what we can do to make our clients look good. To enable their success. To help them find the answers to the tough questions.
2. Make Their Business Your Business: We need to know the client’s business, industry and competitive landscape. How else can we contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way?
3. Bring the Why: There is no shortage of opinions in this industry; what we can never have too much of is well-rationalized and fact-based commentary. Clients don’t really care how your mom shops online, but a decent statistic can be persuasive.
4. Critical Thinking Is Just Plain Critical: We have to be able to draw conclusions, synthesize information and mine for insights. If account people don’t want to be thought of as short-order cooks, then we need to create a five-star dining experience.
5. If You’re Going To Be in the Room, Be in the Room: It’s too easy to sit in a big, important meeting and rely on others to carry the conversation. A good account person knows when to weigh-in and how to add value. On the flip side, one of my favorite quotes is, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
6. Earn Respect: A former creative director friend of mine once wisely remarked that respect is earned, especially in this business. A really good account person earns the respect of his or her creative team, which will always benefit the client in the end.
7. Know More Than Your Smartest Client: I’m not talking about the expression, “We’ll know more about your business than you do” because I don’t know anyone who actually believes that pronouncement on the client side, or who can deliver it on the agency side. It’s just not practical. I do think we can know a lot about our clients’ businesses, and know a lot more about marketing strategies and tactics that have worked for all of the clients we’ve served. Our clients hire us because we do something they can’t do or know something they don’t know or both. Make sure they get their money’s worth.
8. Fight the Good Fights: Not every assignment is a creative opportunity. A good account person can recognize the opportunities that are worth fighting for and can figure out how to win the ones that count. This goes a long way toward number 6.
9. Open Mouth, Insert Perspective: Most clients appreciate the opportunity to discuss, collaborate and debate with their agency partners. Does anyone really want a high-priced “yes man”? We’ve seen a lot and have experience and insight that can help our clients think about things in a way they hadn’t previously considered.
10. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do: I don’t really need to say anything on this one, do I?