A Guide to Account Management Processes

By Carly Biggs

No matter what stage of account management you’re at, use this guide as your go-to source of truth, your bible if you will. No two situations are the same, but when it comes to account management, there are some key things that are necessary to your success. Read through this guide for beginner and advanced account management best practices and tips.

Beginner Account Manager

Call confidence & client communication

You’ve probably heard people say that time is the biggest factor in being confident in client communication, but knowing that you earned a seat at the table is probably one of the most rewarding things. What goes beyond that? Practice, practice, practice! Practice makes nearly perfect – because no one is perfect… remember that even the most experienced AM’s will make mistakes from time to time. Although it seems as though a lot is on your shoulders, know that you are not alone. Use your team to help prep you for any difficult questions that might arise on a call or practice simple things like voice inflection and power poses for in-person meetings to give you a little confidence boost throughout the meeting.

As a new AM, you’ll want to run important emails by your manager or executive sponsor first – this is the best way to get feedback on things you can improve on to deliver consistently better details in the most efficient way. Keep in close contact with your manager or executive sponsor to figure out when the time has come to start sending off emails on your own. Hint: it should be when the feedback slowly dwindles into a “Looks great, go ahead and send!”

The Kickoff

Get excited, you’re ready to meet your new partners!

One of the most important things you can do is set expectations for your partnership. Clearly asking your client what needs to happen in order to make your partnership as a success in their eyes is a no brainer.  This should be brought up throughout the duration of your partnership, but it is most important in the kickoff.

Set SMART goals. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. Sticking to these standards will help ensure that you and your client see eye to eye on a clear path to success. Pro tip: if you have a difficult time taking notes during a call… record it!

Leverage Your Executive Sponsor

The hierarchy on accounts is there for a reason. Executive sponsors are there to provide value and a different perspective to ensure that your account is covered on all angles. Leveraging your executive sponsor should be something you do from the beginning of your schedule A. A good rule of thumb is to schedule weekly syncs with the exec sponsor on your account to make sure that the flow of communication is strong and you’re always strategizing new ways to improve.

Understanding Other Channels

As an account manager, you’re not expected to know everything, but you should have a good understanding of how each channel on the account works together and what to expect from your strategy team.

Why is this important? Giving clients timelines on when they can expect a deliverable is imperative to establishing trust and keeping a partnership on track. During an internal kickoff is the best time to make sure that you completely understand what deliverables should be done and when. Ask the strategists on your account for an appropriate timeline for each deliverable to be delivered is in order to make sure that you’re a) giving your team enough time to complete thorough/proud work and b) setting realistic expectations with clients.

So how can you learn more about other channels? Ever heard that the best way to learn a foreign language is to completely immerse yourself in it? Same goes for digital marketing channels. One of the most valuable things you can do as a new AM is to completely immerse yourself in other channels. How do you do this? ASK QUESTIONS. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. Hear a team member mention a foreign term on a strategy call? Write it down and ask about it as soon as possible.

Identifying Upsell Opportunities

90% of upsells should start by asking your client questions. The more you know about your client’s business, goals, and marketplace, the easier you’ll spot upsell opportunities. Here are a couple of proven questions: “What are your goals for the year?” “Where does marketing play a place in those goals?”

Owning the data & knowing your contract is so important! Here are a couple of examples of providing consultation while also making room to grow your partnership:

“Even though we’re converting users at a higher %, I’m noticing our search volume/intent/number of impressions is down YoY. That tells me that we’re losing the brand awareness battle. Is that something you’re feeling across the business?”

“So you need to grow a certain part of the business $X by the end of the year and say that you don’t feel like you’re taking full advantage of the trade shows you’re attending. We have an innovative solution to help our clients maximize their trade show attendance. Would you be interested in learning more?”

At Power Digital, we think of our clients as relationships rather than dollar signs. Instead of thinking about an upsell as a way to make money, look at it as a stockbroker. You’re recommending stocks (services) to invest in that you believe will improve the business in the long (and maybe short) term. You’re doing a client a disservice by not bringing opportunities to the table. This allows you to work as a consultant rather than a salesman.

Resign Best Practices for Low-Channel Accounts

You should already know the business goals that your client had in mind when bringing on an agency, but if you don’t, make sure you find out…. Enter the executive sponsor role.

So, where do you start? Start compiling Year to Date and Quarterly numbers for your channels and help your team present this as a part of your monthly report. Strategize with your executive sponsor on how to show the impact your channel/channels have made on your client’s bottom line. When in doubt, keep it simple. Give your client less than 5 “major metrics” to sum up the engagement:

  • We have driven $X revenue total
  • Revenue increasing MoM 4 of the last 5 months
  • X new customers per month, increasing X%
  • Your close rate is X% on non-PDM leads, and X% (more) on PDM leads

Lastly, come to the table with additional opportunities and WHY you think it would help impact the above numbers even further.

Total Accountability & Responsibility

One of the most freeing and liberating things as an AM is knowing that this account is yours to lead. That comes with a lot of challenges of course. Maintaining the mentality that you have complete control and responsibility for the performance of the account and your team is imperative to success. Taking complete responsibility for the account as a whole brings you more trust from your team because it challenges you to work harder to be a good resource for each channel. Hold regular meetings and allow your team to give you feedback on where they would like more support.

Advanced Account Manager

Handling client objections

One of the most important things to know is that clients will have objections and that is natural. A simple process outline will help you decide your course of action.

Begin by categorizing the objection or concern type. Legitimate objections are backed by data and are typically from the decision-maker. “Phantom” objections are emotional, often-times vague, and more times than not are raised by someone that is NOT a decision-maker.

How do you respond to these objections? If it’s over email, push for a phone call. If it’s on the phone, utilize the following steps as a talk track:

Validate – “That makes sense, and I completely understand where you’re coming.”

Clarify – “Just to make sure I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying _____”

Ask Questions – This will help you understand the level of concern. For legitimate concerns, we need to know what they’re referencing and how they’re interpreting it EXACTLY. In the case of phantom objections, read between the tea leaves and try to understand what the REAL issue is, and where it may be coming from.

Tap your Executive Sponsor – Do this as soon as possible.

Find a Resolution – For phantom objections, try to hash that out as soon as possible on the phone. It is better to address this kind of issue immediately rather than let it continue to fester.

For a legitimate objection that is backed by data, first gain access to the data source they are referencing. Then huddle with your Exec Sponsor to analyze the issue and understand the variables/elements at play. Here are a few key places to reference while in Google Analytics to understand a channel-specific issue:

  • All channels (MoM, YoY)
  • All goals (MoM, YoY)
  • Assisted Conversions
  • Top Conversion Paths
  • Time Lag Report
  • Model Attribution Tool

Call an Internal Huddle with the Team – The goal here is to give an update on the issue, present the findings or insights that you and your Executive Sponsor uncovered during your internal huddle, and then leverage the channel experts (your team) to devise a recommendation.

Present the Recommended Course of Action to the Client – Help the client understand the data, and buy into the strategy pivot you are recommending.

Deploy ASAP and with URGENCY – Urgency is something we stress so much at PDM because it shows our clients that we care.

Handling Aggressive/C-level Client Personalities

Aggressive personalities can steamroll conversations and expectations if you let them. To combat this, you need to be EXTREMELY clear with what messages you deliver. Always test for understanding so you know that they know what you’re conveying to them, and don’t leave it up to chance. Another great rule of thumb is to set guidelines and expectations early and make sure everyone agrees on wins.

Always report to what they care about. At the end of the day, most C-levels care about two or three things. Money, growth, and revenue. However you want to say it, what they want to see is the returns they’re getting on the investment in your partnership.

Set expectations for ROI. We may know that it takes 6 months to realize the impact of SEO, but they don’t. You may even have to remind them several times. Maybe even every call. Stay confident.

Knowing when to push back and defend your strategy is key. C-level personalities have a knack for always sounding like they know what they’re talking about. Some are very marketing savvy, some think they are, some know they aren’t. The trick is to understand which type you’re dealing with and communicate accordingly. Don’t be afraid to push back if you KNOW it’s for the best. That said, there is no need to be aggressive unless it’s what they respect/receive the best. But always make sure to be respectful.

Google Analytics Quick Win Reports

Most accounts need to be reported to differently, but here are some quick win reports that you can utilize:

  • Assisted Conversions
  • Top Conversion Paths
  • Time Lag Report
  • Model Attribution Tool

Handling Changes in Client Leadership

When your main point of contact passes the baton onto another team member, think of it as a chance to start completely fresh and showcase all of the work your team has done for their account.  First, make sure to notify your Executive Sponsor and connect with the Client Success Team to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to keep the momentum going on the account. Second, you’ll need to make sure that your team is completely buttoned-up and up-to-date on the contract and deliverables and make sure you get a meeting on the books at the earliest convenience of the new POC to ensure that they get a chance to meet the whole team and are aligned with your goals.

The strategy behind handling acquisitions or PE firms is similar to above, but make sure you ask about the goals that the PE firm has for their growth and how we can help hit those goals.

Running an efficient Cross-Channel Report

Running an efficient report goes back to knowing your audience. Do they care a lot about channel specifics or do they want to see overall strategy & results? Understanding your client will help you speak their language and show what an asset you are to them.

Closing Notes

Whether you’re a new Account Manager or a veteran, processes are always changing. But guess what? That’s the best part of agency life. With a plethora of teammates, there is always someone in your shoes, someone with less experienced than you, and someone with more experience than you. The best advice we can give? Leverage your resources and learn from your teammates. You never know who might help you crack the code on an account!