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Account Management is a Balancing Act

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How to Balance Client Expectations and Agency Capabilities

The surest sign of a multi-faceted job is a multi-faceted job title. My role as client services and operations manager at Fishnet is certainly a good example, but what it represents is a position that goes beyond account management to include managing both the agency side and client side of every project.

This position is all about balance. For everything we do on the agency side, there’s something equally as important on the client side to keep in mind. For instance, doing our best work but being sure to stay within budget, or adopting new trends but not forgetting to employ best practices.

Picture a scale. On one side are the clients, and on the other is the agency and its team of designers, content strategists, developers, creative directors, marketing automation specialists and business development leaders.

When you start adding the details that come into play on the client and agency sides, it’s easy to see how the scale can get off balance quickly.

Delivering Projects That Meet Client Expectations and Agency Capabilities

Clients know what they need and when they need it. Our job is to deliver their requests and exceed their expectations, all while remaining within budget and scope. But it can easily get more complicated. Oftentimes, while we want to meet a specific deadline with a specific project, there are inevitable challenges such as technology limitations and availability of assets and team members.

Rather than find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, it’s incumbent upon the client services and operations manager to head those challenges off at the pass and scope the project based on known limitations. Especially if the project requires a quick turn-around, both the client and marketing team need to understand the realistic deliverable that time limit sets forth.

Relating Service Knowledge to Clients

Within the agency, we, of course, have deep knowledge of every type of service we’re offering from design, copywriting and development to marketing automation and content strategy.

While clients know their own industries like the backs of their hands, they’re seeking our services because there is a lack of knowledge or lack of time on their part to manage it. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to clearly communicate our services so there is no confusion or false expectations.

Any agency’s account manager or client service and operations manager should be well-versed in all offered services. We do not expect our clients to know or be responsible for knowing what to ask for or what to anticipate with a given project. We always take the lead in fully assessing all project requirements to eliminate any disconnects and create balanced expectations on both sides.

For example, a client might request a printed invitation, but we might have to inquire as to whether it should be single-sided or a two-sided folded card. Failing to capture all the details of a project and executing on an assumption based on our capabilities sets creative teams up to fail and can waste significant time, resources and money if it’s not what the client wanted.

Keeping the Marketing Team on Track

While it’s difficult at times to be the person in the room reminding about time and budget–which are not always top of mind for everyone on the team–it’s part of the balance of being able to deliver on client expectations and follow the agreed-upon statement of work.

A client services and operations management position is critical to ensuring the entire team is aware of the limitations, requirements, and expectations of all projects. And regardless of how often it’s stated at a project kick-off, these points often need to be reiterated throughout the project duration to keep everyone on track.

It is also critical to balance the agency team’s work with the client’s expectations because team members frequently meet with clients to discuss projects as they progress. If, for instance, a designer doesn’t understand a budget or time limitation, they may suggest a change or enhancement to the client that can’t be delivered within the existing scope of work.

We treat clients as partners and friends who deserve to understand each step of the process and know they’re getting a deliverable that’s representative of our collective skills.

Maintaining that type of client relationship is dependent on balancing the client’s expectations with the work being done on the agency side. Without a comprehensive, thorough and knowledgeable approach to every project that involves and informs the entire team as well as the client, there is more likely to be an imbalance that can tarnish client relationships or worse, your agency’s reputation.

Whether your agency employs an account manager, a team of account personnel or a broader position like mine, don’t let the scale tip to one side or the other. The more balanced your projects, the happier your team, and your clients, will be.