Recently, I came across a quote by James Brian Quinn, professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Management. Quinn wrote: All growth will come from intellectually based services. Quality products and value pricing will only serve to maintain a static position. It took me back to when I was at Crowley-Webb working for Joe Crowley. Joe was amazing at getting new accounts and turning them into long-term clients. His focus wasn’t on getting a next radio or TV project. He wasn’t after a client’s media business; he was after their trust. Joe would often say that the worst thing you could say about an account manager was to call him or her just an order-taker.
An old friend, Ted Johnson, owns Hadley Exhibits, one of the oldest trade-show and exhibit houses in the America. Ted told me once that nobody comes to Hadley because they want to buy a trade-show booth. They come to solve a problem. It could be because they want to grow their business, or maybe come up with a way to reduce their trade-show expenses without taking apart half their marketing program. He said before we start talking about what kind of booth they want, we try to focus on objectives, expectations, problems and possible solutions. It’s in that initial discussion that we start to build trust. That’s all part of that intellectual based services thing Quinn talks about.
Going way back to when I was a client, my old boss, James Marino, CEO at the Merchants Insurance Group, said the definition of a professional was someone who was an expert in his own specific area with a strong working knowledge of other areas that impact his own. No one will ever trust you in a business relationship without you being a professional. That all means you better have a strong working knowledge of all the areas that you rub up against as an account manager. An agency account manager has to know more about more things than anyone else: direct response, public relations, packaging, out-of-home, CRM, advanced IP audience targeting, trade-shows, TV& radio broadcasting, collateral, brochures, printing, research, the Internet, measured media and point-of-sale, etc., etc. Oh, and don’t forget the damn accounting and billing. If you can’t discuss any and all of these things intelligently, you’ll never be trusted to attract important revenue generating accounts.
Point is that while great writers, art directors, illustrators, production and traffic people will keep the business you have, it’s the professional and engaging account managers that will bring in and grow the business.
A last point. The trust thing impacts both ends of the agency-client relationship.
They will hire you for your creative and fire you for account service.