Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
mobile-logo
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Top

Managing Marketing: Account Service, Management And Leadership

Nathan-Hodges

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Nathan Hodges is the Managing Director of TrinityP3 in Australia and New Zealand. But before this, he had an extensive career in advertising and particularly in Account Management and Agency Management. He shares his view of the role that is often mistakenly called Account Service and the importance of focusing less on the concept of service and more on the role of management and particularly leadership in times of growing complexity.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on SoundcloudPodbean, Google Podcasts, TuneInStitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcast and Amazon Podcasts (the USA, UK, Germany & Japan only)

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast, where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with Nathan Hodges, Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand for TrinityP3 Marketing Management Consultants. Welcome, Nathan.

Nathan:

Thank you very much, Darren. Nice to be here again.

Darren:

Yes. This is a return visit. Look, obviously, you’ve been in this role at TrinityP3 for a decade, but I actually wanted to have a conversation with you about your career before this, and particularly focusing on account management.

And the reason is that I wanted to get your reflections on the way that account management existed for you and the way you see it today.

Nathan:

Okay. It’s going to be an odd lens to look at that through, I guess, because I certainly, don’t want to sound like someone who’s just drawing on stuff from 10 years ago, because what’s great and liberating about what we can do now is that if there are any of those problems that used to arise when I was working in account management, these days, I can just remove them because we generally fire the client. So, it’s very different.

But on the other hand, I’m able to observe a lot of account people, really good account people at the top of their games, either killing it or in terrible trouble, or not realising the trouble they’re in, or being led up the garden path, all of that stuff for the last 10 years. I suppose I feel like I’ve left it, but in a way, they just pull me back in all the time.

Darren:

Well, this is the reason I asked you to sit down and have this conversation because I actually remember about a decade ago, there was a big thing in the industry of how we no longer needed account management, and that project managers were the way to go. And you really didn’t need someone getting between strategic and creative people and clients, that you just needed someone to sort of organise things and make it happen.

And yet, I think the industry from my observation (I’d be interested in your perspective) has actually lost a lot of the understanding of what great account management looks like, and more importantly, the value of it. Because in some ways, the conversations can be reduced down to FTEs on a remuneration schedule, and not actually look at the value that those FTEs bring.

Nathan:

See, I think it was always a bit of an illusion and it’s a clever illusion and a nice trick, and a marketing trick, if you’re trying to differentiate yourself as an agency to say, I don’t know, things like creators on the forefront, or whatever the phrase was that did that.

And that agency, in particular, that’s the works, isn’t it? That does the criticism right. They got a creative department that actually has taken on quite a lot of the skill sets, and the critical functions that the account people used to do. And that’s great for them and great for their business. And time has proved that that’s a good kind of model for them. Great, good on them.

But I think overall, the experiment of trying to move account management out and just say you don’t need it, has completely failed because it gets taken up. That function gets taken up by other people; by strategists or by creative people or by whoever else, and partly, by project managers who have a bit of that skill set in their job description, but arguably are less able mostly to do the bits that they’re specialised in and the bits that they’re really good at.

And in other makeups and chemistry and kind of cultures in agencies, what happens is that the people who were supposed to be moving into that role from their existing specialist role, a complete disaster, a complete disaster. Or they end up on very narrow pieces of business where the client team and the marketer team kind of forgives that and forgets that and moves on.

It’s not like the job ever evaporated. In business, you need to get stuff done. And the people who get stuff done, are the people who know what needs to happen next. And they’re generally in any walk of life in any walk of business, they are managers. So, you don’t get rid of this, it’s ridiculous.

Darren:

So, where or how did we get to the point where Marc Pritchard at Procter & Gamble came out about two or three years ago and said, “I want my agencies to have a lot fewer account management people in meetings and give me more access to the creative and the strategic people. I want the thinkers.”

He was also the president or chair of the ANA at the time. Where does this happen? Where do we get to the point where there’s a belief that the discipline, the skill of account management is actually getting in the way of delivering the outcomes rather than the facilitator, the managers that you talked about?

Nathan:

So, it starts with that awful label account service, doesn’t it? So, the moment that starts to permeate through account teams and they feel they’re in service to the client or in service to the agency, or that they’re bringing people together or those kinds of things, and there’s no direction and leadership and contribution, then of course, you may as well get them out of the way.

But it always struck me as a little bit of an arrogant thing for a client to say, “I don’t want to deal with these middle people, I want to deal with the thinkers.” It’s certainly on the arrogant side, but it is born, I guess, it is born in the fact that the agency account people have also kind of moulded themselves to that.

If the account team were actually on his business, they were leading, pushing, shaping driving forward, thinking, bringing it all together, challenging all of those things, they’d be indispensable. But if someone says, “Look, I don’t see the point of view, so off you go,” you got to kind of look at yourself first, certainly.

But account service is the poisonous thing. There’s no leadership involved in that phrase. There’s no direction, no push, no drive. That’s what you need. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in the world if you’re doing it right. It’s an even more difficult job if you’re doing it wrong. It’s miserable, it’s a miserable, bloody job if you’re doing it wrong. It’s really hard to get right.

Darren:

I’m glad you brought that up, because one of the things that I’m acutely aware of when I’m talking to agency leaders, CEOs, managing directors, is whether they refer to it as their account service team or their account management team.

And the reason being is I think the language in some ways reveals your intent or your beliefs. That to call your team the account service team sets them up for an expectation of being in service. And we know, we know this is happening because many people in those roles feel that they have to keep the client happy and satisfied to keep the account.

And that ultimately, their very job depends on keeping that account, which is a reality sometimes. But when that becomes the all-pervasive lay of the land, haven’t you actually given up being effective?

Nathan:

No, you have. And in my account management career, I was at times … I mean, so, various times my specialty seemed to be being brought into accounts and into agencies in order to try and save a piece of business that was rocky.

Darren:

And often a big piece of business.

Nathan:

Usually, a really big piece of business, which would have changed the agency if I hadn’t succeeded. And at times, you’ve got to employ all your tools in every single toolbox to get that. So, at times, they were on large pieces of business in Australia, at times where we had to be, we were told to be, and it was important to be in service of that client.

Sometimes, you’ve got to wait some clients out until you can get back into the box seat and back into a position where actually things change. But it’s got to be a really temporary tactic. And in the end, if you’re going to go down, you might as well go down in flames, I think. And you may as well go down standing up for something.

So, I kind of think if you are in service of a client, or if you hear those kinds of things, especially on pitches where people say account service isn’t up to scratch or they’re … normally clients say that the same time, as they say, “We’re going to test the market” and I kind of go, “Yeah, and I think we probably need to test the marketer first before we test the market if you’re talking like that.” Because it does betray …

And typically, when you get to find out what’s going on in those relationships, what you find is that that first kind of row of the agency, the account management team has been designated service, so they’ve fallen back, and what’s happening is that the creative teams and the strategic leads are now doing that job and still being told what to do by this client, who’s actually not really on top of their job or terribly secure about it. So, you haven’t moved anything on very much. Is that making sense?

Darren:

No, absolutely. But I’m wondering from your experience of those clients that they were about to walk out the door, they have very low beliefs in the agency, what gets it to that point? It’s clear that trust has been lost, that the client does not feel that they can work with the agency to come up with a solution because most of the times, you’re seeing a dictatorial mandate for the agency to just get this done.

So, what gets to that point and what builds trust? Because I actually don’t think … I love metaphors. If I go to a restaurant and everything I ask for just appears because the waiter just gives me whatever I want ─ that is nowhere near as good an experience as one that I trust the waiter; the way the waiter makes recommendations, asks questions, makes suggestions, and actually makes the experience more than me just ordering what I always order.

You know, then I wonder if this whole idea of service is actually minimising the opportunities for agencies to add value to the clients’ experiences in businesses.

Nathan:

Look, I think it’s the same in agencies as is in all of this stuff. You’ve got to tell the truth as you see it. I remember being asked or hired by an agency to save their biggest client. And when I got there, the MD took me aside and said, “This client is really, really difficult. They keep asking us for more and more and more. All you need to do is show them some love and listen.”

So, I thought, I think that’s probably what’s been done already and it’s not worked. You throw steaks to wolves and they’re after you anyway.

So, the long story short was I ended up calling it and just going, “Look, I think your entire campaign is wrong. I think your strategy is wrong. I think you’re barking up the wrong tree and you’re not courageous enough as an organisation to change it.”

And it was horrible for six months, really horrible. And they tried to move me off and everything like that. Anyway, they pitched it and we kept it. We won it back on that strategy. I don’t know, it’s not a story about me, it’s a story about just calling it as you see it.

And I think people get scared of doing that. I also don’t think people are trained to do that anymore. It’s hard to find where … how to draw and everything that I’d ever been taught; places like BMP and BBH to do that, really expensive training in the UK, I had in negotiation, in sales, and all of that ─ and really great people to teach me over the years.

You had to draw on all of that stuff. And you had to be humorous on the way through as well. Otherwise, people thought you were some stuck up arrogant bloke from the UK, telling them what to do. By the way, humour, I think is one of the biggest tools in all of this actually, to bring account management back onto the playing field.

But what I’ve learned is if you don’t go home at night and just feel like you’ve spoken the truth as you see it, and if you don’t get to work in the morning and be prepared to change that truth if the evidence has changed, then I think you’re on a slippery slope.

And I think that experience for me was what I kind of see when account management is going wrong or I see it vacating the territory, or when people like Marc Pritchard say, “Get these pen-pushing suit-wearing people out of the way.” That’s what’s wrong.

But I go back to what I said, I think it’s such a hard job. I think it’s one of the hardest jobs there is in the marketing world really. And I think when you get it right, you only kind of get vague … if you’re after a round of applause, don’t be in account management because you don’t get one when you get it right. When you get it wrong, you get a kick up the ass, but … it’s everybody else’s credit if you get it right.

Darren:

It’s interesting you say that because having worked in agencies in the creative department, it’s whenever it goes well, it’s the creatives, it’s creative. And when it goes badly, sometimes it’s the creatives, but mostly the whole team suffers.

Nathan:

But probably, there’s a good account person in there. That is the essence of a good account person. You’ve got to manage all sorts. You’ve got to bring people together. You also got to keep some people apart. You’ve got to manage that process by direct intervention and also letting some things go through the keeper. You’ve got to do all of that stuff.

You’ve got to be funny, you’ve got to be strategic, you’ve got to be diplomatic, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to be entertaining. You’ve also got to be good at your subject matter knowledge too, like really good. You’ve got to at least know 90% of what the people, the specialists that are working with you know in order to manage and shape and maximise and optimise their contributions.

Darren:

Okay. So, let’s look at some of the definitions then, because you’ve talked about account service. But from your perspective, account management, specifically, what are you managing? If you take it literally, what is the role of account management in managing, and how does that vary from account service? Because you’ve already said that there are times you may need to just be of service.

Nathan:

Yeah, okay.

Darren:

So, what’s the difference? Just make it distinctive for me.

Nathan:

Okay. Maybe this is it. It’s not account/admin. There’s a lot of account administrators who think that they’re on a pitch to pour the coffee, make the kit work, arrange the pencils, and nod enthusiastically throughout the meeting. Well, anyone can do that.

The management part of it for me, it’s a lot of leadership, it’s a lot of management, and then you need to be careful if it’s just service because that’s an alarm bell for you, but it could be a tactic that you employ. What did you say? Put it into different categories for you. It’s really hard. This is the bugger with the job itself because it defies easy definition. It really does.

I don’t want to make it sound like it’s some kind of alchemy or some kind of … I don’t think it’s any different necessarily from any kind of management task in any kind of organisation. You’ve always got to be able to play at all parts of the field at any given time, and allow other people to score the goals.

But this kid is actually both playing in all parts of the field and also being on the touchline directing the whole thing. And I’m not sure that a football analogy is really where I wanted to go because it’s not my game at all. I don’t even know why I started digging in that particular hole.

Darren:

But yeah, the story you told before about actually getting to the point with a client and telling them that the campaign that they had, the strategy that they had, and work done by the agency that you’re employed by, is actually the wrong thing for them. Was that management? Was that service? Or was that leadership?

Nathan:

That’s leadership. It’s part of management, but okay, that is leadership. That’s telling it as it is. But you don’t get that from your account … I don’t suppose you get that from your account training, you get that from drawing on your own character and just going, well … I don’t know.

I always used to say that if you don’t get fired a few times in account management, then you’re not trying hard enough. It’s like if you don’t fall off a karting track a few times and crash, then you’re not driving fast enough. And I think it’s the same in these jobs. You’ve got to take some risks now and record it as you see it.

The beauty of what I do now with TrinityP3 is that the whole organisation does that. And we’re not relying on retained relationships. We don’t need to make friends. We don’t need to maintain long-term kind of client engagements. We’re brought in to speak the truth as we see it based on the data, based on the observations, not just opinion ─ based on data and observations, point it out, and then help to implement it or leave and see how that goes.

But the account role in an agency is much more about retaining the income, retaining the business, not disagreeing too much; giving an opinion, but it’s not always based on data. That’s why I left it. That’s why I left it.

My wife always said, “Nathan, you got a really long way in a profession for which you’re not terribly well-suited.” And I kind of think she’s right and wrong. I think temperamentally, it drove me mad. The compromises drove me mad.

But the challenge of it and the kind of influence that you can have, and the difference you can make to a client’s business in that seat is like no other seat in an agency. It’s the only one I’d ever want in an agency. If I was ever to get back to the agency, which I never would.

Darren:

As you just said, Nathan, you had very good training. I mean, BMP and BBH are probably two of the most revered agencies-

Nathan:

John Webster and John Hegarty for God’s sake, telling me to go and sell stuff.

Darren:

For doing great work and building great client relationships and contributing to great brands, but also, operating as a functional unit. It wasn’t like one part of the agency led more than the other, was it? Part of the strength of those agencies is that they worked as a team.

Nathan:

Yeah, they’re both incredibly strategically driven. And so, everything we did wasn’t just opinion or shoot from the hip, it was a full square based on qual and quant, on behavioural stuff. And then with the creative team, really the teams in the department, really listening hard to that in order to produce the work that we thought would actually transform those.

So, you had an enormous amount of swagger and confidence as an account team, being able to sit on top of that and manage and grow that in order for you to be able to put recommendations on the table that got a huge amount of weight behind them. That’s harder these days. It’s just harder.

Darren:

Well, it’s not just harder, it’s also almost that the whole way the business operates; the way that business of agencies and their clients operates has changed. Because of remuneration, the fees that are paid to agencies are so important to maintain the relationship for the value of that client and what that client brings.

So, if you’ve got a client that’s incredibly demanding or dictatorial or even a bully, there’s a huge amount of pressure on whoever the account team is to actually do the best you can to maintain that client as long as possible to maximise revenue on that client.

And in fact, in the US, there was a project that we worked on that the client lead for a multimillion-dollar account could absolutely see what was happening, but was totally powerless to address it because their immediate report upwards just said, “This is your job, you fix it.” And yet, to do what they needed to do would potentially risk losing the client in the first place.

So, they felt like they were trapped between a rock, the literal rock and a hard place because they were unsupported. Their only mandate was to maintain the client and the revenue, and yet, they could see the client slipping away.

Nathan:

Yeah, and yet, I don’t think that’s ever not been the case. I don’t know, I’m not being terribly consistent here, but that’s okay. I don’t need to be consistent about this. I don’t think the job is necessarily about consistency, the job is about doing what you think is the right thing at the time.

I mean, you’re faced with an opportunity, a circumstance like that, I kind of was once ─ and again, separate incidents, we threw all our cards on the table. And we went from having almost no revenue at all from that client, a couple of hundred grand to within four months, we suddenly were up to 6 or $7 million again because we played those high stakes.

I mean, if you think it’s happening to you anyway, you may as well … there’s always-

Darren:

Roll the dice.

Nathan:

Well, you may as well, and that’s kind of it.

Darren:

Snake eyes.

Nathan:

But I can understand why people don’t want to do that. And I was constantly in my career kind of watching people who would … I don’t want to sound bitter, but I was watching people who were much better than me at squaring the circle, much better at tolerating the people around them, perhaps, better diplomats. And who’s to say, I mean, you know.

Darren:

Okay, so you said before, leadership’s not something that you can train people in, but I actually think you can. The culture of the agency, the support that people are given, can actually help them when they’re needing to make those decisions when they need to provide leadership.

I think leadership inside agencies, and I’m not just talking about the agency management team, the CEO and the managing director ─ I’m talking about your account management team providing leadership to the agency and to the client.

Marketers now are faced with making more decisions, doing more with fewer resources, having less time than ever before. And I think in those circumstances, there are a group of marketers that resort to I’ll just tell the agency what to do and get back to the rest of what’s on my agenda, as opposed to the ones that can say to the agency, “Hey, this is the problem I’ve got here, can you look at this and come back and tell me what you’d recommend to sort it out? I’m looking for leadership, I’m looking for a recommendation.”

Nathan:

This is the kind of stuff when we’re running pitches that we look for in teams; we ask clients to be on the lookout for that kind of thing.

In your account team, you want as a marketer, you want the people who are actually going to share the pain and the drive and the downsides and the upsides, and help you make a better outcome in the end. Not just do what you’re asked, not just manage the agency, but actually, be alongside you next to your side of the table. And we see that from some teams in pitches in spades, and they generally win the business.

So, I don’t think that … so, you’re saying you can teach that. Yes, you can because if that’s ingrained in the culture of the agency, that’s actually how you roll. Then you can produce some really powerful cultural effects within your agency where people feel … and then you end up really strong account teams. Every department ends up really strong.

Darren:

And look, the reason I bring it up is that there is a cavalier attitude in a lot of agencies that they are born leaders and then there are followers. But I actually think that what that leads to is people taking on a huge amount of responsibility, but having no authority or any support in actually delivering what they know needs to be delivered.

Whereas I think agencies, the future or the opportunity is to actually embrace this idea of market … and almost any marketer I talk to will say 10% of my time is thinking about advertising and the agency work. And 90% of the time is all the other things that are on my agenda.

So, what an absolute luxury if the agency’s able to build that trusted relationship, not just trusted as in do my advertising, but trusted that I want you to provide some leadership. I want you to provide insight and recommendations.

Nathan:

Yes, and in a world where everyone’s got an opinion and everyone’s blogging that opinion or podcasting that opinion-

Darren:

Guilty.

Nathan:

But isn’t it refreshing to have people who go out, find the data, find the evidence, find the information, find the insight, hone it, polish it, craft it, and come back and go, “Right, actually we think this is the way forward for your business?”

I’m working with a business at the moment where there’s a debate about the direction of that business. And the debate is at the moment being owned by everyone in that business, which in many ways is incredibly healthy. But in other ways, is just chaos because everyone’s running around trying to define the direction of that business in one polished sentence.

And what’s really happening is not a debate around the strategy, it’s a debate around word-smithing and what sounds best, and what sounds best on the day.

That’s the kind of place where an agency like BMP DDB would come in and go, “Well, actually, here’s what your customer thinks. Here’s what your category is about. Here’s what really actually is future-facing and not just your culture talking to itself, and here’s what you need to go and do. And by the way, here’s the research to prove that.”

So, those are the ways in which great agency cultures can come and change. You just don’t want another opinion. And account people are central to doing that because they identify that problem and off they go and get it done.

Darren:

Okay. And this is putting you on the spot; but if you are going to sit there and say you had to choose an account person, what would be the skills or the aptitude that you’d be looking for?

Nathan:

Wow, okay, so-

Darren:

And look, I’m basing this not just on your experience from a decade ago, but as you say, when we’re running pitches, agencies turn up, there’ll be an account team, they’ll be the creatives, they’ll be the strategists. What are the skills, what are the attributes of the really impressive account leaders for those agencies?

Nathan:

Okay. So, I’d say in no particular order. I’d say they’ve got to be really, really good presenters. They’ve got to be able to present the agency’s point of view and the work brilliantly, better than anyone else in the agency. That’s number one, it should be that good.

I’d say number two, they’ve got to be good facilitators. So, sometimes in account management, you actually need to make sure that everyone is heard and understood and not just told and led. And that includes all the different levels of the client team. So, those are the two top skill sets, I’d say.

The others are really great to have. But you can kind of getaway to an extent by using the people around you. But I say the other ones are, you need to be strategically super smart, strategically switched on, or at least know where all the buttons are and all the levers are and strategies so you can get people to do that for you.

And then the last one, I’ve touched on. I think apart from the organisation and the attention to detail and all those things you get in a job description, I think it really helps if you can be a bit funny if you’ve just got a decent sense of humour and you’re able to laugh at yourself in the situation and just bring that down.

Darren:

Diffuse the tension sometimes.

Nathan:

It’s one of the most important things in business. And we haven’t done it very much on this podcast. I’ve got to say, you’ve really kind of kept me under a big spotlight. In fact, no one can see, but he has actually got a great big spotlight shining on me here.

But the funnier you can be, I mean, no, you don’t arrive at the client premises in a clown car and all jump out with funny noses and clown shoes, but-

Darren:

Or you could dance into the meeting to disco music.

Nathan:

Oh God, don’t take me back there. So, I think the more you can use that to not take yourself too damn seriously. I mean, it’s not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery, but it’s really interesting and it’s really important for a lot of people’s businesses. So, the more you can do that, the better it is. I’d say those are the four.

So, be a brilliant presenter, be a really good facilitator (you can learn those things), and then learn enough about how the strategy works and should work to be able to sniff out bullshit, and then just make sure you can laugh at yourself enough to keep you learning. And I’d say those are the four things. For the rest of it, I’ve seen account people have greater attention to detail and greater bonhomie and ordering drinks …

The great John McKnight at BMP used to say – and I think he was quoting Peter Marsh – that the biggest thing that he needed from account people was restaurant presence. And there is a whole school of thought that says that’s a great way to go. God bless John McKnight, he passed away recently.

Again, completely different kind of account person from how I ever saw the job, but my God, he was successful. He sold more great campaigns than anyone in the business.

So, Darren, what do I know? I don’t know. It’s one of those squares that can’t be circled,  this job. And I love watching it being done by brilliant people. I’ll always be a champion of it. But I think it’s such a difficult job.

Darren:

But I think that my visceral reaction to the restaurant presence is that it’s so Mad Men era, right?

Nathan:

Of course, and that was part of John McKnight – but yet, he sailed beautifully into the early and mid-two thousands because he was such a great diplomat and just knew again, that third thing I talked about ─ he knew enough about strategy to know who was going to be really great at it and get them to do it. And he knew enough about it so that when it came back, he could go  “I think actually that’s almost there…”  He was so great at that stuff.

Darren:

But I think also the industry and the world has changed in that as I said before, the options available, the choices available, the pace that the world moves at, either through the competitive tensions or just lack of personal time management skills, who knows; but this has all put huge pressure on agencies.

And under that pressure, that perhaps many have defaulted back to being account service. That when the demand … what’s that saying? How does a thirsty person drink from a fire hydrant when it’s turned full on? You drown. And maybe, that’s part of this distinction between account service, account management, and account leadership, is what we’re really saying is that we need more leaders.

Nathan:

You need people who are going to have the confidence to be able to say in the face of all that complexity, in the face of all that proliferation of channels, the principles of strategy and marketing haven’t actually shifted. Strategy means you need to make choices. If the marketing strategy is so diffused or complicated that actually no one really understands what it is, you’ve got a problem, guys.

And the account person is the person who can call it. If suddenly, you find the extent of account team is talking in abbreviations, riddles, and targeting definitions, and you’ve got 50 or 60 different channels, and you’ve got an optimisation program, well, someone’s got to be able to either bring that together in such a simple, straightforward way that it can be explained instantly, or you’ve got a problem. That’s never, ever changed.

And that never will change. And account people are the only people who can get to that, I think. They’re the only people who see the whole thing. And that’s maybe where competent smart account people should be going straight into the middle of that chaos and making it sensible and giving it momentum and direction. And not just an argument of where to plug what into how to connect to this, to that … geez.

It’s never changed. The strategy’s always about choices. It’s about saying ‘no’ much more than saying ‘yes’.

Darren:

And yet, the concept of being in service means that it’s very hard to say no.

Nathan:

The concept of being in service, absolutely, yeah. You end up holding up a mirror to the client and going, “You’ve really done well on that. What about more of what you were doing? I could do that for you.”

Well, if you’re all on a bus hurtling towards the edge of a cliff, there’s no point in helping the client drive faster, take over the wheel if you’re going in the wrong direction. But only account people can spot that. They’re in the pole position to be able to … the absolute box seat to be able to spot that. And that’s it. That’s the leadership role and that’s the external perspective that marketers want to get from an agency. If the account people aren’t going to do it, then no one’s going to do it.

Darren:

So, that leads us back to what do you look for when you’re sitting in, for instance, chemistry presentations, or what’s the leadership or the way that the agency presents itself, and where’s that coming from?

Nathan:

Well, in the chemistry session ─ you’re looking for people who can communicate, engage, convince, listen, persuade, and work as a team. And you’re trying to get an idea of the culture that lies behind that, that could attract more people who can do that.

So, I’m an account man, I look very hard at the account people there when they’re doing that. I look very hard at the strategists and I listen very hard to any of the creative people that are in that session. But normally, they are playing a strategy or an account man role, anyway, at that stage.

When it comes to later on, when you’re testing them strategically, I’m looking for what they brought to the table. What have they done to go and prove, disprove, strengthen and redirect, underpin the direction that business is? What have they brought to the table?

If it’s just an opinion, everyone’s got that. What have you done? What have you done actually to move the game on and to make sure you’re on the right path. And if they can do that, you probably have got a really solid business partner or something good. They could just do something good.

Darren:

Look, Nathan, we’ve run out of time.

Nathan:

I’ve run out of puff as well, I’ll tell you.

Darren:

Great conversation. So, thanks for sitting down and doing this. But just from your experience, who is the best account manager you’ve ever seen?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

Want more articles like this? Subscribe to our newsletter:



    Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

    We're Listening

    Have something to say about this article?
    Share it with us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn

    Tweet
    Share
    Share
    Buffer
    Pin