One ingredient in taking your creative team to the next level is introducing "dedicated" account services--some combination of account/client/project management services. This is a conscious decision to stop asking your team to "wear many hats" and to start to specialize by dedicating a team member (or more!) to managing clients and projects. Making this decision is a commitment to your department's growth and contribution to the greater organization. It's rarely possible to move from nothing to a full-blown account management team with a separate project management team. So the question becomes "what does account services look like for us?" and "how do we organize the role?"
While best-in-class teams separate the roles of account management and project management, many in-house teams combine the roles when they first introduce the disciplines. And for some teams--especially smaller teams-- that is their mature state. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when launching hybrid Account Manager-Project Managers:
- Hybrid Account Managers MUST be Organized, Detail-Oriented, and Understand Creative
- In the beginning, when introducing Account Management, Account Managers will need to wear 3 hats. They will need to be Account Managers, Project Managers, and Traffic Managers--until business expands to further specialize the functions. The "trick" will be to think Client (AM) while doing Project Management (PM).
- This focus on client goals will offer clients more effective project results, as now the AMs will be an "additional set of eyes" to ensure results. In addition, more project organization up front that will save the client money (if you have a chargeback model), and time.
- Project Management is Critical.
- Moving from no formal project management to a process in which the Creative Team now takes direction from Project Manager (Hybrid-AM in this case) is big cultural shift. The Hybrid-AM will need to collaborate with the Creative Team to determine deadlines for the project schedule that meets the client's needs and gives the Creative Team adequate time to do credible work. This collaboration will be a "balancing act," as clients will always want the work sooner and the Creative Team will always want more time. The objective is to do the best work for the organization in building the brand, getting the client what they need in order to meet their business goals, and giving the Creative Team the most time possible to do their best work.
- As you meet the client's goals, and deliver on the AM's promises--which you MUST do in order to build credibility--you will build client trust & loyalty. This gives the Creative Team increased opportunity for more work and an enhanced reputation for work that delivers business-results throughout the organization. Eventually, as your opportunity to expand your influence on your organization's success, AM's can guide Clients to annual strategic plans with their projects scheduled in advance.
- It's about Account Management - Keeping the Clients First
The core function of the Hybrid-AM job will actually be project management: organizing the jobs, ensuring deadlines are met and client target goals are hit. This process builds credibility with the clients and increases the ability to plan Creative Team resources, which increases the department's effectiveness and efficiency. However, the mindset for these Hybrid-AMs must be the clients.
- Account Managers ARE the Voice of the Client
Because the Hybrid-AM now "owns" the relationship with the client, the Creative Team must treat their input as though it were the client's. The AM--depending on how high-profile and complex the project--may be the only connection to client input upon filling out the Creative Brief. During project "Kick-off" and Project Review, it is the AM's responsibility to provide and remind the Creative Team of the client's viewpoint and business goals. The purpose is to ensure client approval the first time. The Creative Director will protect the organization's brand. The team must take the AM's input/direction to ensure first-time client approval. There are NO personal preferences from the Creative Team or client, only organizational brand adherence and target audience focus to result in project/creative development rationale. It's a business.
- Remember, bringing on Account Managers means you are no longer a creative-led team, but a business-led team.
This sounds scarier than it is. Implementing Account Managers signals a focus on creating increased business results and higher-end creative, versus "taking orders." No longer are you creating for the sake of creating, but now you create for business and organizational (revenues, market share, mindshare) goals. To the extent that you actually make this shift in reality (e.g., processes, resources), will be the extent that you are considered strategic partners within the rest of the organization.
- You can begin the process of being a business-led Creative Team with the addition of Account Managers with project management skills. You will just need to be prepared to focus on developing creative talent and transition the client relationship activities to your new AM team. It's a big shift, but one that will earn your organization more effective business results--and your team hard-won respect.
Do you know how your clients really view your in-house creative team? Not knowing is risky management and a missed opportunity. Learn how PartnerPulse can help you fully understand your clients' perception of your team's performance, as well as enable you to benchmark your team's performance against industry peers.