Innovation doesn’t happen when you’re taking orders from a client. It happens when your agency and your client work together to build something groundbreaking and different. And that’s where every agency sets out to be: on the cutting edge of new ideas and trends.
Today, thriving agencies aren’t just selling their clients marketing tactics; they’re helping them solve business problems, too. But first, you have to build an open, trusting relationship with your client so he will follow you when you pose an original, creative solution to a problem.
The advantages of business savvy
So, how can you begin to earn the kind of client relationships you’re looking for? You have to start by earning your clients’ trust and the first people to begin to build that relationship are the ones communicating with them every day: your Account Executives.
It’s not enough for your Account Executives to simply be good communicators, though. They also need to prove that they’re good Business Advisors, and that means understanding every aspect of business, from finance to production to distribution. It’s simple: The more an Account Executive understands how business works, the more effectively he can serve his clients’ businesses.
Here are a few proven benefits of Account Executives with real, working business knowledge:
- 1. It allows you to create better, more complex solutions to your clients’ problems. The best account management allows your agency to be a valuable resource for your clients, rather than just a vendor. Having smart, proven business knowledge to back your creative recommendations won’t just help you sell to your current clients. It will also differentiate you from other agencies that are still simply selling “marketing stuff.”
- 2. It allows you to charge a premium price because you can document the value you deliver. Your Account Executives won’t just run more profitable accounts. They’ll also be able to prove to clients that your agency delivers (and exceeds) the value you’ve promised.
- 3. It means you’ll be better at retaining clients. Better business savvy allows your account teams to continue to evolve their information presentations. It’ll also help you find new trends to offer your clients, listen to feedback more effectively, and change your processes to better align with your clients’ needs. That means a happier client and that means more business for your agency, too.
Building business knowledge.
There isn’t only one way to learn how to navigate a business mindset. Whether it’s taking business classes, reading up on best business practices, or simply shadowing your clients for a few days, any amount of business knowledge will help your Account Executives build a more empathetic, connected relationship with your clients.
Here are a few more ideas your Account Executives can use:
- Join a networking group or professional association focused on best business practices.
- Read leading business books that are relevant to your clients.
- Visit trade shows and attend educational workshops.
- Start a small business on the side.
4 alternative ways to look at your clients' business
Your agency doesn’t need to just handle one job well, you want to prove to your clients, over and over again, that the time and money they’re spending with you is worthwhile. And in order to do that, your Account Executives must begin thinking of their clients’ work holistically, rather than simply as a long list of projects.
There are a few ways that your Account Executives can begin to look at their responsibilities from a high-level business perspective.
Here are a few questions that Account Executives can ask themselves to help them look critically at their goals, progress, and client relationships:
- 1. Finances: Is this account profitable? Does our client recognize and appreciate the value we’re delivering? Are we tracking changes and billing them properly? How can we run this account more efficiently?
- 2. Talent and HR: How do we create a strong, communicative team? Does my team have the tools to do their best work? How do I keep my team on budget and creatively on track?
- 3. Service: How can I help my team understand the client’s business problem better? What kind of fresh solutions can we bring to the table? How can I help my team walk in my client’s and my client’s customers shoes?
- 4. New Business: What’s our unique expertise? How do I fill our pipeline with appropriate leads?
Trust is always a work in progress. And the first place that relationship begins to grow is with your Account Managers. The faster that your Account Executives immerse themselves in the business world, the faster your agency begins to fully empathize and strategize with your clients and the faster your agency begins to flourish, too.
Thanks to Drew McLellan
for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Drew has more than 25 years in the advertising industry
. For 18 of those, he owned and ran his own Agency. Today, he leads up the Agency Management Roundtable, which advises hundreds of small-to-medium sized advertising agencies on how to grow and build their profitability through agency owner networks, consulting, workshops, webinars and more. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.