Great surroundings for frank and honest breakfast chat...
A wonderful sunny morning in Edinburgh heralded the launch of the BIMA Scotland Client Service Director Community on Thursday 20th April. The round table session was lead and hosted by Jessica Mullen of CreateFuture in the magnificent boardroom of their fabulous offices on Queen Street. Jessica teamed up with Paul Diamond of Realise to lead the discussion on unravelling strategic account management, how to grow accounts and extend the service offer. They were joined at the table by senior account management (AM)/client services (CS) practitioners from: Caliber; Equator; Frontpage; iProspect; Multiply; Stripe; The Union; Whitespace; and Yard Digital. After a quick round of Who’s been in their Company the Longest Top Trumps (the winner remains anonymous) we all got down to the business in hand.
The roundtable was split into 4 key areas:
- Feedback sought by Jessica from agencies and clients on what makes good AM/CS
- Jessica’s insights into AC/CS and top tips
- Paul’s New Zealand All Black’s inspired approach to creating a strong culture within the AM/CS team
- Frank and honest roundtable discussion addressing the challenges of AM/CS.
So what does the industry have to say about AM/CS? What works?
These are headline insights Jessica obtained..
… from agency heads:
- Don’t be the concierge for the client (the bag carrier once being a familiar term). Be strategic and have big advice
- Be emotionally intelligent
- Be the trusted advisor. If the client says jump don’t ask “how high?”, ask “why?”
- Ensure you have a deep understanding of your client’s business. How do they make money? What is the profile of their clients? How do they perform?
… and from clients:
Know your client – as stupid as it sounds - then know the key factors:
• Who’s who (top down in the organisation)
• Who makes key decisions
• What are the real business drivers
• Who are their customers
• Know the numbers behind the business
• Ways of working and internal processes
• If they understood that they would then work out how best to play-off to meet client
Jessica then shared her take on good AM/CS drawing on her many years’ experience
- Strategic does not mean unstructured. Use your CRM, task notes, etc to make sure you follow up on the extras that matter. A key factor to success is running internal account planning sessions, i.e. just within the agency. Bringing the brains together in the room for open discussion (around a structured agenda) is invaluable and will deliver a set of actions that can then be taken forward
- Understand what makes your client contact look good to their bosses, peers and clients and help them achieve this.
- Use the 3 up 3 across rule – find out who your client contact’s next 3 up bosses are and 3 peers. Get to know them too.
- Man marking strategy. Make sure the key people at your client have a key contact on your team (by which we mean the whole agency) and match them by seniority and chemistry.
- Walk the floor, get on site and immerse yourself in the physical side of the client’s business
- Never forget the basics
- Be confident (or fake it until you make it)
It was then over to Paul for a brief All Blacks pep talk with some seriously interesting learnings on how to build a strong, positive culture within the team (by extending the sporting metaphor):
- Don’t be too big to do the small jobs that need to be done
- Go for gap – see the opportunity and grasp it
- Play with purpose
- Pass the ball – good leaders create leaders
- create a learning environment
- leave your ego at the door (or put simply, no dickheads)
- embrace expectations
- Aim to win
- Keep a blue head (achieve calm thinking even if all around is chaos)
- Know thyself (keep it real and authentic). Learn from others but repurpose to your style
- Be a good ancestor and create a legacy.
(these tips work even better with the pictures)
Please refer to reading list below for more inspiration from the All Blacks.
The session then opened up into a debate starting with the issue of pigeon-holed accounts.
There was much discussion in the room around the frustration of trying to achieve a broader relationship with a client to improve your offering, but this can often be thwarted by client perception or client behaviours that prevent you from reaching other parts of the business. The following strategies were explored:
- Man marking: use seniority in your team to reach to the senior players within the client with a broader view
- Have the brutal conversation “you need this”
- Introduce new people on your team to the client to demonstrate capability (although this can be risky)
- Know your client’s business so well you know where they need help and be there for them, ready with advice and action
- Provide a new service for free as a trial so you can prove worth
- There may be a big opportunity with the client to provide products and services but start small, offer bite size tasters and build up
- Eg: To assist the change in perception of their capability one agency is providing training to the client’s entry level staff winning hearts and minds from the get go.
- Casually name drop clients and achievements rather than go in with full case studies
- Make sure you have good relations with procurement: they can provide useful insights
- Help your client contact look good and always make them feel important
- Bringing clients together can offer many benefits as each will discuss the things you do well and it will also help them feel part of a cared for community.
However, the following additional challenges were also considered:
- Often the corporate structure within the client has evolved rather than been thought out for its digital strategy which can lead to silos within the client and make the landscape difficult to navigate to make sure your offering and delivery is reaching all the right people
- You cannot change perception overnight. This is a long journey and you start with being a trusted advisor and grow slowly from there.
- The budget for the work you deliver to the client may be small in comparison to others and as such you are not seen as a priority. The challenge is to stop being overlooked.
- How do you get your client contact to care about the bigger client picture? If they are delivering on their objectives that may be enough for them.
The question was asked “at what point do you give up”. The resounding response was “never”. Never, because we all operate in a constantly shifting landscape creating new opportunities and challenges all the time and managing this is fundamental to the AM/CS role.
It was agreed across the group that these meet ups are incredibly helpful and there is a will to do more. Next topic was mooted as “what does good CS look like”.
A huge thank you to Jessica and Paul for running the session and to CreateFuture for hosting in their fabulous boardroom.
This event was over-subscribed and is planned to be the first of many to service the BIMA Scotland community. If you are interested in hosting, speaking or moderating a session please contact email@example.com.
BIMA CSD Breakfast notes – What the Client Really Thinks, James Bassett, Head of Digital Creative, Sony Music UK
BIMA CSD Breakfast notes – Building and Managing Successful Client Relationships, Richard Warren, Account Director at Rufus Leonard
Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life, James Kerr
Jessica has been in digital for over 16 years (yes, it’s hard to believe). With a client service heritage, she has successfully ran multi-million pound projects, accounts and agencies.
Jessica started her career as an e-learning content developer. Full of ambition. she quickly progressed to Production Director before making the transition to Account Director. Agency life beckoned. In 2008, Jessica joined the digital agency Realise where, as Client Services Director, she led the account and project management teams. During that time the agency grew from 40 to 120 and transformed from technical design-and-build to strategic full-service. In 2013, she joined the UX consultancy Nile. As Managing Director the business tripled in turnover (and profit!) in less than three years.
Last year Jessica decided she was ready to do it for herself, taking the brave move to start her own business. CreateFuture is a strategic, creative consultancy, working within ambitious brands to collaboratively improve marketing, services and capability through creative thinking. In less than a year, with a core team of six, CreateFuture is working with brands such as the BBC, Penguin Books and Expedia.
For the past 10 years Paul has been a senior member of the Realise client services team responsible for the strategic ownership of a range of key clients such as Standard Life Investments, Tottenham Hotspur, Greyhound and Investec.
Paul's role is designed to ensure clients get the most of their relationship with Realise. Working in close collaboration with our Strategy, User Experience and technical teams Paul looks to shape solutions and multi-discipline project teams that deliver tangible business results. By gaining a deep strategic understanding of a client and their customers Paul looks to present opportunities where Realise can add real value.
Paul has also led the Realise team that last year was appointed to design and develop the new digital platforms for the English Football League. Following a procurement process including 175 of the world’s leading digital agencies, Realise were appointed the EFL contract which will run until the end of the 2022/23 season. Paul's role sees him acting as “the voice of the client” (in this instance both the EFL and the clubs), in order to ensure our service and solutions are always in line with the defined organisational objectives and commercial goals.