Building a successful brand and business in most cases will depend directly on the effectiveness of the client account function within your company. There is simply no point having a fantastic product/service and an exceptional marketing manager with a great budget at his/her disposal if the front-line account team do not execute the business, sales and client strategy effectively.
This short blog will focus on 5 simple strategies that every client account manager should be using as part of their strategic goal in developing greater customer closeness and in delivering a world-class client experience.
1. Know Your Client’s Business…
I attended a fantastic conference in Brighton a few year’s ago when the marketing director at one of the UK’s leading financial organisations was delivering a presentation on the client/agency relationship.The key recommendation that she gave was that agency/supplier account teams must truly understand the client’s business, strategic objectives and market challenges. This means that account managers must immerse themselves in finding out as much as they can about the client organisation at every level (not just from their own functional angle). Successful account managers will already have in possession a copy of the client organisation’s business strategic plan – this will provide a powerful insight into the client’s objectives, future development plans and investment.
As a former Sainsbury’s retail manager (many moons ago), every member of the management team was issued with a pocket-size strategy card – based on the company’s commitment to delivering world-class service. This is a basic example which illustrates the point (corporate employees will know the strategy) – you just have to make sure you know it too.
Use Google reader, LinkedIn and Twitter to stay abreast of client activity/news updates and follow sector trade association bulletins.
2. The Client From Top To Toe…
Too many account managers only know a few contacts within the client’s business. When you manage a client account, make sure you get a copy of the organisation and departmental structure as this will tell you from top to bottom who you need to know within the business. Developing dialog with just a few contacts can seriously affect your company’s growth if there are 20 similar contacts that have budget to spend.
Use LinkedIn to develop your own client account structure and to identify new appointments/departures (make sure to update the relevant teams within your business).
3. Know The Budget, The Projects, The Competition…
Being an effective account manager is not just based on your ability and skill to sell something; it is equally based on your ability to find how the client works: their annual spend, agencies or suppliers that they are using and what projects they are commissioning now and in the future.
Find out exactly what market share you control within the client’s annual spend and establish the key competitors that you face (including project level involvement and fees). Client xxxx might be worth £1m to your business this year, but until you dig under the service and establish the bigger picture – you will never know what the account is truly worth (Client xxxx might be spending £200m and giving 90% to a major competitor that you did not even know).
The information you receive will be a measure of your client relationship. A client who can see that you are truly interested in their business (will be impressed) and more likely to want to work with you.
Use Google alerts to stay abreast of anything that is published on the web for your client i.e. press releases, projects, trends and news.
4. Stay In Touch, Go The Extra Mile…
Effective account management means that you do not hide behind a desk, email or technology – lift the phone or even better, arrange to meet you client for a coffee, beer or meeting at their office (or yours) and catch-up.
Nothing is more valuable that meeting someone face-to-face and it is critical that you create as many opportunities as you can. If you are 100, 200 or even 300 miles away from your client’s business – go the extra mile to meet them (don’t send another email).
It is always a good start to work with the client on establishing up-front the channels/frequency of communication that are preferred. This means you can avoid death by email or calling the client when they like to have a quiet 5 minutes to drink their morning coffee.
Find out what interests the client has i.e. if they are a massive tennis fan (why not arrange to take them to Wimbledon) and use this as a great client relationship opportunity.
5. Come Up With Solutions…
Clients will adore you if you come-up with solutions and show them how you can save their business money, increase their revenues/market share, profitability, productivity, efficiency and make them look brilliant in the process.
They want solutions to the problems they face (not useless information and boring dialog). As an account manager, understand the core issues and develop the solutions that you can provide (this will be the value that you add to the client’s business).
Establish what solutions your competitors are providing and work towards ensuring that you can present a better way of doing things (try asking the client for information).
Before marketing your business/product/service, take a look at your account management structure – make sure you not only recruit the best people, but continually train them, support them and allow them to be creative. As a marketer, I truly appreciate the power of account management as a brand touchpoint. A client can be won through clever marketing, but lost on poor service – never allow this to happen.
Client’s hire you for what you know and how you can help them; never forget that you are on a level playing field and never be afraid to feel equal. Clients are human and are no more special than we are. Be yourself, be confident and know your stuff.
To arrange a consultation or training day to discuss further, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org