Friday, February 19, 2010

Navigating My First Year As An Account Manager

by Sarah Showalter, Account Manager

While studying advertising and public relations at Purdue University, I always wondered where my advertising aspirations would take me, as the industry is so expansive; the opportunities are endless. After getting my feet wet in various advertising experiences, four years later I am at dgs Marketing Engineers. I started at dgs as an account coordinator and just completed my first year as an account manager. The first year was a great learning experience for me, and I would like to share some tips that I believe will be helpful to those aspiring to be in account management or going through their rookie years with me.

1. Be Organized
Organization is crucial in account management. As an A/M, you are literally managing all the details of every single project and it is imperative you know them all (i.e. deadlines, objectives, budget). These details will come to you via phone, email, snail mail, and maybe even on sticky notes and, of course, not all at the same time. During the project lifeline you will be asked about these details from your copywriters, art directors, clients, vendors, media contacts, and maybe even your hairstylist and neighbor, having all those details in one place will save you a lot of time and headaches. It is also an advantage when are able to answer their questions right away ☺. BUT it is acceptable and appreciated when you say, “Let me check on that and I will get back to you.” Managing client expectations is great for relationship building. Everyone has his or her own way of “organizing,” find what works best for you.

2. Never Assume
Never assume that the person you’re talking to understands exactly what you are trying to communicate – never assume you are on the same page. For example, a client may ask you to produce an ad and to place it in a magazine, but do not assume that they are aware of the publication deadline or that the publication is focusing on “shoes” that month. It is your job as an account manager to communicate these details and to inform your client. The ad may be your biggest project at the time, which puts it at the top of your list, but it might be #10 on your client’s list. Always check and double check on the details.

3. Be Assertive
As an A/M you will find yourself in meetings…many meetings, maybe even meetings about meetings. During these meetings you will assume various roles - you may be the supporter during one meeting and the lead the next. During this time you may be asked questions or your opinion or just have a chance to speak about what is on your agenda this week. Speaking loudly, clearly, and assertively is very important. This communicates that you are a well-informed account manager. As the A/M, you are the person on the front lines – demonstrating confidence in yourself will help cement the confidence of your clients. This is a quality that can be of high value throughout your entire career, no matter what industry you choose. I believe practice and developing your own style over time will allow you to be more confident and assertive - this is something I am still learning.

4. Ask Questions
During meetings- ask questions. On phone calls- ask questions. Through email- ask questions. During Charades- ask questions. No matter how you do it- ask questions. Going back to that details rant, it is crucial you ask questions and the right questions. I recall teachers saying through my school years, ”No question is adumb question,” and they were right. If you do not fully understand something or it is not clear…ask. It will save time and effort if you ask questions the first time rather than waiting until you have started the project in the wrong direction. You may have to go back and ask questions 10x before you get all the details you need, but over time and with experience you will ask all the right questions the first time and be that more efficient. As the account manager you come into contact with co-workers, clients, vendors, and media reps, each person having a different objective in mind when they communicate with you- it is your job to ask questions and ensure you have what you need and they have what they need to complete the job at hand.
Remember: Email is faster than snail mail and a phone call is faster than an email - sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and call.

I hope these tips are helpful to fellow account managers or those wishing to enter the field and don’t know what to expect. To sum it up, practice, experience and making mistakes will allow you to excel in the future. After completing my first year as an account manager, I am now more aware of my strengths and where I have room to grow, but I am excited to learn and be challenged to become stronger in this position. Year two…bring it on.

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