What does it mean to be a successful marketing consultant and strategist?
Being a relatively new to the team myself, that is a question I am still learning to answer on a day-to-day basis. Because, while it might seem easy for me to say I'm the one developing and executing inbound marketing strategies that help our clients win, that only scratches the surface of what we do.
With this in mind, here a handful of dos and don’ts I've learned since I started here. I think they are important lessons for professionals who manage client relationships of any kind, and not just account managers at a marketing agency.
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Always be in the mindset of building a lasting relationship with your client. If you work hard at sustaining a healthy relationships, instead of always focusing exclusively on tactical deliverables, there will be less churn in your agency and you won’t have a hard time finding new clients. (And hopefully, the good ones will share your great work with others!)
Take the time to research the industry of your client, in addition to what their expectations and goals are. This way you'll have understanding and context for what they're trying to accomplish and can provide more strategic guidance.
Honesty is always the best policy. Fulfill your commitments in a timely manner and document them. If you're unable to meet a deadline, be proactive in communicating that. Don't erode your credibility with dishonesty.
Listen first. At IMPACT, we can only provide our expertise with a clear understanding of our clients interests and needs, and that can only happen if you focus on being a good listener.
Ask yourself regularly, "What value are you adding? How are you enabling their success?" Give them a reason to keep coming back to you. You don't want them to forget why they hired you or be unable to articulate why you add value to their business.
Always create and send an agenda before each meeting that outlines your meeting's purpose and objectives clearly. Then review it before the meeting – and stick to it!
Tough meetings can happen, so it's imperative to stay cool and be patient. Sometimes things go wrong, which can result in justifiable frustration on both sides. Check your ego, listen, be respectful and give helpful suggestions. In some cases, it can be beneficial to table the discussion to a later date to let things cool off.
At IMPACT, we believe very much in the "owning it" philosophy. Which means you should own your successes, but also admit when you've made a mistake. (Everyone stumbles; what matters most is how you get back up.) Own up to your mistakes and take steps to make sure they aren’t repeated.
We are also committed to learning and continuous education. As an account manager, I apply this to all of my clients by proactively educating myself on their business specifically, as well as changes within their industry!
Stay positive and don't forget to celebrate your wins. Account management can mean a lot of work and late nights, which means it can be easy to get down sometimes. When that happens, take a moment to look back on all of the hard work you've done and celebrate the wins – with your coworkers and your clients!
Don’t over-commit yourself. When you're in a client-facing role, saying "Yes!" to everything is almost like a reflex. This can create problems down the line, however, when you say yes to something you don't have time for. Know your boundaries and learn how to address additional requests from clients.
Don’t act like a know-it-all. Are you an expert in your field? Yes. Should that translate into boorish condescension? Definitely not. It wasn’t an attractive feature in grade school, and it certainly doesn’t translate well into adulthood. Again, this comes back to being a good listener. Don't assume you know the problem and the solution. Foster conversation.
Come clean and don’t fake answers you don't have. It’s okay to say, "I don't know, but I can definitely find out for you," when a client asks you a question. It sucks not knowing the answer to a client’s question, but you can create sticky situations by not owning up to it.
Don’t make your client wait on you. Clients that are left unattended seldom return. So, be punctual for meetings and be consistent and proactive with your communication.
Like the first "don't" I mentioned, don’t make promises you can’t keep and always keep the promises you do make.
Don’t be rude to your client or your team members. There are many other ways to establish your value but having a condescending attitude is not one of them.
Don't always rely on email to get your message across. Instead, kick it old school, and pick up the phone. Seriously. Email is efficient, but it's not always the best mode of communication. So if you see a conversation going down the wrong path, or you just have a gut feeling that something isn't quite right, pick up the phone to have a direct conversation. That personalized interaction can go a long way, especially with those clients who prefer speaking directly, rather than over email.
I’m sure there will be more added to this list as I continue my work with IMPACT and grow in my position. But for now, I think this is a good starting point.
But remember, as strategists and consultants, we are responsible for so much more than just the services we deliver. So always be on the look out for opportunities to grow the relationships you have with your clients into partnerships. That way you're both on the same side, working toward the same goals.