Back in the days before smartphones and tablets and Twitter (oh my), I would depend on the good old fashioned printed newspaper for much of my daily dose of current events. One of the columns I used to frequently give a skim for a little entertainment was Dear Abby. For more than a half-century, she has been providing “uncommon common sense” advice. In reading Ms. Abigail’s posts, a somewhat common theme is that through a little better listening, relationships could be built a lot stronger.
The same holds true when it comes to the client/agency relationship. Long-term relationships in this industry seem quite rare; in fact, Forbes reports the average to be just 3 years, which is down from 8.5 years as experienced in the 1980s*. Relationships come to a close for a variety of reasons, but at the root is often an issue with listening and understanding between the two parties. From an agency perspective, the client is depending on you to serve as its voice to the target audience. And like a game of whisper down the lane at a rock concert, if the agency is unable to listen carefully to understand the client and the client’s core communication objectives, the message will not properly reach the final target. The same holds true if the client is unwilling to listen and trust in the agency’s expertise.
“Having a great creative team without the support of an account management team is like having a Porsche in the driveway without an engine.” That was someone’s response to an article published in Ad Age discussing an observed trend towards the declining role of account managers at many agencies. When I read this article nearly two years ago, we were coming off the great recession, and our clients were (and still are) being forced to operate with lean budgets. At the time, I started to wonder if my position as an account manager was about to become obsolete. Two years later, my profession is far from obsolete; in fact, its importance has even grown as account managers have been crucial in helping clients make the most effective use of the often limited budgets allowed by these tough economic times.
A few weekends ago I was shopping at an outlet mall in preparation for the holidays. I had never previously visited this mall and thus was unsure of all that it had to offer in terms of stores. With a long list of people I needed to buy for and a very limited amount of time to accomplish my mission before closing, I turned to my trusty Android powered smartphone to get a lay of the land. Following a quick Google search, I landed on the mall’s website and was delighted at what loaded. Instead of an unwieldy, Flash-laden website, I was locked into a well thought-out, fast loading mobile website. Thanks to the site, I was able to quickly identify the stores I needed to visit and develop a plan of attack that enabled me to get everywhere I needed before closing.