What Inbound 2017 Reveals About Agency Client Expectations Towards Account Managers

Jen Saunders

Clients can be a pleasure to work with, while others can be a handful. Actually, that’s a nice way of saying some are great while others eat up your time by having unrealistic expectations. Yesterday at Inbound 2017 Partner Day I attended a session titled ‘Truth and Consequences: New Research Reveals what Agency Clients Really Want from Account Managers’ where 531 agency clients sourced from actual data gave insight into agency ratings and strongly connected-to attitudes towards their digital marketing agency.

working with a marketing agency

Clients with Lofty Expectations

The speakers defined one group of agency clients as those with lofty expectations. These are customers who demand a lot from their agency account managers. They expect their account managers to identify new opportunities for business growth, even if additional expenses are involved. This cohort also expects to have a close relationship with their account manager; someone who will treat the business as if it were their own. These are the clients who want agency managers to not only to understand their business and its industry, but know it better than themselves. Finally, they expect to speak with the CEO and marketing director regarding their campaigns.

inbound marketing

The Underwhelmed

Another segmented group of agency clients are what the speakers referred to as the underwhelmed. These are of the group who found their account managers to be inexperienced and inefficient. They also report that their agency was too aggressive and sales-focused, and dubbed them doing a terrible job at managing budgets and, really, just being terrible project managers.

inbound marketing clients

The Shot Callers

The third group was referred to as the shot callers; clients who have the “do what I say” mentality to working with their account manager. These are the clients that tend to have the bigger budgets and offer the best source of client-generated revenue for agencies. These relationships pose a number of obstacles, as expectations are very high (normally the client is a marketing manager themselves who must report to an executive team) and they expect strategic strategic thinking driving their project, yet they don’t want to pay extra for it.

According to the speakers, it is best to placate the client; find a way where you can make them feel like they are driving at a high enough degree so they feel like their business is being truly represented. My approach would be to follow this advice, but then take the wheel when they start to nod off and steer things in the right direction while making it very clear that there are multiple drivers here. Why? Because in my experience working for top digital marketing agencies, the shot callers are the ones who like to take credit for the agency’s work so they will look good for their bosses, and this reduces an agency’s value in the eyes of those who make executive decisions on who to keep aboard payroll, and which vendors to recycle for something newer,, and fresher.

digital marketing

Maintaining a Golden Relationship with All Client Types

While mixed customers express a variety of areas of importance (such as working with a male or female) there are consistent “must-haves” across these three cohorts. Agency customers don’t want to work with younger (aged in their 20s) managers because they view them as being inexperienced. They also hate the feeling of being upsold. Instead, frame service upgrades as new opportunities that make sense for THEIR business. This will personalize your service and give it the semblance of an investment as opposed to an expense.

The best digital growth marketing agencies that offer SEO and inbound services appoint the same account manager as a consistent point of contact for clients. In my opinion, if you truly want to offer the white-glove service, this will also be the person whose hands are directly involved in the client’s strategy, and who continuously learns about their industry and business.

customer focus

Wow Them with Focused Attention

The speakers expressed how vital it is to ask the client what type of agency they want to work with. This is something that experienced agencies actually do prior to the onboarding phase of the engagement to ensure the client is a good fit. But to the point the speakers were making, they stressed that this will make the customer feel like their desires are being taken to heart, and it gives agencies the chance to get valuable feedback on their approach and offerings.

The other closing point emphasized is to never be one of those agencies that claims to do it all, and everything is in house. High-level customers and most clients know this is impossible, so claiming to do this will make you look like a desperate agency trying to rope in another number, or you will just look like a liar. Never upsell a client, again, offer new opportunities based on the latest industry research that could really move the needle for their business. Finally, send out monthly surveys with both close-ended questions to get direct response, and open-ended questions for more detailed feedback. The best relationships between agency managers and their clients is one where feedback opportunities are ongoing; the client loves to be heard, and the data should be viewed as a goldmine of information for marketing agencies to step up their game where it matters the most.

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Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.