As an agency account manager, much of what you deal with on a day-to-day basis originates outside of your direct control. Your decisions will be influenced by what is going on in the world of your clients, suppliers and your own team.
One day one of your clients may experience a crisis which directly affects your agency/client relationship. What should you - as the main point of contact for your client - do in this type of unexpected situation?
The way you react and act will depend on the level to which your agency will be affected by your client's circumstances.
Example: media scandal; product recall
You should phone your client to find out if there is anything you can do to help, and offer some advice or action (if appropriate).
It is unlikely that a low-level crisis will result in the loss of your client's business, but you may need to put current projects on hold for a time. This is the type of situation where you need to give your client room to figure out their next steps.
Example: loss of funding; loss of your main client contact
A crisis such as loss of funding (e.g. through the withdrawal of sponsorship or budget allocation), will have a direct impact on your agency revenue.
It is imperative that you meet with your client to get an accurate picture of what is going on. You and your client will need to work together - as a team - to come up with a plan to move forward. Whatever happens, you do not want to lose your client's business completely, so it's up to you to help him as much as possible during this time.
Example: client bankruptcy or major financial loss
A situation could be deemed "major" if it will most likely result in a direct loss of business for your agency, put your agency in a position of debt, or damage your agency's reputation.
If your client experiences a major crisis, then you need to communicate what has happened very clearly, accurately and quickly to your management, who will then want to meet with your client to gain a full understanding of the situation. The sooner your agency is able to jump into action, the sooner you may be able to mitigate any fall-out.
Your agency could find itself in its own crisis situation if more than 20% of expected annual revenue hinges on any one client. Here are some suggestions on how you could protect your agency from the consequences of a client crisis:
Know your client-base well enough to know which factors could cause a client not to pay. You should be able to see the signs that your client is close to bankruptcy or has other major financial trouble before it actually hits.
Ensure that your agency/client relationship is vital to your client's business, not just a “nice to have.” The more closely involved you are in the success of your client's business, the more difficult it will be for them to say goodbye to you when the going gets tough.
Have multiple contact points (a.k.a. champions and advocates) within your client's business. If you tie your business relationship to any single contact, that relationship could go pear-shaped as soon as your contact leaves the company.
Diversify your offering within your client's business. For example, if your client currently only uses your agency as a print broker, then sell them your design, advertising and event planning services too.
Get more (and more diverse) clients. By spreading your revenue around a number of key clients your agency will be able to better absorb any single blow it may receive. Similarly, by diversifying the industries you deal with, you will be able to better protect your agency from any industry-wide crisis (e.g. a downturn in the agricultural sector; cuts in government spending; milk products export scandal, etc).
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Keeping clients happy will lead to repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals. Keeping suppliers happy could mean sharper pricing and improved turnaround times. Keeping your team happy will allow you to move work around your agency quickly and without fuss. And, most of all, it will mean people will like working with you, which should open more doors than you could ever imagine.
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