November 15, 2015

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One client or many? The pros and cons.

When interviewing for a new account management job, it's imperative that you know which accounts you will be working on. Your client base will be a strong factor in determining your ultimate job satisfaction.

Not only should you know the accounts you'll work on, you should also ask the total number of different clients you'll be looking after. There is a vast difference between working with one client to working with three clients, or 15 clients.

The number of clients you end up working with will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type and size of agency you work for.
  • The type of clients your agency has.
  • The type of work your agency produces.
  • Client demands.
  • Your client service team structure.
  • Your own level of experience and ability.

 

Large agency, large client

It is both normal and expected that a large agency (such as a multi-national) will choose to work for large accounts with substantial campaigns and high demands. It is not unheard of for those types of accounts to have a dedicated client service team numbering 5 or more people.

In a large agency, a junior may still work as client service support across more than one team. The more senior you climb, the more likely you are to concentrate on one client - until you reach GAD (Group Account Director) level where you will assume oversight over multiple accounts.

PROS:
  • Potential to make a significant difference in your client's business.
  • Getting to know your client extremely well and build strong relationships.
  • Becoming an indispensible extension of your client's marketing team.
  • Maintaining a single client focus.
  • Ability to spread the load amongst your team.
  • Working with large, high profile clients looks good on your CV.

CONS:
  • You may get bored.
  • You may get pigeon-holed into working on one facet of your client's business (e.g. just social, just DM, just strategy)...which could also be a good thing if that is what you enjoy!
  • Harder to stand out as an individual.
  • Lack of client and campaign variety.

 

Mid-sized to large agency, two or more clients

An Account Manager within a mid to large-sized agency will, most likely, work across a small handful of clients. It is also likely that the team structure will see more than one person working across each account (e.g. AD/AM/AE).

PROS: 
  • Experience across multiple clients, industries and projects.
  • Workday variety.
  • Good opportunity for relationship building.
  • Room to be strategic.

CONS:
  • Split focus.
  • Client prioritisation challenges when project or campaign deadlines clash.

 

Smaller agencies and the juggling act

Smaller agencies my not be able or willing to chase the big campaign-based accounts, so work will come into the agency on a project-by-project basis.

To ensure the client service team is fully-occupied and able to maximise revenue, it is highly plausible that each intermediate to senior account manager could look after many clients (10 or more is quite normal).

Some of these clients will supply regular work, others will appear once-in-a-blue-moon. In situations like this the Account Manager becomes a "juggler". Like all juggling acts, dropping a ball is more a case of "when" than "if"...but, if you are good, you'll learn to juggle remarkably well!

PROS:
  • Variety of work, industries and clients.
  • Building relationships and networks with many interesting people.
  • Good experience gained in process-based tasks.

CONS:
  • Conflicting deadlines.
  • Prioritisation challenges.
  • Dealing with "rats and mice" - small, occasional projects that may be low in profit.
  • Lack of time and opportunity to build strong relationships with all your clients, or to be strategic.
  • Account Managers tend to remain 'order-takers' rather than 'sales-makers'.

One or many?

There is no correct answer to the question of whether it is "better" to work with one client or many - the wise Account Manager will ensure they experience both! Each option has pros and cons. Each will give you fantastic experience, and help to shape a well-rounded career.

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Sarah Ritchie
Sarah Ritchie

Author

Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.



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