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How to drive growth through smarter account management
Holly Johnson - Senior Account Manager 22nd November 2019 Read time 3 minutes
For agencies, retaining and growing existing client accounts is just as important, if not more important, than winning new ones. This is because it is far costlier to acquire a new client than it is to keep hold of a current one. For the statistic fans out there, numerous figures can be found online to back up this point. According to this article, winning a new client can cost five times more than retaining an existing one, while the success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, compared to a rate of 5-20% when it comes to selling to new customers.
But how do we define which accounts are ripe for growth, and which aren’t?
Key criteria for identifying growth
Profitable vs low margin accounts
If it is already running at a low hourly rate, is hugely time intensive for little gain or there is a known lack of budget, the account probably doesn’t have much room to grow. To put it plainly, over-serviced and under-numerated means it’s probably not the ideal candidate for growth. Focus on profitable accounts with higher margins and clients who are willing to invest, as well as collaborate for greater returns.
Problem solving as a service
A creative agency’s brief should identify a problem that needs solving. If the agency then has the skillset and knowledge base to create a solution, you’ve found the perfect fit to enable growth. Good Account Handlers need to be problem solvers – pestering clients with new ideas that aren’t in their best interest will just lead to frustration. However, presenting them with solutions that could solve relevant problems that will ultimately allow them to make money, save money or manage risk; will help to carve out a successful and fruitful relationship.
How to unlock growth and improve the client experience
An account could be brimming with potential, you just need to look for it. Here are three strategies for unlocking that hidden potential.
- Consultation - Has the client shared their business plans with you? If so, do these highlight any areas that your agency could get involved with at a new level? Or are there any opportunities within their particular market that you could help them tap into?
- Innovation - A client might not necessarily generate the biggest revenue, but theirs could be seen as a strategic account if they like to experiment with new technologies or be early adopters to new solutions that you could help them to implement.
- Exploration - Are there other contacts within the business that you don’t yet deal with that you could build new relationships with? An existing contact could facilitate this by introducing you to their colleagues or other teams within the business.
But remember, as the American advice columnist Ann Landers once said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognise them”. Opportunities for growth might not be laid out on a plate for you to easily pick at – they could be buried deep within the fibres of the account and require some disentanglement.
What’s more, opportunities can take many forms. A client may have an over-reliance on one media channel, allowing you the chance to introduce them to something new. Or they might be wasting time by using an antiquated system that you can help them replace – indeed, building technological dependency through systems integration is a great way of securing longevity in a client-agency relationship.
Account Managers should be ready for opportunity in all its guises, whether it’s one they need to respond to (comes from the client and requires quick action), shape (a solution might be on the client’s radar or within the vicinity, but they aren’t yet aware of it) or create (the AM proactively brings new ideas to the table, marking the agency out as an invaluable strategic partner, not just a supplier).
Managing and maintaining growth
So, once you’ve identified the accounts you want to nurture, how do you manage growth? Account planning is essential in order to identify the resources you’ll require to enable growth and reach desired objectives – it’s no good highlighting a problem to your client if you then don’t have the capacity or capability to provide a solution for it, as they’ll just look elsewhere for a fix.
Planning should be collaborative, involving the client along the way and ensuring they are on board at every stage. While the agency has its own motives for growing an account, the client needs to believe in the benefits that it will achieve for their business if they’re going to remain engaged and invested. If they’re part of the process, they’ll feel more ownership over it and be more willing and receptive to the ideas you present.
And of course, measurability is key – it is important not to forget the fundamentals. Make sure objectives and goals have been identified and agreed upon, and KPIs have been put in place to ensure you’re all working towards achieving them.
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