In today's world of budget cuts and creative services being outsourced, more and more creative leaders are asked to justify all expenditures. As the Creative Services function grows to become an in-house agency, a vital step is the introduction of Account Management. But in the current climate management wants metrics to substantiate hiring of what doesn't appear to be a direct asset to the organization. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when providing metrics on the benefits of hiring Account Managers.
- Account Managers actually save money
One of the functions that the AMs serve is to orchestrate the Client/Creative process. The beginning of that orchestration is to prepare the job at the start to give to the Creative team. Meeting with the client to get all the pertinent information up front, organizing it for the team, having a creative brainstorming meeting with the team, and leading design reviews for on-target solutions from a client perspective cuts down on the number of re-dos or back-and-forths that can occur when creating new design communications. With this sort of orchestration and organization, more often than not, the creative solution is approved the first time by the client. The result is that the Account Manager facilitates in the streamlining of the Client/Creative process.
So, if only half the projects last year that had excessive iterations won't need the same this year, that is a savings of time and value (cost) of that designer and anyone else who works with that job--including the client!
- Account Managers increase volume
(Increased volume = increased chargebacks for chargeback departments; but even non-chargeback departments can find value in increased volume, as this typically offsets the client's agency spend)
Account Managers are dedicated to serving the client's needs. They meet with the clients on a regular basis to understand the client's business goals. To that end, they make recommendations of communications and creative solutions that will address and meet those needs. The Account Manager represents all of Creative Services' solutions, in one meeting many solutions from across the team can be recommended and acted upon. As the Creative team is successful in producing a track record of on-target work, the client will build trust with the Creative team and the Account Manager. Through the client loyalty and the on-going client meetings to continue to meet the client's communications and creative needs, an lager work stream builds. Multiply that by the number of clients an Account Manager is responsible for and you have an impressive number. In the first year at one company where the Account Management model was introduced, a 63% increase in revenues was experienced.
When client's needs are focused on and viewed as an account and relationship--not just a project or transaction--the revenue stream multiplies. Estimate the value of suspected potential work from each client, and that metric will be your projected revenue increase for current clients. Estimate the number and work value of targeted new clients to be developed by the Account Manager, and add to the increased revenue estimate. Remember, it may not all materialize in year 1, and therefore you should estimate your potential conversation rate as well (e.g., 20% in year 1, an additional 30% in year 2, etc.)
- Account Planning further increases revenues
The next step in the evolution of Account Managers focusing on their clients as a relationship and an account is preparing annual or semi-annual plans for their accounts. So often the client knows what goals their management expects, and has an idea of what tactical steps and projects they want to do during the year but doesn't necessarily share that with Creative Services. What an Account Manager does by building the client relationship is gain knowledge of the upcoming year's goals and tactics, and match recommendations and best practices to those goals. The result is an annual communications/creative plan. Through planning the client can maximize their budgets by not incurring rush charges or not-as-targeted work as with an ad-hoc approach. The solutions on the annual plan can be thought out and organized so the channels and messaging can leverage each other for more effective results. In addition, media discounts, if applicable, can be realized in advance.
By following the plan throughout the year (and the plan is flexible for market events and management's vision updates), the creative team can plan the work as to reduce temporary help or freelancers needed at the last minute. So, to the degree that a percentage of Creative Services' work comes in at the last minute requiring freelancers and rush charges, a percentage of those charges can be eliminated saving the organization money.
- For the organization
In addition to benefiting the client, and reducing costs and increasing revenues for the Creative Services team, there are benefits to the greater organization with the introduction of Account Managers. First, through more targeted and more effective creative and communications solutions on a consistent basis, each exposure or communications product serves to build the brand to a greater degree. Through consistency, which the Account Manager is responsible for to the clients s/he serves, that brand will start to drive increased loyalty. In financial terms, brand loyalty reduces the sales cycle. So, whether you are a Fortune 500 company with big-ticket government contracts, a consumer product provider, or a non-profit who relies on donations to carry out its charter, the time to complete the sales cycle is shortened. Brand equates to reputation and a category in the buyer's mind. The more that a brand is thought of consistently with what management envisions, the more successful that brand is. In addition to marketing and branding executives, it is the responsibility of the Account Manager to ensure that creative solutions meet the business unit/product/corporate brand. The result is more effective work, increasing ROI, and effective brand building reducing the sales cycle for the organization.
Focusing on cost avoidance, increased revenues, and the benefits more on-target / effective work provides. Assigning your own organization's metrics to these will go a long way in helping management realize the value Account Management brings to the Creative Services organization and the increased value Creative Services will bring to realizing the organization's goals.
*** Join Susan at Cella's "Beyond the Creative 2: Business Operations for Creative Leaders" training in Chicago on April 24-25 where she'll present "Elevating Creative Services Through Account Management." Learn more at https://www.cellaconsulting.com/beyond_the_creative/BTC2/ . ***
Cella Consultant Susan Hunnicutt is an expert in using marketing and communications to achieve business objectives. She works with organizational leaders to assess their needs, determine their goals, analyze their resources and develop an action plan and recommendations to meet these goals. Susan's value proposition is taking a growing in-house creative team "to the next level," not only in metrics but also in systems and processes, quality control and increasing the number of high-profile and quality client projects.