Falling in love with the salesperson
If you have contracted for marketing services in the past then you know that some of the worst companies in this space have the best sales people.
They know exactly what to say and are excellent at selling the big brands and major experience of their firm. In the sales process, they will promote that they work with Honda, Nike, IBM, etc. and dazzle you with their experience and white papers, most of which are about companies much bigger than yours, i.e. the ones that they put their really smart account managers on. If you focus on this aspect of their pitch, you’ll probably be thinking “Wow, these guys must be really good. After all, Honda wouldn’t work with schmucks.”
They build rapport and confidence with you and convince you that everyone on their team will be just as good as they are and care deeply about your account. Now, we’re not knocking legitimate salespeople and the work they do, but a lot of companies in the online marketing space have adopted a business model that specifically focuses their resources on sales at the direct expense of service, because they believe it is cheaper to acquire new clients than it is to retain them.
This is the “churn-and-burn” model at its best (or worst). This is why we strongly recommend vetting the actual account manager before signing a contract, because when all is said and done, they are the one you will be dependent on for results.
The importance of account manager selection
As part of the build-out of our national network, we have evaluated thousands of companies and hundreds of individual account managers within those companies. We went into the online marketing companies and actually invested the time to understand the account management structure and its impact on performance. Here’s what we learned.
99% of the success of your relationship with an online marketing company will be determined by your specific account manager. What often happens is that when the sales manager closes a new account, it goes into a lottery system for account manager assignment based on which of their staff have the most availability. And guess who usually has the most availability? Newer, less experienced account managers who don’t already have a full book of clients. This is especially true if you are a small business client in a large agency.
Need help selecting a good account manager? We can help.
Account managers drive your experience and results
It may seem obvious to say that not all account managers are created equal, but our experience has been that most companies have very little formal, ongoing training or fixed procedures related to the communication cycles and work which account managers put into individual accounts. This results in an extremely high correlation between campaign performance and individual project manager assignment.
After evaluating the performance of hundreds of campaigns, we found that account managers who consistently ranked at the top end of the scale not only increased the performance of the campaigns they were responsible for, but also retained their clients longer. Communication was more frequent, follow-up was better and clients were generally happier.
So how do you get a good account manager?
Ask for one. More specifically, tell the vendor that you need to know who your account manager will be before you sign a contract. Talk to them, interview them and look up their background. What are their values? What’s their skill set? What’s their experience? Ask them specific questions about your website and what their plan is to help you improve it. If you don’t like the answers, ask for a different account manager up front.
What if you think you have a bad account manager?
Demand to switch. You should do this immediately. Wasting time trying to make a bad account manager better isn’t your problem - it’s a training issue that the vendor needs to address. You should never be shy about calling the senior manager at a vendor and asking for a new account rep if you’re not happy.
The big lesson here is that it’s fine to evaluate the company you’re going to contract with, but if you don’t evaluate them down to the individual account manager, you are risking the performance of your entire campaign. Don’t be dazzled by their client list, white papers and PowerPoint decks - focus on the people that will actually be doing the work for you.