Football board game

How to set up an agency account management process?

Lauri Eurén

Think of a football team. They have various formations to choose from with ten players and a goalie. Each player has a role; defenders stop goals, wingers assist forwards in scoring. Before a game, the coach prepares them for the match. Now picture two teams, equally skilled, facing off. One is prepared with a strategy, the other isn't. Who do you think will win?

If you've read the previous posts in this series, you now know how to help your consultants become trusted advisors. While you're seeing a business boost, it might not be the snowball effect you hoped for. You may have changed your culture, but client processes may still be lacking - or perhaps they're non-existent.

Let's talk about account management and how to maximize revenue from existing clients.

Creating an Effective Agency Account Management Structure

You should nurture accounts on three levels: strategic, tactical, and operational.

Operational level involves daily project work, interacting with client stakeholders regularly. These individuals become your collaborators, offering insights into frustrations and company goals, though lacking decision-making power.

Tactical level focuses on planning weeks or months ahead. Typically, a project budget or customer team lead becomes your primary stakeholder. Regular meetings ensure adherence to plans and secure future budgets. Consider portfolio-level discussions if handling multiple projects within an account. Establishing a steering group for bi-monthly or quarterly updates may be wise. Host monthly progress demos for stakeholders.

Tactically, clients may need budget approvals elsewhere, making it your job to support their internal success. Elevating their position within the client's hierarchy benefits you.

Strategic level discussions transcend project specifics and occur once or twice a year. Your goal is to engage with the client's C-level executives, deepening the relationship.

Not every account requires an elaborate management process. We suggest categorizing customers into four types:

  1. Strategic accounts: These are your largest accounts requiring active nurturing on all levels.
  2. Growth accounts: Aspiring accounts with potential for growth; nurture them across all levels.
  3. Steady accounts: Small to mid-size accounts with limited growth potential; focus discussions on tactical and operational levels.
  4. Reactive accounts: De-prioritize these accounts, but maintain exceptional operational work, minimizing focus on tactical and strategic levels.

Both strategic and growth accounts should have a designated account manager (or two depending on the size of the account). Setting up an account management structure coupled with having consultants constantly discovering new opportunities and delivering exceptional work will help you grow your accounts quicker.

Running an Agency Account Management Process

Manage your account teams like relay teams. The anchor, typically the account manager or lead consultant, has the latest account information. However, it's beneficial to pass the baton occasionally, sharing responsibilities. Have one leader for commercial efforts while involving others for fresh perspectives.

Interact with your clients on different levels:

  1. Strategic: Conduct 1-2 strategic meetings annually with your client. Discuss trends, future prospects, and significant opportunities. Seize the chance to introduce new insights since the last meeting. You should aim to meet with C- and VP-level stakeholders.
  2. Tactical: Hold tactical meetings quarterly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Here, finalize team structures, budgets, and work plans for upcoming months. This is also the stage for project portfolio discussions: identify crucial client objectives and your role. We recommend having these meetings by a whiteboard if possible.
    Organize steering group meetings, involving stakeholders from other projects, to help your client stakeholders share information internally.
  3. Operational: Tailor these meetings to the client's context, as different projects may require varied formats. In general, consider daily stand-ups, weekly or bi-weekly planning sessions, and monthly retrospectives with the project team to ensure smooth progress.
  4. Internal Meetings: You should meet with your account team internally every now and then. Establish a dedicated account discussion channel for casual conversations about new opportunities and roadblocks. Project teams should meet at least once every two months for collaboration discussions. If multiple teams work for a client, consider quarterly check-ins to talk about the overall project portfolio.
  5. The key is to adapt these meetings to your specific context and allocate just enough time for internal planning.

Benefits of a Clear Account Management Process

Having a defined account management process is key for agencies aiming to solidify client relationships and drive growth. Having a well-defined process has both direct and indirect benefits.

Direct Benefits:

  • Stronger Client Relationships: Effective account management is crucial for establishing trust and loyalty. It involves consistent and impactful communication, transforming professional ties into partnerships. When clients see your agency as a key player to their success, it solidifies the relationship. Optimally, you want to become The Trusted Advisor for you clients.
  • Increased Revenue Opportunities: Engaging clients systematically at various levels opens up opportunities for additional projects. Understanding client needs in-depth allows your agency to propose relevant services that align with their goals, thus expanding your work scope and boosting revenue.
  • Optimized Resource Allocation: With a structured approach, you can prioritize clients and projects more effectively, allocating your resources to where they can have the most impact. This not only increases efficiency but also improves billable utilization, ensuring your team's efforts are maximized for profitability.

Indirect Benefits:

  • Streamlined Communication: A systematic account management process simplifies internal and external communications. Setting regular meetings and updates ensures everyone is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and enhancing project delivery.
  • Competitive Edge: An agency that demonstrates a deep understanding of its clients' businesses and tailors its services accordingly stands out in the market. This reputation for thoughtful service can help retain current clients and attract new ones.

Key takeaways

In the agency world, account management is crucial. It's your game plan. Your consultants, trusted advisors, set the stage – your job is to master account management.

Break it down into three levels: Operational (daily tasks), Tactical (planning and discussions), and Strategic (C-suite talks). Tailor for four account types: Strategic, Growth, Steady, Reactive.

Run it like a relay race. The anchor, often the account manager, holds info, but fresh perspectives matter. Engage at various levels, help your clients succeed, so you'll eventually reap the benefits too, both the direct and indirect ones.

This is the 3rd chapter in the playbook on how to grow an agency successfully. In the next chapter, we’ll discuss how to make sure everyone in the team should join the process of building an up-to-date view of future projects and workloads.

Lauri Eurén

Lauri Eurén is the CEO & Founder of Operating - a former consulting professional with experience from hands-on consulting as well as leading an agency operation.


Download our Operating Routine for Staffing

Agencies and consultancies of all sizes – from a boutique to an international powerhouse – should operate efficiently. We wrote a Staffing Routine and a solid agenda for your weekly meeting. Get the guide.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.