The Many Hats of Account Service

Here’s a scene:

Me, at a mixer, cold beverage in hand, making small talk with a new acquaintance, when the conversation takes a dark turn.

“So, what do you do?” they ask.
I panic, “Uh, I work in advertising.”
“Oh. Like Mad Men?” their face lighting up with recognition.
“Yeah, just like Mad Men…” I sigh and exit, pursued by bear.

See, I’m an Account Service Supervisor ­– it says so on my business cards and in my email signature. But the truth is, even though I’ve spent the last 15+ years of my life refining the craft of account service at marketing firms from Wisconsin to Texas, I have trouble explaining my profession. I think the reason it’s so hard to define an account service role is because there’s such a wide range of responsibilities and skills needed that even I find it difficult to sum up what I do into something digestible, let alone interesting.

So, what is it that I do?

A lot. In account service – particularly if you want to be good at your job – you have to wear a lot of hats. Here are a few of the more important ones:

 

The Ringmaster – It’s a circus and somebody put the AEs in charge. It’s our job to know who’s doing what, where things are, and communicate that to the audience (clients) and performers (coworkers). When the elephant gets loose, guess who better find a bag of peanuts – quick?

Hostage Negotiator – AEs walk that fine line between pleasing the client and doing what has been proven to get results. Knowing when and how to compromise, when to push back, and how to clearly communicate expectations. And the always fun task of negotiating expectations when stacked up against budget.

Businessman – I went into marketing because I hated accounting. Sure ‘nough, turns out that a big part of account service is making sure your clients know what they’re paying for ahead of time, get what they’re paying for, and oh yeah – pay for it. Helps to have a hint of left-brain in this right-brain world of marketing.

Interpreter – Forget the clients, inside the walls of any agency it’s no easy task to get multiple departments on the same page. Acronyms like PPC, ISCI, CMS, CRM, SEO – you have to know them all, and, more importantly, know how to get people speaking the same language. Add in outside sources that may or may not be well-versed in industry lingo, and you and your KPIs can kiss your college English classes goodbye.

Surrogate – Similar to “interpreter”, the account service team has to act as the client’s voice inside the agency walls. AEs need to have at least a feeling of how the client will react to everything before any piece of creative, media, or strategy is presented.

Sage – Curiosity is a highly underrated quality. How does media buying work? What are the latest trends in social? What’s your client up to? What did that new Atlanta agency just do? Just like every other industry, the amount of information out there can be humbling, but the job is to stay up-to-date on all of it. The desire to learn is a must. If you enjoy it, even better.

Forester – AEs must see the forest and the trees. Knowing the big picture (strategy) as well as the lil’ bitty details (tactics, metrics, and deliverables) are all important. Both need to work together, and if they don’t, both will fall apart.

 

Personally, I come to work every day because I love the challenge. There is no shortage of variety in this line of work, and whenever a new client comes in you get to learn about a whole new company and/or industry.

Account service isn’t for everyone because you have to be everyone; but if you’re interested in making this awkward conversation your future career, getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. Network. Take informational interviews. Join Ad2 or Adworkers. Apply for internships or jobs regularly if for no other reason than to practice interviewing. Watch Zizzo Group’s Careers page. Keep learning. Always keep learning. And feel free to reach out to me with questions.

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