Why too many account directors are a red flag
Written by Dan Lyttleton
4th September, 2018
If we look at digital marketing and agency life nowadays, a tech-enriched and fast-paced environment, is the role of an Account Director even necessary?
Let’s start by summarising by what we mean when we say an Account Director.
Account Directors lead client accounts within the agency, and ensure they continue to scale and drive profit. Their primary responsibility is managing client relationships and they are often brought in to win new business.
Compare that to a campaign manager who actively runs your campaigns.
Campaign Managers develop, run and optimise marketing campaigns for their accounts – their key responsibilities being to get their client’s products or services in front of their target audiences and enhancing the performance of their campaigns to drive results.
The stereotypical structure of a digital agency will usually involve having at least one Account Director and Campaign Manager working on your account.
It sounds fairly straightforward, but dive in deeper and a collection of issues start to manifest themselves when a digital agency focuses too heavily on investing in their pool of Account Directors.
Agencies should focus on enhancing and sustaining performance
Account Directors are not hands-on with their accounts and the actual campaigns that are being executed for their clients, with their role typically being to manage staff internally, lead conversations and present in meetings at a high level. Often an Account Director will not be analytically driven and may never have run a campaign themselves.
This means that they are one step removed from what should be their agency’s number one priority – hitting their clients’ KPIs.
If a digital agency is swamped with Account Directors then a huge portion of your client fee will be going towards administrators and fostering client relationships, not on enhancing the performance of your campaigns – the core reason you’re partnering with an agency anyway.
Complexity kills performance in this model
Whilst this is an issue for a number of advertising agencies it is especially problematic for performance marketing on complex platforms, such as Facebook, and emerging platforms such as Snapchat and Amazon. If an Account Director isn’t in the thick of running your campaigns and has a limited understanding of the platforms then they won’t know what strategies to implement and which levers to pull to drive a client’s business objectives.
They also won’t be proficient at managing the agency’s Campaign Managers – as they lack the skills and knowledge required to provide efficient mentorship that will help their Campaign Managers grow throughout the role and become more adept at performance marketing. Their lack of understanding on the mechanics of the platforms will also hinder their ability to give guidance or help with problem-solving.
Look for a team that has as much hands-on resource as possible
A digital agency shouldn’t need many Account Directors – in fact, in this day and age I’m tempted to say they don’t need any at all if they’re small to mid in size, with a few thrown into the mix for agencies that are scaling dramatically and operating across multiple channels.
An Account Director’s traditional, softer responsibilities can be spilt easily between the senior management team, even being delegated up to the Managing Director or VP of Client Services – especially when it comes to nurturing client relationships. The overall day-to-day management of the accounts can then be assigned to a small collection of Team Leads, who should not only be guiding the Campaign Managers but running and overseeing the campaigns themselves.
This ensures maximum resource is spent on driving results for the client, and the majority of a client’s points-of-contact are completely aware of the everyday running and progress of their campaigns.
Look for individuals with hard and soft skills
The key is finding a digital agency that has analytically driven performance marketers who are also trained in the softer skills required for client servicing. This is inevitably more difficult, but it means that you’ll not only have a team of analytical marketers working on your account everyday – they will also be able to understand your business objectives and use their knowledge to implement and optimise strategies that can help you to achieve those goals.
So, when you’re next looking to hire a digital marketing agency make sure you meet with everyone on the team who’ll be working on your account, and don’t be hesitant in asking who will be responsible for each element. You want to know who will be working alongside you everyday with the aim of smashing those KPIs for your company – not just the person brought in to impress you during the pitch process.