Marketing agencies have a big problem right now relating to skill sets, experience, and the type of resource that is hurting innovation and results. Which is the circular reference of account managers that have pleasant voices, can run a lively call, but come up woefully short when it comes to results and delivering what a client asks for. This is because account management skills are becoming less and less important, but the agencies are filled with them, and they have a network that keeps them in play. It has been years, if ever, since they have done any of the technical or dirty work. But in 2017 that is what clients need. Even ten years ago the solution paid for by the client was pretty simple. A database and some marketing campaigns. In that climate account management was much more important. All providers had a different version of the same straight forward solution. Which made account management and the “relationship” the most important thing. If you had management on the client side that jived well with the account managers on the agency side the account and relationship were solid. Contracts and agreements were renewed easily and everything kept spinning. The costs and downtime associated with changing vendors was often too much to consider.
That is not the case anymore and the climate is much different. Databases, technology, marketing channels, data sources, and potential reach is much larger creating endless possibilities. So, marketing vendors need to deliver on requests and desires of clients that are much more complex, require specific and advanced skill sets, and are ever-changing. But the marketing agencies are still operating from a resource standpoint that puts an emphasis on account managers and project managers first and doer talent second. A client comes to the agency with a new request and there is a team of account managers to take the calls and say yes. But when it comes to acting on and implementing that solution there is nobody to do the work. The call or the off-site strategy meetings ends and the agency is helpless to act. The organization is filled with the wrong type of experience and resources. Most of the executives and managers haven’t done any of the ground level work in decades, if ever. So, the project stalls, the client is disappointed, and the relationship is in jeopardy.
The core reason for this issue is the circular reference of account managers. They bounce from one agency to the other and maintain their network of other account managers. Most of the time they are the deciders when it comes to hiring talent and deploying resources on projects. But the painful truth is they don’t know what it takes to get the certain project completed with success. So, they do a poor job of hiring that specific talent, they do hire more people like themselves, and that organization becomes bloated with resources whose core competencies are scheduling and running conference calls. High salaries, limited technical talent, not a billable resource, and limited experience doing the actual work. That may be a little blunt but it is the truth. It is not uncommon for the same account to have 5-10 account managers. The following sentence was true 10 years ago but not anymore. We are renewing the contract because we love our account managers. The other needs are just too real in 2017.
The worst side effect of this issue is that the established agencies lose their doer talent. That talent recognizes that newer and fresher companies will advance their skill sets and allow them to work on projects and with technologies that will advance their skills and careers. They recognize quickly that these established agencies offer little outside of the fifty to sixty hour work weeks and little chance of advancement. Another scenario playing out is the fact that account managers feel that such talent can be outsourced or fulfilled by offshore companies. Which is true in some respects. But they neglect the fact that these positions often require interpreting nuance and being close to the client and the specific situation. Then the worst of all scenarios occurs which is the organization has a lethal combination of only account managers, and offshore talent that can’t complete the technical work with the skills and quality needed. Further damaging the relationship. Marketing agencies are better served keeping a large bench of technical and doer talent, and reducing account management positions. Allowing them to flex and react quickly to the pace of today’s marketing and client needs.