How to Keep Agency Account Teams in Sync

Account Teams in SyncAs corporate-marketer-turned-agency-professional, one of the starkest contrasts for me was the decentralization of, well, almost everything. Teams, tasks and priorities are splintered across accounts, and your focus must shift between clients from one hour—or email—to the next.

With multiple clients to satisfy and competing priorities, it’s easy for wires to get crossed.

Below are six ways you can improve account team members’ communication to achieve greater transparency, stimulate collaboration, improve efficiency and deliver maximum value to the client.

1. Find a Project Management Solution

First things first: Don’t rely on Post-It notes and emails to relay project and task information. All client campaigns, projects, tasks and deadlines should be centralized, ideally in a client-accessible platform like Basecamp or Podio.

If team members work on several accounts, choose a solution that allows you to grant access to other task lists. This is your window into team members’ workloads, and will help you organize the work pipeline to accommodate agency-wide ebb and flow.

2. Make Priorities Crystal Clear

If your account team accomplished one thing today, do you know what it would be? Don’t work in silos or assume team members know where to allocate their limited workday. Whether a daily stand-up meeting or a weekly account priorities email, remind team members of the day’s, week’s or month’s priorities for each client.

Champion the 80/20 principle. Continually reinforce with team members that the majority of their time should be spent on the tasks or deliverables that generate the most value for the client. By acknowledging that certain tasks are more urgent or important than others, you avoid “analysis paralysis.” Time is spent getting the work done, not deciding what to do.

3. Centralize and Organize Information

Does your team waste time looking for documents, rethinking recurring tasks or hunting through email chains for the latest file version? These valuable minutes add up, and strain the mental bandwidth of your team in the process. End the hunt once and for all:

  • Consolidate client files and deliverables. House them on a shared drive or cloud-based solution for universal access.
  • Document processes and recurring tasks. Standardizing processes for key service and management areas is critical to agency profitability. If it’s regularly occurring or highly replicable, create a template, process or procedure.  
  • Develop an organized filing and versioning system. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be adopted agency-wide to be effective.

Set your teams up for success. Remember: The more information team members have access to, the better they can do their jobs.

4. Make Yourself Replaceable

Account team management is the ultimate lesson in making yourself redundant. Giving in to the temptation to “make yourself irreplaceable” creates a single point of failure, jeopardizes your client’s needs and cripples team member development.

The goal of each account team should be two-fold: To make each team member more capable of delivering value to the client, and to become a more valuable contributor to the agency. (Or perhaps three-fold: At PR 20/20, we instill the mantra, “Advance yourself. Advance your account teams. Advance the agency.”)

Some ideas for account managers and team leads:  

  • Take stock of team member strengths, and brainstorm creative ways they could add value to the client.  
  • Create a list of your agency’s core service areas, and look for opportunities to hand off projects that give team members experience in a new area.
  • Set aside five minutes to run through an account management process with a younger professional, or explain your reasoning behind a client recommendation. 

The few minutes you invest now will pay dividends down the road in capable and independent peers.

5. Track Time—and See Where It’s Going

We’re a big believer in outcomes over outputs, which means efficiency is key. Invest in a time tracking software to figure out where time is going. Check in weekly and monthly, and identify actionable goals for improvement. Ask yourself and your team:

  • Where is time being spent? Where should it be spent?
  • How can we continue to improve our productivity (manage email, calendar, to-dos, etc.) and make better use of our own—and each other’s—time?
  • How can we streamline processes/meetings/etc. to free up more minutes in the workweek?
  • How can we more effectively communicate expectations to one another on work product, so more work is done “more right” the first time?
  • How do we help each team member understand our priorities, so that more time is directed toward the activities that have the most value and maximum impact?

Time tracking can be intimidating because it creates accountability. But it also shows team members that you respect their time and want to see it used to its full potential.

6. Create Opportunities for Input

No two account teams will function exactly alike, nor should they. Solicit suggestions through direct questions (“Did you like the way we handled X? Why?”), and open-ended discussions, like quarterly check-ins. As a team, brainstorm and commit to account team “New Year’s Resolutions.”  Give and ask for feedback regularly to create an ongoing dialogue.

By reinforcing your commitment to a shared goal—making the account successful—you eliminate ego and alleviate common anxieties around constructive criticism.

Time and talent are an agency’s two most valuable assets. Commit to account team success, and watch your agency transform.

How do you keep account teams in sync? What challenges do you still struggle with?

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