Cat Summers By Cat Summers
Client Director
19th June, 2024

There’s a lot of reputational baggage for agency account handlers – the Roger Sterling figure, with a first-class degree in wining, dining and all-round shmoozing. And in the modern-day procurement-hefty marketing world, we’re faced with more RFPs, SoWs and SLAs than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, those will always be key functions in Client Services, but I don’t think anyone would say it’s what gets them out of bed in the morning!

Reflecting on my own career and journey at Guy & Co, from starting up as a lean team in 2013, it was inevitable as an account director I’d write strategies and pseudo-direct creative work, especially when we used a large freelance network. But now with a robust team including top-notch Creative and Planning Directors, it begs the question – where do we add value in Client Services? And how can we elevate beyond the old Madmen stereotypes or modern-day-to-day hygiene factors?

Here’s some things that I think come into play…

1. Understanding what keeps our clients up at night

It’s an obvious one, but our clients’ business really should be our business. Which means understanding the metrics that really matter to them – the short-term results, yes, but also the long-term vision. Understanding how you can help them shift the dial and challenging them if what they want isn’t necessarily what they need. We’re advisors, not ‘yes men.’

It’s about working collaboratively and leaning in closely to what success looks like for each client – not just a similar company or challenge you’ve worked on before. It’s easy to fall into the agency trap of reporting on vanity metrics, which they’ll never pass upwards in their organisation. But what are the stats or sparks which can really be transformational?

I believe in the rhetoric that you should never ask a senior client how business is. With a laser eye on effectiveness, we’re helping drive it, so we should know it. If we don’t, how can we get closer to results?

It’s also naturally about finding ways to make our clients’ lives easier and to make them look good in their roles – to their boss, their company and industry. They’re people, after all. And whilst there’s a time and a place for small talk, what are their pressures that day, week or year?

2. Adding value by defining value

The perception of value is finally changing in adland, and at Guy & Co we’re shirking our old-school agency habits and shifting our focus from services, deliverables and ratecards – to outputs and outcomes. What’s the point in what we do, if it doesn’t actually deliver?

We believe in bravely effective results – and that can’t just be all talk. We try to understand how we’re really contributing to a client’s bottom line, and use performance-based models to put skin in the game. (As an indie, it’s nice to have that freedom).

And value isn’t just derived from quant metrics – the business, marketing or channel outcomes. It’s also the qualitative side – what the client (or indeed, procurement team) values from the agency relationship. Have we exceeded service levels, synced our ways of working effectively, freed up internal capacity, or upskilled their team?

For agencies, it’s vital we know and price our value – not just our time.

3. Be the voice of the client

Finally, within the agency cogs, it’s the account handler’s role to champion what the client needs and expects throughout the project lifecycle, and to challenge colleagues if we go adrift. (Vanity projects have no place). To have empathy for the commercial priorities and pressures, and to spend a client’s budget as if it’s our own.

We can also be that voice within agency rosters – what’s in the best interests of the l project and client, not just our own? We can be the champions of integration and effectiveness, coming back with truly joined-up thinking. In what can otherwise be the ‘murky, messy middle’ (as Campaign quite rightly calls it), between creative and media. Our clients value collaboration – not silos, and it always leads to much better results.

Do you agree? We’d love to hear from you!

If you’d be keen to chat with us about our ambitions and how we can add value to your brand, get in touch!