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Zen and the Art of Account Management

Published: November 19, 2014

Author: Sean Marshall

You’re under siege. Barely 10 minutes into the workday, and four clients have emailed or called you with mission critical tasks to execute. There are only so many hours in the day….how will it all get done? What if you can’t do it? What if you rush and make a mistake? What if, what if….
In the immortal words of Douglas Adams: Don’t Panic.
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Panic leads to paralysis, and if you’re stuck, nothing will get done. In times like these, it is best to step back, assess the situation, and get organized. Only one person has a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening with all four of these accounts – and that person is you.
But what if you fail? What if you make a mistake? What if your client leaves? What if they all leave?
The reality is that, if you are this far gone and underwater, expect a negative outcome from one if not more of these clients. You should also realize a simple fact: no one died. The earth continues to spin on its axis, and while you want the best for your client partners, it doesn’t always work out perfectly.
Now, the best way to avoid a scenario like this is to have been organized in the first place. Things like roadmaps, call agendas and recaps, shared docs – all of these things should be in place to ensure client and agency are in lockstep with one another. If one priority is ignored for the sake of another, there should be no surprise.
The name of the game is expectation-setting, and these expectations should be grounded in the fact that we are humans, not machines. Sure, we leverage advanced bidding algorithms and automated scripts, but humans are still the driving force behind the world’s best marketing programs. Humans deal with getting sick, family emergencies, and every other flavor of circumstances.
Sometimes, the best approach is to level with people.
Yes, it’s true that some folks are unreasonable. Many of us put career over many a thing and create a perception of being single-tracked machines, hellbent on work work work. In these cases, embrace the zen of account management – control what you can and embrace the potential for a failed engagement.
You’ll find that most people are reasonable, hard-working folks who want to achieve great results all while preserving the things that make them reasonable humans. Chiefly, their own sanity.
The four clients who just bombarded you earlier today likely have some concept of what they’re asking. They realize they’ve just thrown you a curveball. Chances are, someone else threw them that same curveball. You’re in this together, and the sooner you realize this and verbalize it to your client counterpart, the sooner anxiety will fade, work will be assigned, work will be completed, and the day will be won.
As we enter the depths of the holiday season, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I still have vivid memories of launching Black Friday promos my first year in search, thinking this was crazy (Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family). As time has passed, I realized the best cure for this was a mix of preparation, and a healthy dose of perspective.
Putting pressure on yourself because you’ve left work late is your problem. Don’t be “that guy”. Planning ahead and getting as much done as possible for this Black Friday task left me the simple task of activating ads (thank you URL params for easy filtering!) and keeping an eye out for disapprovals. Had I left it for that day, a great family weekend would have been ruined.
That said, even the best preparation can’t prevent the pressure you put on yourself, wanting to be successful. This is where perspective comes in. I repeat: no one will die if your program or test or anything you do fails in paid search.
It’s also important to remember that you are probably overstating the importance of what you’ve been assigned. We often view every project as the biggest, most important thing. Ask yourself: how much does this really matter?
It’s my belief that hard-working people, with the intention of delivering quality work, put too much pressure on themselves. Are the mission-critical tasks really mission-critical, or is that just you putting pressure on yourself? If you aren’t sure, have that conversation with your client.
Almost every time I’ve labelled something as “critical” and subsequently lived in fear of failing at this task, things worked out. Maybe it’s because I’m paranoid or maybe because I want to be prepared for the worst. The bottom line is that it’s never as bad or as critical as you make it out to be.
So don’t panic. Formulate a plan, communicate with your clients, and get the job done right. Win or lose, there’s always tomorrow.
(DISCLAIMER: if somehow your work is related to things like beer, sports, or nuclear war then yeah, GET ON THAT!)

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