Delivering Growth: From Account Management to Strategic Consulting



CMOs and VPs of Marketing at sophisticated enterprise and SMB companies are looking for successful partnerships with their online marketing agencies, and agencies who deliver strategic consulting are best positioned to become partners with their clients.  However, it is rare to find an agency that has evolved to the a strategic consulting service model, as most agencies stagnate at the vendor relationship level.

Why do savvy marketing executives want partners rather than just another vendor? The answer is growth. If enterprise and SMB companies want an agency to simply pull levers and execute a service, then all they need is a vendor – and that may well be the first mistake in their online marketing plan. Providing a service will not necessarily deliver incremental gains and growth. Service alone will deliver the service itself, and there will be some gains and losses along the way. As a partner, the services delivered by an agency is a means to an end. That “end” result is achieving the goals all companies want:

  • More quality leads

  • Increased sales

  • Reasonable ROI

Marketing leaders should demand partnership and growth from their online marketing agencies. Delivering growth becomes more of a challenge with each passing quarter. Success can be elusive because of increasing competition, evolving technology, rising costs and changing algorithms in the online marketing space. This is true for both enterprise, SMB, and online marketing agencies themselves.

It is due to these types of challenges that the need for a trusted client-agency relationship has emerged. Clients usually see Account Managers, Account Executives and Client Services Specialists as service providers rather than as consultants and valued business partners, and most agencies fall into the trap of simply delivering projects and tasks.

Forward thinking agencies are taking the best qualities of account management and client services and coupling them with strategic consulting.  They are evolving from being an online marketing vendor to that of being a true partner in the client’s growth. The Strategic Consultant intentionally elevates the client-agency relationship from a culture of service provider and project manager to that of a strategic business partner.

Nine Ways to Evolve from Account Managers to Strategic Consultants:

  • Strategic Consultants strive to become an indelible part of their clients’ success and as such, become an integral part of their client’s goal setting and high-level strategic discussions.

  • Agencies need professionals who are actively growing and retaining their clients. This is not an “either/or” need. It is a “both and” vision. Strategic Consultants work to retain and grow their clients. This retention and growth should be the result of strategic contributions to achieving and exceeding client goals rather than just being a taskmaster, note taker, and communication funnel.

  • Strategic Consultants are problem solvers and problem anticipators. The truth is a reactive Account Manager might run through fire drills faster than a proactive Strategic Consultant, but a Strategic Consultant anticipates challenges before they arise, saving more time and money over the length of the online marketing strategy.

  • Strategic Consultants have a broad view of the clients business goals, while an Account Manager has a narrow, task-oriented view. An Account Manager may simply want to discuss a single tactic, while the Strategic Consultant will want to discuss the insights of the data from a cross-channel and even omni-channel view.

  • Strategic Consultants guide online marketing strategies by collaborating with clients and leveraging and managing a team of expert specialists that can include SEO, PPC and Web Analysts.

  • Account Managers will ask for more budget and up-sell the client to other services. A Strategic Consultant will present a strategy that is beneficial to client growth.

  • Account Managers can be stuck in role of project management. A critical element to delivering results is indeed project management, but the completion of a project does not necessarily grow a client’s business. It is the growth of a client’s business, the true success of a marketing strategy, that elevates an agency to that of a true partner — a trusted adviser to the client’s organization.

  • Account Managers often provide data, but Strategic Consultants provide the story behind the data. Strategic Consultants interpret the data, analyze it, and make recommendations. An example of Strategic Consulting vs. Account Management is the Monthly Paid Search Review. If the agency simply just tells the client what their Cost Per Click (CPC), Conversion Rate and Cost Per Acquisition was last month, then all the client has is another vendor. However, if the agency is able to explain why CPC is down 25% year-over-year and deliver a strategy for continuing this trend into the next quarter, then the client has a valued a partner who has provided a road map for growth.

  • A Strategic Consultant’s greatest skill is to be inquisitive. An inquisitive partner will listen and ask the right questions that peel back the layers of the onion and get to the core of the issues, needs and challenges of the client. It is from this place that the Strategic Consultant can provide a better goal-oriented solution.  Then the agency is providing the kind of leadership that makes for lasting partnerships and online marketing success. The most important questions is: “What do you – the client – want to achieve?” Depending upon the answer to that question, the Strategic Consultant can leverage their experience, resources and knowledge to guide the client to achieving growth. The Strategic Consultant can then provide insight, recommendations and guidance that will help the clients help themselves.

It is from this position of trusted adviser that the Strategic Consultant emerges as a leader and becomes an indispensable partner for their clients’ growth. When their clients grow, the agency will grow. When their clients experience shortcomings, the agency will fall short with them.  With a steadfast commitment and passion, the Strategic Consultant can enable their clients to achieve their marketing goals – from their first interaction to the entire life of their partnership with the agency.

Check back soon for follow up posts on building a successful Strategic Consulting Model:

(Part II) Values-Based Strategic Consulting
Beyond specific online marketing services and products – Strategic Consultants should embody the values that empower a culture for achieving success the right way. Integrity. Professionalism. Expertise. Relationships. Service.

(Part III) Delivering A Strategic Consulting Model
Leadership, Advocacy, Relationship Building, Services and Project Management

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