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Proactive Account Management

March 6th, 2006 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

If you work in advertising or marketing you’re really in a service business. That’s pretty obvious. Your client comes to you with some money and says, “I want this thing done. Will you do it for me?” So they’re coming to you for a service. Actually, the client’s words are probably more like: “I need this thing done yesterday. Do it for me.”

The nature of the relationship between you and your client is such that you’re in a position to react. Your client expresses to you a need and you react to that need by delivering what they’ve requested. If you react by solving the problem or fulfilling the client’s request, then the service you provide will likely make your client happy.

This whole idea, though, is based upon one very important premise. Namely, that your client knows what they really need. Under this premise, the client is defining the deliverable or laying out the requirements for the project and it’s your job to make it all happen. They’re in the driver’s seat.

For you that might be the safest thing. After all they’re writing out the check when all is said and done. But what if the client doesn’t really know what’s best for them? What do you do then? Is there any place for a proactive response to a client?

I think there is. I think there is great value in leading the client rather than following the client, at least in some situations. It’s certainly important to understand and respect a client’s requirements, but I believe the “extra mile” is to anticipate the client’s next need or to propose solutions for the client that they may not yet know they need.

With technology projects the requirements are often a function of the client’s technical knowledge. In other words, your client is only going to ask you for things they know exist. If they’ve never seen it done, they’re not likely to ask you to do it. But…if you know about it and can see it would benefit your client, you can recommend it to your client.

Let’s take content management as a quick example. From my experience most people who’ve had a website for a while have felt the pains of trying to manage or update the website. It takes too much time and too much money and it’s always broken. For those who’re in this position, though, only a small percentage are aware that a solution exists.

A client that may approach you for a new website or even for a website redesign may not explicitly ask you for a Content Management System. Your client may not know that it’s possible to manage their own website via a web browser. It may be a foregone conclusion in their mind that they’ll have to pay a programmer to make website changes.

Additionally, your client may not be aware of the benefits of keeping website content fresh and up-to-date, both in terms of increasing traffic to their site and improving their site’s search engine rankings.

The more “in the know” you are with respect to technology the better position you’ll be in to consult with and guide your client. You don’t need to know how it all works or become a programmer yourself, you just need to believe that your clients will benefit from having someone looking out for their best interests and spend a little bit of time staying on top of technology trends. Technology blogs are a great way to do this.

So what newer technologies would I suggest learning about? Here is my short list:

  1. RSS (Really Simple Syndication)
  2. CMS (Content Management Systems)
  3. Blogging
  4. AJAX
  5. Local Search

What do you think about proactive account management? Will your clients accept it? Are you intimidated at the thought of keeping up with technology? Post a comment if you’d like.