Account Madness - Kalvin Coates, Claxon

By AdNews | 27 March 2024
Kalvin Coates.

This series of articles looks at the world of the account manager.

This time we talk to Kalvin Coates, Account Director, Claxon

How did you end up account management? Was it by design or a cosmic accident?

If the universe had anything to do with it, I’d be working on a farm in Wales. But I had other intentions. I studied business, as I had no clue what to do with my life; all I knew was that I was getting out. Advertising as a practice within business stood out, especially after I watched Mad Men. I had no comprehension there could be a career like advertising, working with some of the brands you love to help shape their marketing. So that was it; I got my head down, and off to London I went.

My university allowed us to have some very practical experiences with clients, developing brand campaigns and presenting to a Board. I remember one of these presentations was to Selfridges, and after that presentation I was hooked. I didn’t care what my first role was, and I started in the industry as a planner/buyer. It just so happened that as I honed my knowledge, I gravitated towards account management.

Balancing clients’ objectives and creative vision can be challenging. How do you deal with that?

I am a champion of ensuring there is a clear alignment between the client's objectives and the creative that drives this. No one can argue with data, not even the creative team. But at the same time, it's important to ensure the creative team has enough rope so their creative expression isn’t stifled. We just need to manage that what we’re presenting to the client is backed by insight and aligns with the overall business strategy.

The way I see it, it’s not about winning awards, it’s about driving results. You need to have multiple creative options, or continually test the creative vision, to ensure what you’re producing will achieve the client’s objectives.

What strategies do you employ to clearly convey creative ideas to clients and address client feedback?

It’s one thing to explain a creative idea, but it's another to show it. Creative ideas need to be presented, either by video call or in person. You need to read the client’s reaction and lean in when you feel something isn’t being received as it should. Blindly sending through a PPT and hoping your ideas have landed will never work.

You need to take your clients on the journey through the thoughts and rationale behind the finished product. But most importantly, you need to present multiple ideas; I try to push for a minimum of three. This is when the feedback from clients becomes so important. If you present one idea and it is way off the mark, you’ve still got other ideas up your sleeve.

I take the feedback – even negative feedback - at face-value, you can’t take it personally. I also make sure I am either recording a meeting or have notes being taken word-for-word so I can make sure valuable feedback is not missed and we ultimately can deliver on the objective.

How to build strong relationships with clients?
This simply comes down to being genuine. Make an effort to find common ground, establishing trust in the client that you have their best interests at heart and you’re working towards a common goal. Go visit a client, call them, and be approachable.

At the end of the day, what you deliver impacts a relationship. So, if you’re not holding yourself and the team accountable for the work you produce, then you’re going to struggle to build or maintain a strong relationship.

Do you have any go-to tips for navigating challenging conversations with clients? And effectively selling an idea.

Honestly, it changes from client to client. But, if I were to distil it down to one thing, it would be just to listen, properly listen. Not to jump in with a gut reaction. As much as clients might disagree, they are not always right. The same is true for an agency. Holding yourself and your team accountable, or the client accountable, is important. If there is a better option, it needs to be presented, explained and debated.

A lot can be said about me when I first started dealing with clients. I’m British, we love to avoid any sort of confrontation. But the only way I’ve learned is by being in many tough conversations and seeing how different approaches affect the outcome. So long as you can present an alternative view or approach that is backed by insight and there is a clear execution path, then I argue that’s my only method for effectively selling an idea. It needs to be well thought out and you need to explain how you arrived at the idea or solution.

Are there any emerging trends or challenges in the industry that account management teams should be prepared for?

It’s AI. But depending on who you ask, it’s either a challenge or a formidable tool. 2023 was a year that saw the boom of different AI products. Some were gimmicky, but many helped to support the great work we do in the accounts team. I feel like we (the accounts team) are very much impervious to the oncoming wave of AI; you can’t replace the human touch and this is what being in account management is all about. It’s the relationships you form, it’s you.

At Claxon, we like to be at the forefront of how we utilise AI to improve internal and external efficiencies. If we can save 20% of time with reports, or allow ourselves to be wholly present in meetings because our notes are being taken for us, then it allows us to focus on the things that matter.

\What advice would you give your younger self when you first started out in account service?

If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’d need to tell myself anything. It wasn’t one thing, or one lesson that has got me to where I am now. It’s the hundreds of situations (good and bad), it’s the right and wrong decisions that I have made along the way.

Okay, maybe one thing I might say: just be open-minded, and allow yourself to be challenged. You can always learn something new.

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