Account Madness - Kylie Searle, MBCS

By AdNews | 6 May 2024
Kylie Searle.

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

This time we talk to Kylie Searle, Account Manager, MBCS

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

There may have been a small amount of cosmic intervention.  It started with a school paper on the 1992 Pepsi x Cindy Crawford TVC...I know you know the one. And as an often less than studious teenager, I found myself in the unusual position of loving doing the homework!

After a perfect score on that paper which redeemed my academic record, I knew advertising was the industry I wanted to be involved in.  I took the ‘scenic route’, working in many areas of the industry before I found the perfect fit in the creative end. As a people person, account management is finally everything I love about building client relationships, but also being involved in work that I am inspired and passionate about. We’re all here because we love creativity.

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

Caught between a rock and a hard place is often a pretty accurate description. While it can feel like a tough spot to be in, I feel it’s one where, as a Suit I am at my most useful. By having lines of communication to each side of the discussion, I’m often the best equipped to steer through to a win-win scenario.

There definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all-solution when we get in this scenario. But by listening to both sides perspectives and understanding a client’s reservations or concerns, we are able to advocate for all. At the end of the day, we are all here for the same reason: to find a solution to a problem (in a creative way). If we keep our eyes on that prize, it’s always possible to reach the best solution.

Getting a creative idea up is often the most challenging part of our role, but also the most rewarding when all parties come away happy and with an amazing outcome that is going to drive real growth for a client’s product or service.

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

As much as there is a lot of fundamental 101 advice out there about how to manage expectations with clients, it shouldn’t go unsaid that every client is different. When it comes to presenting creative ideas, pay attention, ask questions and learn everything you can about how a client receives work and what they need to see. It could be a personal preference or a business requirement. By being able to personalise your approach and giving them what they need upfront, will make all those basic fundamentals work so much harder for you and you will be viewed as a vital cog in the wheel.

It can also have the added benefit of reducing client feedback, if you can anticipate prior to any presentation what questions and concerns may be asked, potentially you can avoid them being raised in the first place.

How to build strong relationships with clients?

Do what you say you will; when you say you will.

Words to live by. However, our role is multi-faceted, and while we should be reliable to manage process, it’s not the sole consideration when building a relationship. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different client service leaders, and those who are really successful all have a unique approach to building relationships that is specific to them – some are incredibly personable and others are absolute guns at process. I believe everyone should know their strengths and what they bring to the table. Leaning into these skills and knowing the benefits is a great way to bring value to a client’s business.

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

Some of the best advice I ever got from a Manager was “tough conversations suck, but if you don’t have them or try to sugar coat the facts, you might think you’re being nice, but it only comes back to bite you later.”

While I’ve been told that eventually it gets easier to have these difficult conversations, I’m still waiting, and each one is different. So, for now my universal rules are:

  • Be real and understanding with clients, often listening between the lines.
  • Always have a clear goal for the outcome of the conversation.

Between these two points, it’s possible to turn a challenging conversation into a positive outcome.

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

Content is being consumed in a vastly different way than ever before and our ability to target the right people’s attention is changing by the minute.

With the constant advent of new platforms, technologies and opportunities, it’s becoming increasingly important that clients’ various agency teams work more seamlessly together than ever. While there is definitely still a role for each part of the agency village, the sharing of information between teams needs to become more effective. To ensure that creative teams are working effectively to garner the best results for our clients, it is vital we enhance our understanding of how consumers are engaging with various forms of content.

Understanding how tools like AI driven personalisation and augmented reality can be effectively used is vital to ensure the advice we are giving is valuable.

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

Work on your listening skills, ask all the silly questions, and be understanding first.


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