I recently noticed that my LinkedIn profile was getting way more attention than it usually does (was it something I said?!), and after a brief check I saw that the increase came from people congratulating me on my one year working at the tree.
Over the past week, I’ve had some time to sit down and think about how the year’s gone at the treehouse, what I’ve learnt personally about the world of digital, building relationships and developing account management skills. I thought I’d share some of those musings here.
Introducing the tree
For those of you who don’t know, the tree is an exciting new digital marketing company (obviously and, perhaps, necessarily) based in Shoreditch, London. We’re a group of young, enthusiastic marketeers, designers, developers and videographers whose main aim is to be interested and interesting in the world
You’ve got a business, we’ve got content!
Some people think we’re doing an okay job, so we’ve just been nominated as start-up of the year by the Drum. Click here if you’d like to know more about the tree, our last 18-or-so months and the prestigious nomination —we’re chuffed, honestly!
Reaching an Understanding
I started in digital at one of the world’s biggest and best SEO agencies as a copywriter. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t say that the experience was enjoyable, but I did meet some great people and it did help me to form an opinion about where the future of marketing might be, and what I’d want from my next job.
I said goodbye to battery farm SEO and jumped on a train heading for London where I met up for brunch with Dan and Ed from the tree. They took me on and here we are. The best thing about it? I was learning right from that very first encounter.
I learnt that a lot of the structures I’d seen in my previous role in a big SEO company were unnecessary to form great client relationships, and to deliver to the highest standard. It boils down to something like this:
Less bureaucracy + a bottom-up approach to developing structures & processes = faster growth
Care a Bunch: Clients Are People, Too
When you work in a services industry —whether it’s marketing, finance or anything else —a large amount of your delivery should be in making sure your clients are happy with what you’re giving them.
What’s been great about the tree is that we’ve all had a lot of opportunity to shape the basic structures and processes of the organisation based around client feedback. If clients don’t want pages and pages of numbers and charts in their weekly report, why give them stuff they don’t want or need?
That’s why we’ve just redesigned our whole client report, knocking down what we had, and building it back up in the exact shape our clients have asked for.
Ultimately, I’ve learnt that while sometimes clients might need a helping hand understanding why we’ve actioned something, it’s our responsibility to demonstrate the value that action might bring using relevant evidence and logical reasoning. As an agency, our clients put their trust in us, so we need to prove our worth. Remember, clients are people too, so they want to know that their investments are being protected by people who give a shit.
Strong Client Relationships Are Essential
In my last job, I had barely any contact at all with clients, and when I did, I thought it wise to keep my mouth closed and let the Sales Account Managers or Technical Account Managers do all the talking. After all, what would a lowly SEO content writer have to contribute to the larger conversation?
After a while though, opportunity came to become more strategically involved, and now, a couple of years later and at the tree, I’m more interested than ever in delivering high quality stuff to our clients.
Here are a few salient things I’ve discovered:
- Need to communicate something complex? Get on the phone — email tone is easily misconstrued.
- Make sure you’re continually building rapport with your clients —an appropriate level of informality goes a long way.
- Admin should be constructive. If it isn’t, find ways to improve it —everybody will benefit.
- Constructive admin makes your life easier, so don’t feel guilty when you’re filling in calendars when you’ve got work to do. Work will always feel more important, but effective management of your clients, your tasks and your emails makes your whole team more effective in the long run.
- Team work is vital. Let’s delve down the rabbit hole with this one…
Never in a million years would I have thought that account handling would be the area of this-weird-industry-that-we-call-marketing that I’d be interested in the most —but that’s life for you!
My main aim at work is to ensure that clients get everything they’ve requested by the time and date we’ve told them it’ll be delivered, and to the agreed specification and budget. If we can do that every single day for every client and for every project, I’ll be a happy boy.
One of the main ways of achieving 100% client satisfaction is effective team communication. We’ve got a relatively flat structure at the tree, and that means that everybody can jump into a client email thread and offer an opinion/solution. This sort of fast action across the team means that everybody knows what’s going on, reducing the number of requests to explain what’s going on with an account. Just look at your emails!
Even better, when we re-did the reports, we added live client logs that provide a detailed look at what’s going on with an account, when an action was started and when it should (god willing!) be completed. Along with detailed content calendars and daily to-do emails, we’re getting good at making sure everybody is clued into everything that’s going on. It helps when the people you work with are fun, ridiculous individuals, too.
Teamwork will only take you so far, though. What account management all boils down to is really good plate spinning. The reason it’s so important to have client logs, open emails and content calendars is because a competent account manager can then collate that day’s activity and divvy it out effectively. This is where tools like Evernote become vital for people like me with terrible working memory.
I’m very much still learning the fundamentals of account management, but it’s something I’m passionate about —even if it has raised my caffeine and alcohol consumption levels dramatically.
Year Two at the tree
So there we are. One year down at the tree. What would I like from the second? More of the same, please! It’s been brilliant to get on board a project so early on in its development, and I’ve met some extremely talented folks who I have a lot of respect and admiration for. For myself, I’d like to raise the bar when it comes to delivering clients everything they want, when they want it.
Whether it’s content, social media, video, web design or development, it’s good to be part of an agency that’s now setting the standard. I’m aware that this is a very long post, but if you’d like to chat a bit more about any of the above, or about how the tree can support your organisation, do get in touch. :)