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How to Perfect the Client Onboarding Experience, with Taylor McMaster – Episode 83

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Marcel Petitpas

Marcel Petitpas

March 23, 2022

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How to Perfect the Client Onboarding Experience, with Taylor McMaster – Episode 83

Mar 23, 2022 | 0 comments

Marcel Petitpas

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This week, our guest is the founder of DOT & Company, Taylor McMaster. With full-service client account management services, Taylor and her team help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy – and, by extension, keep agency owners focused on what they do best!

About Taylor McMaster

Taylor leads a team of Client Account Managers at DOT & Company, training the CAMs to work with different agencies. To date, they have helped dozens of digital marketing agencies free up their time to prioritize the money-makers in their businesses, all while the DOT team ensures their client experience runs super smooth.

Taylor spends her spare time renovating houses around Nova Scotia, Canada.

Points of Interest…

  • How DOT Specializes in Account Management 1:31
  • The Role of an Account Manager 3:03
  • Keys to Account Management 8:00
  • Managing Client Expectation 11:35
  • How to Better Your Account Management 13:06

What DOT Specializes In

It’s always a pleasure to have other agency nerds on here – and account management is not an area that we’ve necessarily gone deep into, so this is something I’m excited to tackle. Plus, Taylor is a fellow Atlantic Canadian; not many of us out here! Ironically enough, we were connected via a common contact located in Australia, so yay internet!

As ever, I ask Taylor to outline in her own words exactly what DOT brings to the table…

“We do client management for agencies. So, our main role is to come into an agency and to make sure the agency owner is not doing all of the client day-to-day management. That is everything from client communication, to project management, managing subcontractors, and being the day-to-day communicator for the clients, plus being a client advocate within the agency.”

So, are you an agency that is growing, scaling, and generally realizing that you’re being sucked right into the minutiae of client management? Then an agency such as DOT can swoop in with their expertise and act as a client account manager for agencies.

This is all super important – not just to aid growth but to protect scope, keep clients happy, and optimize client retention by keeping them informed.

Account Management Meets Project Management

We’ve done episodes where we’ve discussed client communication, and so on, but we’ve never really boiled it down to account management. What is the exact role of an account manager? The answer to this can be hard to define if you queried 10 account managers about what they do every day, we would invariably get 10 very different answers.

Therefore, I’m keen to ask an expert in the field of her definition of account management and its purpose.

“Every agency looks different, however, for the purposes of what we do at DOT & Company, the role of an account manager is to glue it all together. Think of an account manager as holding all of the information, both from the side of the client and from the agency.”

Simply put; an account manager is responsible for keeping the client happy. How do they do that? By being super proactive with communication and project updates, while providing general hand-holding for the entire process. They’re also responsible for keeping the team aware of project stages, where the client is at while ensuring everything is operating smoothly from both sides.

In Taylor’s experience, the account manager/client relationship is as important as the Project Management side of proceedings. So, what is the intersection between account management and project management? We have seen many different ways of structuring teams around these two disciplines; some agencies have the departments split, while others have one person fulfilling both roles. What is the optimum balance?

“I always say, look at what your scope is. What are you doing for clients? A lot of our agencies are digital marketing agencies, or traditional marketing agencies, without hundreds of clients. In which case, having one person in this role – and I know it sounds like a unicorn – but it is possible.”

A single person in such a role – doing both client management and project management – does make sense. After all, these things are super nuanced and could be described as existing on a spectrum. ***Taylor expands on the “moving pieces” involved in such a role from 5:52 minutes***

Keys to Account Management

What does effective account management organization look like within an agency? What are the keys to having great account management? Given every agency is different, the main thing is having someone in the seat talking to clients, onboarding them, and chatting with the internal team. As for the keys themselves? Taylor summarizes thusly…

“There’s a few key elements that make a really good account manager. Obviously, it’s communication style. So how are you speaking to clients? How are you informing clients? How are you making your clients feel? I know that’s more of those warm and fuzzy things, but really – at the end of the day – we’re all working with people.”

Having someone who actually enjoys engaging with clients, is of the utmost importance. When Taylor and her team are hiring the gut feeling they get from a prospective candidate is almost as key as their level of experience.

When it comes to systems and processes (and it always does), clients will come to Taylor and query the required Project Management software, and/or the optimal workflow. They want to know the specifics. So, what does she tell them?

“There are so many cool tools and tricks that you can put in place, but really the most important key elements are keeping clients up to date. Make sure that nothing’s falling through the cracks. Communicate with your clients in a way that makes them feel like they’re the only client on your roster. Most importantly; make sure that things are actually getting done!”

For example; if you tell your client that you’re going to have new creative to them by Friday, are you actually going to have new creative on Friday? Or are you not managing that project properly? These soft skills are really important to have within the account manager role as opposed to other positions in the agency. You are not ‘sales’, or building websites/Facebook ads, you’re way more than that. Account Managers are client advocates.

So, to recap, the keys to being a super Account Manager include…

  1. Innate communication skills
  2. Project Management prowess
  3. Process, process, process

Having a process in place is super important, especially for onboarding, but most importantly, ongoing management. For example, you don’t want someone excited to come on board and then flop because you forget to talk to them or send them a weekly email. You need to ask them how they’re feeling about the agency and how they’re feeling about you.

Managing Client Expectation

Is it possible to communicate with the client too much? Is a daily update excessive or expected? So many questions. This is why managing client expectations from the offset is so important. You need to be clear from the start, saying something like…

“You can expect to hear from me several times a week about the project’s progress. If this feels excessive, let me know! I just want to make sure you always feel like you know what’s going on and every email will come from a place of service.”

This level of communication is supercritical and makes such a huge difference. Most people have had the experience of hiring someone and then having to hold their hand. This undermines the value of the service that you’ve purchased. And, trust me, there’s no better feeling than knowing you can trust the person you’ve just hired!

Your client knowing they can count on you to keep them updated on the exact stuff they need to be kept in the loop about is invaluable and key – not only to onboarding clients but possible future referrals and retention.

Do You Need to Work on Account Management?

Are you listening to this and they’re thinking, “Man, yeah, we could really do a better job at account management in our agency.” Where should you start? How should they think about mapping out that baseline process?

“It all comes down to where you’re at in your business. So if you are just starting out and you’re wearing all of the hats, I would definitely suggest keeping this account management role – with you until you scale.”

I know what you’re thinking… “But how do I scale if I’m wearing all the hats?!” It’s OK. Just try to focus on onboarding more clients as you start to scale. Only then can you look at where you are really strong in your agency. Do you excel at sales or fulfillment? Perhaps strategy is your bag, or – yes – account management? Wherever that piece is, that will dictate your next hire.

If you’re wondering how you can recognize that you’re at that pivotal point? Well, you’ll find yourself lying in bed at night fretting about that pivotal client you can’t recall if you emailed back… In other words, if/when you realize that you need to work on the business, not in the business. Account Management very much falls into the latter category of “in” the business.

If you find yourself in this position, then it is most definitely time to start considering prospective Account Managers, even if only on a part-time basis for starters. It doesn’t matter if you offer tons of different services or one exact service; an Account Manager is someone who can come in and learn the ropes of your agency. That includes being able to “talk the talk” while managing projects like a boss!

With that in mind, what are the next steps? Well, it’s never too soon to start identifying your onboarding process. Not only do you need to recognize where it is right now, but where you want it to get to. ***Taylor talks identifying potential holes in your process from 14:45 minutes***

Key Takeaway…

If you’re still trying to wrap the noggin around Account Management, let’s take marketing as an example. Typically, you want to start from the bottom of the funnel and move up. Why? Because the changes we make at the bottom of the funnel have a greater impact on the entire funnel.

The same is true for Account Management. You want to start at onboarding and then work backward from that. Why? Because onboarding is the highest impact, the highest lever in the client relationship and the client life cycle. Then, start to zoom out and look at the broader life cycle of a project. This will help you to understand how to communicate more effectively on the long tail so that clients are happier to stick around longer.

Even if you’re not getting really AMAZING results for your clients, in Taylor’s vast experience, these clients will stay on with you longer if they have a really good relationship and a good experience with your agency. ***If you want to know how to measure this success rate, Taylor dives into the metrics behind your account manager’s performance from 16:22***

And, remember; if you find yourself drowning in emails, overwhelmed with client correspondence and project timelines. You’re worried your clients feel forgotten, but you can’t get out of the day-to-day long enough to give them the attention they deserve. Lucky for you, client management is what Taylor’s team does best. So, do feel free to reach out to her via the links below!

See more from Taylor…

Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.

Our next installment of #APP, on April 6th, will see Marcel chat with Dan Englander. Our previous blog – Episode 82 with Noel Andrews – can be viewed here…


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Agency Profitability Tool Kit

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