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One of your clients, a large retailer, calls you and wants your agency to come in to present how you can assist them in leveraging a MTV music sponsorship they have just negotiated. Knowing that this might be the solution to the downturn they are experiencing in consumer interest, you are excited about the opportunity and quickly alert your account team for a brainstorming session.

The team is initially excited because of the unique "young & hip" appeal MTV brings, yet there are serious issues with the target audience and how to best leverage the sponsorship. The young, fickle consumer your client is after does not represent the majority of consumers who actually BUY their merchandise. The MTV target should really be replaced with VH1. You know the client is not going to be happy to hear your point of view —especially since they've already negotiated the contract with MTV.

This real-life example portrays what can happen when the client is not focused on their marketing objectives. And it is by no means an easy situation to deal with. Along with not focusing on the right target market, the client didn't let the agency know they were considering sponsoring an MTV event. There are other reasons that clients end up sabotaging their own efforts. However, it's these situations that provide you the opportunity to stand your ground and do what's best for your client by objectively providing them with the best possible solution.

What happens when the roles are reversed and it's the agency that is not focused on doing what's best for the client? There at least three reasons for this happening.

When a client manager has their own agency's agenda in mind. This type of thinking can take away from providing sound advice or solutions. An example might be up-selling the client work even if they don't need it.

When an agency has lost touch with their client's core business objectives. A perfect example is when Young & Rubicam began to lose touch with their client of 20 years, MetLife. MetLife's business had gone through enormous changes within a year, yet Young & Rubicam was not focused on those changes and MetLife essentially divorced them. It took Young & Rubicam a lot of hard work to win back the account.

When client managers just "do" what the client asks of them without thinking it through. "Your client pays you to give sound advice, not to agree with them just to agree," states Jennifer Quermann, Director of a well-known online service.

How do you do what's best for your client and provide sound advice? The first and most important rule is to know your client's business better than they do. When you need to object, you have hard evidence to support your reasoning. In the case of the retailer client, the account manager should be able to push back with supporting demographic and sales data.

Secondly, create a relationship with your client so that the channels are open to collaborative dialogue. This helps you both stay in tune to what's happening with the account and it ensures better solutions for marketing issues the client may be facing. Lastly, know what it takes to do good work—understand what is realistic and what isn't in your field of expertise, and don't be afraid to state it. Standing your ground may be tough, however in the long-term, you are building trust and solidifying your value to the client by doing what's best for them. And believe me, more (and better!) work will follow. A client who trusts you will try you out in other areas and services you provide.

As an account manager, you are the mouthpiece for your agency and your biggest responsibility is to keep what's best for your client's business in mind. Even though you may have to hold those difficult meetings with your creatives and/or clients—know your stuff, keep the channels of communication open, and stand your ground —you will be respected and you will all agree you are doing what's best for your client and your agency.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teresa Gay is the founder and managing principal of Lucinant Marketing LLC (www.lucinant.com), a client management consulting and training firm based in San Francisco, CA. She is also the Chair of the Bay Area PMA Chapter as well as VP of Communications for the SFASTD Chapter. You can reach her at teresa@lucinant.com.