I am still on the search for a tool that incorporates all the necessary data points one would need to facilitate account management. It’s a tricky thing — building a client relationship. You need to be strategic, transparent, focused on account health and innovation while still being able to document, organize, and recall the relevant information. I’ve used tools like Confluence, JIRA, Basecamp, and the like, but none of them give you everything you need to understand and assess the client landscape, capture the account status, and strategically propel the account forward.
I’ve always been on the fence about how to actually go about organizing a client account. Should it be done through the eyes of the client or should it be done through the eyes of the agency? There are lots of moving parts as an AM, you are an extension of your agency, but you work on behalf of your client. Would it make more sense to build a tool as if you were the actual client? Or should you do it like most AM’s do it and put together account plans from the agency side?
The question I have is this…can a tool be built that integrates all imperative data pertinent to account management? More importantly…can I build this tool? Yes to the first question. Maybe to the second! Let’s take a look at what we need…
Understanding client information
We obviously need info about our client to form our basis for who we are working with. It’s a part of the client landscape. It entails regular information like company name, overview, number of employees, type of product/service, annual revenue etc. It would also be nice to understand the history of your agency’s relationship with your client, what projects have you worked on, what relationships do you have and with whom. Easy, right – it’s just text on a page.
Then it would be nice to know all the things relevant to your client’s business. Who are their users, their competitors, what’s their marketplace look like? Who is the best in their industry, are there any disruptors or influencers trending or shaping their industry? This is a little more difficult. RSS feeds, social channels, etc.
We also need to know what technology our clients are using. Are they using WordPress, Drupal, Adobe EM? Are they leveraging Salesforce, Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua? The list goes on.
Organizing client information…
There’s a lot of information above and it could be pull in in different ways. But let’s assume that we’ll be building this in WordPress and we’ll probably be using a number of plugins. I’m comfortable with that.
I already know that I’ll need my client’s blog and social channels, competitor blogs and social channels, best in biz blogs and social channels, technology blogs and social channels, you get the point. I know this can be done with a few different plugins. But we’ll have more than one client or one account, so should we set up accounts on different pages or different subsites? I don’t think a page is going to be able to capture all that we need, so let’s say subsites for now.
We’re going to need our client’s analytics information and have it displayed. I believe there is a plugin for having a Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – data viz, man! We might also need to put PDF’s on the site that are our own assessments of our clients (brand assessments, SWOT/PEST analysis, etc.), and I know there’s a plugin for that. Or you could just upload the PDF’s to your media library (or server) and link off to them in WP.
We also need to look at our client’s goals. This would be a different section where we could write down their goals and revisit when the time is right. But this way, at least we have a record of all the things our client wants to accomplish. This is easy too – text on a page.
Managing client projects…
Then there’s actually pulling in the information from one (or all) of your project management tools. Teams use JIRA or Basecamp, Confluence and the list goes on. I’ve done some reading and there doesn’t seem to be a great way to pull in any of those tools. I might need to get a developer involved so they can connect things with the REST API. But that sounds difficult.
There is a WP Project Manager plugin that looks like it can do a lot of what Basecamp can do. However, I’m not sure if it’s enough to get your agency to switch over from the tools that you are familiar with (probably not!). It looks like this plugin lets you create new projects, details and titles, and assign users. You can create to-do lists, messages, milestones, upload files, etc. So, much of what the other project management tools allow you to do. Maybe I’ll start by using this with my freelance clients and adding users to WP as I need them.
Propelling accounts into the future…
The last thing we need to look at is your client’s vision for their business. Where do they want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the line? We also need to look at the innovation that’s shaping your client’s industry. Is there anything there we may be able to leverage? I check to see who my clients are following on social media, what blogs are they reading, because that’s information that we’ll want to pull into this new tool we’re building.
And we also need a section for ideas and opportunities. I usually put all my ideas on Trello because it’s a great way to organize ideas according to themes or buckets. Here’s a cool plugin that lets you display Trello data in WordPress – WP Trello.
Building the actual tool…
Thanks for letting me talk this out, guys. I think the next phase of this is actually mapping out the sitemap and user flow for this tool. Which I will share with you (along with my thought process) when I’m finished. For now, I think this is a good starting point.
I always say “tech is easy, business is hard.” Once you figure out why you’re building something, the how comes much more easily.