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SEM Account Reps

Who’s Your Rep?

Sometimes titles matter. We’ve recently changed the titles of our client-facing folks from “Account Managers” to “Analyst” to reflect what we feel is an important distinction: namely, who’s crunching the numbers?

For a number of search marketing agencies the Account Manager is little more than a functionary in a call center. They’re great on the phone, they’re comfortable with industry speak, but they rely on data generated by others, don’t do the ad hoc analyses, and don’t really know the technology “down to the bottom”. There are sharp analysts in the back room somewhere, but the client doesn’t get to have their phone numbers.

We opted to hire Analysts who could do everything: they have to be good on the phone, be great copy writers, and be sensitive to corporate politics. They also have to be terrific with numbers, spreadsheets and database analysis. Many of our internal user interfaces look a lot like a SQL query window. Finding folks who are highly gifted in both left and right brain functions is hard, but we think the benefits of having the client facing person also be the analytical wonk is worth the effort.

It would be much simpler to hire a bunch of good phone folks and a handful of good analysts, but we believe the analysis suffers when the analysts lack direct contact with the retailer and don’t have the full context of the accounts in mind.

Advantages to this approach:

1. Speed: response times are quicker because you’re talking to the analyst who’s doing the data dive.
2. Quality: the quality of the analysis is better because the analyst has deep familiarity with the account, the seasons, the offers, the strategies, the goals, etc.
3. Results: the management is better because the person “flying the plane” really knows how to fly and how all the pieces fit together, they’re not being coached by the control tower on how to land a plane.

Drawbacks to this approach:

1. It’s tough for us to hire analysts, hence we can only grow the business as fast as we can find top quality people.
2. As an agency, we can’t provide 24 hour a-day phone coverage. Finding folks with that skill set who are willing to work the night shift appears to be impossible, and the ubiquitous international call center is not an option.

We think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, however, for folks who need 24/7 coverage, our model doesn’t work.

The moral of the story is: the choices your search agency makes in this regard impact your account and ultimately your results. Look at the job descriptions on their website. You can learn a great deal about who you’re working with by who they’re trying to hire.

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Comments
2 Responses to “SEM Account Reps”
  1. EricL says:

    Interesting comments. As co-founder and VP of client operations of an SEM agency we’re faced with the same challenges. Though we call them “client managers,” these staffers are responsible for the relationship as well as the analysis & strategy of client programs.

    Finding quality people with both the left and right brain skills is a challenge. We’ve had success finding folks in agencies who want out and teach them search.

    We do have a separate team of individual specialist who focus on landing page optimization, analytics, test methodologies, etc but they too interface with clients. But they don’t “own” the relationship.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Eric.

    We truly believe hiring is the most important thing we do. Client retention, new client acquisition and profitability all flow from having top-notch people providing great results.

    Great technology is a necessity, too, but that’s a product of having smart marketers, statisticians and cracker-jack IT folks in house to build a flexibile, intelligent system. Again, a function of hiring well.

    Good luck to you, sir!