You’ve probably already seen such pairs at work on agency projects without necessarily being able to distinguish them. The duo I’m referring to, the project manager and the account manager, work together to evolve your project and make sure it’s heading in the right direction.
Why two people? How are their roles different? And why are they advantageous to your projects? Let’s take a look at the differences between these two roles and what kinds of projects they’re best at contributing to.
A) The project manager
Let’s start with the project manager, this person’s profile is more operational than that of the account manager. Acting a little like the leader of an orchestra, this person tracks the day-to-day advancement of projects.
Looking at things in chronological order, when a project is given to a team, the project manager’s first mission will be to plan its launch to follow up on the reception of briefs from the business development team. It is therefore essential that the project manager identify key resources, prepare the documentation around the project plan, configure the management platform, then launch everything in concert with the team and the client.
The project manager must then manage the project’s execution by ensuring the plan is applied and the client’s needs and objectives are respected. At this stage, and during all the others, it’s essential to maintain good communication among all resources. The goal will be to serve as a facilitator in order to reduce silos, make project follow-up meetings run more smoothly and document the evolution of management tools.
The project manager’s main goals are to respect timelines and budgets and to satisfy the client. As we already mentioned earlier, project documentation (particularly meetings, requirements, decisions and major changes relating to the aforementioned) is the key to success, for both the team and the client. Beyond the operational aspect of their daily tasks, one of the project manager’s strengths (which goes hand-in-hand with the account manager) is identifying new business opportunities and risks for the client. The goal is therefore to ensure a proactive relationship, to improve the client’s digital maturity and to improve the performance of marketing initiatives.
For the same reasons, project managers and account managers essentially share the same objective: ensuring the quality of deliverables. The latter are closely reviewed before their presentation. The job of the project manager and account manager is to ensure that the scope of the project has been respected while satisfactorily responding to initial expectations.
Expectation management is therefore a major part of the everyday functions of both of these managers, whether we’re talking about client expectations (by ensuring their requirements are understood) or those of teams (by communicating clearly to ensure their satisfaction), but most importantly for the client.
When the project is coming to a close, the project manager and account manager handle the financial analysis of the mandate. The project manager ensures the project is properly shut down on the platforms used while documenting the termination of the client relationship and preparing a report.
Both managers then discuss the client’s upcoming challenges in order to maintain the business relationship, which is a very important and enjoyable part of both of their professions.
B) The account manager
When you think about the role of an account manager, the words that usually first come to mind are “strategy” and “vision.” The account manager is the guardian of the project’s vision and the business relationship.
This person is the account’s first strategic manager. This means the account manager always keeps an eye on the definition of objectives at the start of the project and on the planning of tasks to achieve them. Priority management will therefore be at the centre of discussions with the project manager as the project rolls out in order to best maintain client satisfaction.
As already mentioned earlier, expectation management (in collaboration with the project manager) will be essential. The account manager’s first goal will be to understand the needs, requirements and subtle inner workings of the client organization and to facilitate optimal communication with the project team and external partners to ensure client satisfaction.
In order to reach objectives, the account manager must have a deep understanding of the client’s indicators, tactics, results and activities in order to lead key meetings, such as quarterly executive reviews, and provide maximum return to the client.
In order to maintain and fuel these discussions about strategy and vision, the account manager develops a familiarity with the products, services, industries and, above all, internal practices of clients. This is one of this manager’s more important assets when building trust-based relationships in business and with teams.
This also allows the project manager to suggest new opportunities and create a 360-degree view that will be sustainable and profitable for clients.
In order to achieve the principal key performance indicator (client satisfaction), regular updates with the project manager are essential for confirming the quality of deliverables as the project progresses.
As we’ve explained, this complementary pair have a common objective: client satisfaction. Both monitor the evolution of a project so that everything conforms with established business objectives. However, not all clients or projects evolve at the same pace or grow at the same rate.
This managerial pair would be beneficial in a context in which you’re working with multiple stakeholders (for instance, internal stakeholders) who each bring a different level of expectation to the project. The project manager can therefore focus on the client’s teams and their own, while the account manager can spend more time with the executive level to understand all the whys and wherefores, thereby developing a project strategy based on this understanding.
Together, the project manager and the account manager will be guardians of the strategic vision in order to ensure initiatives are always linked with business objectives.
Finally, it’s important that your digital marketing initiatives fit well with industry trends and new developments related to particular platforms. Consider Google Analytics 4, for instance, which is currently the next big thing on our doorstep. The project and account managers can harmonize your timelines with the arrival of this type of new element so that your initiatives will maintain consistency with the current ecosystem.
To ensure each manager’s mission remains focused on the smooth roll-out of the project, regular communication between both parties is essential.
It’s therefore recommended that you establish weekly or bi-weekly alignment meetings, depending on the pace of the project.
As explained, some missions are shared: expectation management, client satisfaction, communication with teams and even the financial analysis of the project.
This means you need to divide these missions into sub-tasks to ensure you are advancing together at the same speed, although on different aspects of the project.
For example, the project manager will ensure the progression of final deliverables with all teams, and the account manager will handle the administrative aspect of the document to ensure everything gets summarized in a few points and quickly relayed during the next executive meeting.
Both managers support each other on a daily basis. The project manager has a presence on the ground with teams and direct clients, and the account manager spends more time at the more executive level of communications.
So don’t hesitate to ask your project and account managers about your mandates, irrespective of the context or size of your project!
They are there to satisfy your needs and help you achieve your goals according to your preferred schedule. They are also there to challenge you and help you perform better.
Don’t hesitate to query them to learn more about how they operate! Together, they’ll help you optimize the visibility of your projects at a more executive level within your structure and obtain the maximum return.