Back to School: Lessons from Account Executive College

3 min read

When you’re an account executive, life is an ongoing game of telephone–sending third-person messages between your agency’s clients and creatives, making sure they result in high-quality marketing materials for your brands.

While we think our processes are pretty good here at Well Done Marketing, there are always ways to improve so we sent three of our newest members of account service to Second Wind’s Certified Account Executive College. Account executive Jennifer Welch and account coordinators Alex Williams and Ariel Sexson spent two days in the Windy City exploring the traits of the very best account executives—and getting to know each other a little better, too.

“It was a relationship-bonding experience for the three of us,” Alex said. “We all work on different accounts and it was kind of nice that we could bounce ideas off of each other.”

Account Executive College is described as one of the most comprehensive courses available for agency account staff. After they shared details of every meal they ate and how long the drive was, we sat down to discuss what the key takeaways were. Here, they offer insight into how the account service department can contribute to an agency’s success.


  1. Do research. Then, do more. In addition to knowing clients’ personalities, successful account executives anticipate their future needs. The best of the best research their clients’ brands and find ways to offer progressive ideas, keeping the agency-client relationship fresh and moving forward.

“You want to always be abreast of the industry standards,” said Ariel.


  1. Build relationships. Inside an agency, account service staff are the folks who maintain the closest personal relationships with clients and build trust as they exchange feedback and work on projects together.

“There was one quote I thought was super interesting by David Ogilvy,” said Alex. “The gist is that an account manager should be able to fill in for the client should she or he fall ill. You want to be so knowledgeable of your account, and the business, that you can fill in should that happen.”


  1. Always remember: There’s no “I” in Team. Since client service is the liaison with the agency’s creatives (writers, designers, and producers), its staff has to know how to translate a variety of feedback, good and bad, to produce great work for clients.

“If the client gives us negative feedback, we have to frame so it will help the create team give the client what he or she is looking for,” said Jennifer.


  1. Schedule discovery sessions. Projects turn out better when everyone involved has ownership. So, it’s important the entire team, including the creative staff, has a first-hand opportunity to meet clients, ask key questions, and understand needs.


  1. Keep it real. While good marketing agencies know how to make magic with their clients’ brands, everyone involved in any project must have realistic expectations, as well as specific and measurable goals. Good account executives know how to create transparency.


In the end, they all agreed that the best account executives care deeply about all the professionals in a creative process, from the clients to the writers, designers, and producers involved. And they offered an anonymous quote from the conference’s materials to summarize what they learned:

“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way you do it.”