How account management is evolving… slowly.
Client relationship building has been a buzz phrase for as long as I can remember, along with so many others – Content Is King, Digital Marketing and Data Driven Decision Making and so on.
Account management is quite subjective, for some it means making sure your paperwork is beyond reproach, for others it’s being on the phone constantly and for most it’s generating passwords for CMS when a new team member is onboarded by your client. There appears to be a slight shift in the way relationships between clients and agencies interact and vice versa.
No longer do agencies offer a complete suite of services, instead they offer specialisms and onsite presence. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ springs to mind. A good example of this would be WPP, and how thanks to some C-level indiscretions had a complete rethink of their branding and consequently their business. Most recently the most successful Superbowl ads have been done by newer agencies like David Miami whose tagline is ‘DAVID is a first-name agency. We believe in the personal.’ Ironically this company is derived from behemoth David Ogilvy and the internationally renowned, (now rebranded) Ogilvy agency. Larger agencies see they can’t offer everything at the same standard of quality so they are streamlining service offerings.
Why is account management important?
Clients buy into people and their main point of contact with any organisation is the account manager and executives.
Account managers listen to the giggles of happy clients, the frustration of clients who may have to wait for work to be completed and manage expectations of these wildly differing emotional states daily. Larger companies are actively streamlining their specialisms and putting their most proactive and relationship building people on the frontline. The people who exemplify emotional intelligence and will talk to clients in a way that supports their needs, is easy to understand and takes their feedback (positive or negative) on board and relays it constructively to the team working on the account.
Account management is more than paperwork and answering calls, it’s the catalyst between the Macro and Micro worlds of the organisation, the link to the external impression and feedback that can bolster and transform the internal communications and drive project and business growth.
How is account management evolving?
Putting people first. Account managers put their clients needs into context within the organisation and achieve the best possible outcomes for the client and the business. The balance of shared information, recognising priorities, recognising opportunities for clients to utilise their assets and listening to their clients. Listening is a skill that will always be invaluable for clients and organisations. Too often there is more emphasis on replying throughout conversations rather than listening, understanding, asking clarification questions and reflecting. With an instantaneous world raising customer expectancy levels, account managers need to steady the relationship pace. Ensuring that projects are completed on time and are as the client expected them to be while encouraging the internal team to be consistently productive and capacity manage their time. Striking this balance takes time and does not always work as well as you would hope. That learning, and recovery is significant to maintaining the harmonious relationship between client and organisation.
I was reading the other week that The Washington Post invites readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some of the entries from last year:
Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
Intaxicaton (n): Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Decafalon (n): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
Coffee (n): The person upon whom one coughs.
Esplanade (v): To attempt an explanation while drunk.
Flatulence (n): Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
I was reading the SteadyGo blog the other day, and I thought there’s nowhere near enough toilet humour on it.
So here we are, a selection of utterly brilliant plumbing solutions mainly involving toilets. Hold your breath….
Using Umbraco to create websites on the fly
In a recent application for a client I was tasked with, in effect, using Umbraco as a website creation tool.
Each website could adopt any no. of x to n rows of functionality in any no. of x to n pages and be customisable by a base set of 3 colours and a logo.
The types of function under consideration were messaging implementations of various styles, e.g. faux emails, faux social postings, faux organisation communications etc.
Notifications to all and/or specific users via SignalR implementation was also a key part of the application.
Membership within organisations was key to the success of the sites – however it was important that these ‘Site Members’ were NOT actual ‘Umbraco Members’, rather they were represented as grouped content notes comprising username, password etc under a site member’s node.
The implementation was to be designed in such a way that CMS access was NOT required in order to create websites.
Finally – the end product should be able to be deployed with base templates to either shared instances of the application OR private instances.
How was it implemented?
Obviously, this was quite a complex build – however in very simplistic terms it was constructed thus:
- Create a series of base template sites with every page defined, each page comprising the required functional rows – these templates hold skeletal content only.
- Create a meta frontend to the Umbraco CMS – allowing the selection of a base template, the copying and naming of that node and the updating of key content, team and stylistic information.
- Deploy the above framework to an Umbraco Cloud baseline. The baseline comprises a staging and live instance for testing only.
- Spawn individual or shared client implementations from the baseline.
The ONLY ‘Umbraco Members’ would be those of the organisation’s site creator – given specific privileges in order to access the meta CMS frontend – built upon the Umbraco CMS functions available via Umbraco’s service API’s.
The ONLY CMS User is that of ourselves as the builders of the site baselines.
All content creation, update and delete operations are carried out through the meta CMS frontend.
Users of a site are targeted individually via SignalR via their association to their respective group node and as a whole identified by that same node – i.e. on login users are joined to a group of the name of the node id. In practice this means that users of the platform can select other members when creating communications on site in order to target them specifically in the pre-defined range of faux communications.
Traditionally speaking I’m not a massive fan of podcasts, for the most part I’d much rather be listening to a 20 minute Jimmy Page guitar solo than a 20 minute lecture. However a couple of weeks ago all that changed when Spotify started it’s Stay Free: The Story of The Clash podcast. As the name suggests, the podcast takes you from the formation of the iconic punk band to the very top of their career. Each episode is broken down into a 40 minute episode, narrated by Chuck D of Public Enemy.
The thing that makes this podcast so great is that it understands that music doesn’t happen in a bubble. As well as telling you about the band, the podcast tells you what was happening outside the walls of their rehearsal space. It goes into detail about the state of UK in the 70’s, the rise of punk movement and the history of different cultures around London, all of which helped define the band’s trademark sound.
The story is told through interviews from the band and others who were there at the time, which means it’s filled with some great anecdotes and it gives you a break from Chuck D trying to draw parallels between Public Enemy and The Clash. If you’ve got 40 minutes of traveling to do I’d strongly recommend giving the first episode a try.
Every now and then I enjoy a good scroll through codepen to get a bit frontend inspiration. Lately the thing that’s really been catching my eye on there is layer masking. Here are two of my favourites I’ve come across lately.
- The first (https://codepen.io/pizza3/pen/qmerBv) are these buttons that work purely on CSS and HTML. If you took these masks and sized them up to something like a loading animation you’d have something really lightweight and yet visually stunning.
- The second (https://codepen.io/supah/pen/BJYorJ) is this mask slider. This example shows perfectly how CSS masking with jQuery to create something unique.
Make your life easier by getting a computer to do it
We support a lot of websites, we aren’t a huge agency with endless staff and resources. Even if we were, people make mistakes and forget things. A companies’ site is often critical to their business and brand, even if it’s not it’s often the first thing people will look at when they hear about a company and if that site is broken then it’s a poor reflection!
Up time is paramount to us and our clients and with our dev’s making constant updates, improvements and tweaks to the sites we support how do we ensure things don’t break and what we put live is correct and do all that with minimal human intervention?
Our first port of call is our QA manager who tests both the functional and visual elements of the changes before they go live. Once approved by them and our client we deploy the changes to the live server, and they are checked again.
This ensures that the specific elements that we changed are correct but by changing one thing, sometimes there are unintended consequences. We have several systems we use to stop this happening.
Ghost inspector (GI) – www.ghostinspector.com. When our deployment tools have finished running, they send off a request to run a suit of automated tests on ghost inspector. These compare screenshots of the last time they successfully ran, to the current page and will notify us if there is a significant difference. They also check for things like google tag manager and meta tags to ensure any tracking and important page elements are still in place.
Our GI tests can even submit forms, login to member areas and check emails sent by systems to recipients to ensure everything still works correctly. We run these tests on daily schedules and every time a live deployment happens.
Freshping – www.freshping.io. Allows us to monitor all our sites minute by minute to ensure they are still running responsively and not displaying errors. These monitors run 24/7 and will immediately notify us of any downtime. They also give us a detailed history of the uptime and response time of all our sites.
Where possible we also run Azure Monitor – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/services/monitor/. This allows us to dive into a multitude of metrics of our .NET sites to pinpoint performance issues, errors and bottlenecks. It also allows us to create complex alerts to let us know when things go wrong, for example if the error rate of the site increases or response times are very high.
I was thinking about the technology of film the other day and how I think films that actually use film stock rather than just digital look way better. So many people these days think that because something is new means it’s better. I don’t think this is the case, I mean sure, you have some pretty amazing looking CGI effects in films and TV now but also a lot of horrendous looking stuff, decades after CGI became a thing. It’s very hard to 100% fool the human eye, I find that with CGI there is always something a bit off with it, movements of CGI characters and often things like cars just look wrong. I can suspend my disbelief when watching Star Wars or something with superheroes in but it’s always stuff in real world set films that’s replaced with CGI that bothers me. An example of CGI used as a tool to enhance action created by practical effects is Mad Max: Fury Road; almost all stunts involving vehicles and people were shot for real, with the CGI added to enhance the background scenery such as the scenes shot in the dust cloud or canyons which were added afterwards as they needed wide open spaces to film in.
As for film stock looking better however, many great directors agree with this including people like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg to name a few. What makes a film shot with film look so good is the much higher resolution but also the slight imperfections on the screen such as scratches in older films and of course “film grain”, films shot on digital have none of this and as such lack the technical personality of film stock.
My last point on this is modern televisions and how one simple setting is ruining home film viewing without most people even knowing about it. There is a setting on most TV’s these days called motion smoothing which is “the process of artificially increasing the frame rate of your content by inserting fake frames into a video in effort to remove motion blur from the image.” and the hugely irritating thing is that it’s turned on by default! The reason for this is that when the TV is on display in the shop, they are usually showing some kind of underwater scene of fish and coral or a football match, both real world experiences that in fact look better with motion smoothing on BUT with motion smoothing on while watching a film it has what is known as the “soap opera effect”, which makes films look like they were shot on a soap opera set with those tv cameras. It looks too real. I once had to sit through Star Wars with motion smoothing on and it nearly ruined the film for me.
Watch this video to see this effect in action. To see it really well, cover up one half of the video with your hand watch for a bit and then cover up the other half and watch that.
Imagine you put your heart and soul into making a film and you get it exactly the way you want it, including the way it looks and then you realise after the film comes out on home media, that millions of people are watching your hard work in a completely different way to what you intended and you can’t do anything about it except shout from the rooftops as loud as you can. The reason a certain film looks the way it does is because that’s what the director wants you to see just like a painter paints what he wants you to see, not what you want to see. That’s art.
I’ll end with this article about motion smoothing and if you are reading this and didn’t know about it, try turning it off halfway through a film and you will see what I mean.