The Art of Account Management.

2LK Client Manager, Matt Fabian, on how to nurture client/agency relationships, navigating differences of opinion and why asking good questions is fundamental. Originally published on LBB Online.

Written by Matt Fabian.


How did you first get involved in account management and what appealed to you about it?

I first got involved in account management through a natural progression from project management. When I was in production, on some jobs, my role naturally evolved into client accounts – there are lots of unavoidable crossovers with project and account management.

What appeals to me in general is relationships – the personal sense of satisfaction you get from making your clients look good. The buzz of a fast paced industry where we’re constantly collaborating, problem solving and executing. Experiences can be good by yourself but they’re amplified when you share them with others.

What is it about your personality, skills and experience that has made account management such a great fit?

Adaptable communication on a personal and professional level, and the ability to look at things from a client’s point of view. A relentless focus on their goals. I have a combined nine years’ experience across project and account management which has given me overarching knowledge of the project lifecycle and the client’s needs from every angle.

I’m able to look at the big picture and forward-think which I believe is a skill! I also relish spotting opportunities within projects to elevate the experience.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in account management?

Understand your clients, get to know them as people – it’s a human relationship, we’re not cogs in a machine, we’re all driven by the same needs. It sounds cliché, but becoming an extended member of their team and fully grasping what success looks like for them.

Thinking back to some of your most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client-agency relationships?

It’s been said many times before, but managing expectations in all elements of the relationship, which comes through quality and consistent communication. Reliability and trust are really important in a client/agency relationship but these are things you have to earn and are a result of that open dialogue with the client from the get go.

And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?

Being perceptive and appreciating people’s nuances. Understanding client’s personalities and how they like to operate – being flexible and adaptable to their way of working. And keeping things light hearted wherever possible – making the working relationship easy and enjoyable.

Also, being motivated more by getting it right than by bean-counting, and being generous with creativity, advice, information, ideas, credit, recommendations…doing what it takes to get the results we set out to achieve together.

What’s your view on disagreement and emotion – is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why – and what does productive disagreement look like?

Differences of opinion are commonplace in everyday life, and it’s important to foster an environment where all are comfortable expressing themselves. At 2LK there’s a real bespokeness to everything we do, no two projects are the same and we have a real desire to push, stretch and tread new paths. Because we’re willing to take creative risks, these can divide opinion.

Any disagreements should be brought up sooner rather than later, before they have time to fester and emotions to take hold. As I mentioned earlier, we’re all human, clients should be able to disagree and show emotion (whilst staying constructive/professional) if that’s how they feel. A difference of opinion can be good in the creative process, it shows passion, and often leads to the best ideas. It’s much better to challenge, than just going through the motions and box ticking.

These days, agencies do so much beyond traditional campaigns and as account management you’re pulling together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social and more – and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too? What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

Clear upfront planning – asking good questions at the start to get all relevant information as early as possible, understanding the full scope so we can put in key goals and objectives to allow us to achieve what we set out to do. Making sure we are fully briefed on how the activation fits in with a client’s overarching strategic objectives.

The team is also crucial. Getting great people with the relevant skill sets is imperative for success as well as exploring opportunities. We work with a network of best-in-class talent, so we can hand pick the most suitable people for the job rather than relying on our in-house talent all the time.

Keeping on top of the latest tech is also paramount – we’ve always got our eye on the next technology so we can move our clients forward rather than just doing the thing you have to do.

What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?

The Medialink cabana at Cannes Festival of Creativity 2023 – due to the sheer size, scale and quality of execution. We created a pop-up HQ of 1700sqm, where they could host the great and the good of global business: 30+ sponsor activations, 20 bespoke bookable partner suites, hospitality at the bar, workstations with charging facilities, 10+ lounges, 8 curated client events, beachside seating and a salon which hosted 70 thought-leadership sessions over the week.

The challenge with this project was the number of stakeholders involved which added a layer of complexity. We addressed this by grasping size and scale early on and getting the right people involved from the start to manage all elements. This allowed us to not only focus on delivering the project on the whole, but also incorporate quality finishing touches to add to the experience, such as beach games made from offcuts of timber from the build and even custom-made handcrafted paper artwork adorning the walls.

We took a partnership approach, as we do with all projects – getting everyone together on a regular basis and having a hyper organised approach to all the moving parts, the devil really was in the detail.

It was immensely satisfying receiving positive feedback from the client and overhearing the delight of event visitors on the ground. It was the biggest activation within the festival perimeter and one I’ll always be proud of.

Let’s talk.

If you’d like to discuss supercharging your brand experiences, contact us to make the most of moments that matter.

More reading:
Lessons in Creative Leadership
Hybrid realities: How real world marketing blends with digital
Workstreams of the future: Creating agile enterprise events