Ever feel like you're drowning in a sea of customers?
As an agency account manager, you will be expected to carry many responsibilities. From collaborating with clients to streamlining internal processes, there is always so much to do.
But how many clients can an account manager take on before the quality of the work degrades and they reach the point of burnout?
We set out to find out by surveying 48 agencies and asking about their insights into hitting the sweet spot between efficiency and quality.
Here's what we're going to cover in this article:
- Top services that marketing agencies offer
- Average size of account management team
- The average workload of an account manager
- Typical number of clients served by an account manager
- Factors that determine the workload of customer account management
- How many clients should an account manager look after?
- Streamline your customer reporting process with Databox
Top services that marketing agencies offer
Considering that marketing is like a bottomless well, agencies can offer various services to their clients.
To better understand our survey respondents, we asked them about the services they provide. The most common services offered by these agencies are SEO (68.75%), content marketing (60.42%), web design (52.08%) and social media marketing services (50%).
Here's a full rundown of the top services our surveyed agencies offer.
Related:Why should I hire a marketing agency?
Average size of account management team
Different agencies have different team dynamics. However, the account management team is one that is common to all.
The account management team is responsible for maintaining agency-client relationships. They coordinate with customers, make note of their requests and become the primary point of contact for any issues that arise.
The same team shares customer requests and feedback with internal teams, ensuring all work is delivered on time and to the expected quality.
How many customers an account manager can take on ultimately depends on the size of the team. The bigger the team, the more accounts they can manage.
We asked our survey takers how many people (account executives, account managers, etc.) they have on their account management teams. Most agencies said they have 6 or fewer people on their teams.
The average workload of an account manager
It's safe to say that account managers are busy. You can often find them juggling multiple tasks at once, which is why large numbers of clients can cause them to fumble around.
Although an account manager should act as a bridge between the agency and clients, their responsibilities can increase when the agency is smaller.
We asked the agencies we interviewed about the work of their account managers. More than 90% of them said they are responsible for account management – being the primary point of contact for customers, providing upselling services, and making sure customers' needs are met.
Interestingly, 67% of our respondents said their account managers are responsible for project management (making sure work gets done and streamlining internal teams), while 46% say they are responsible for strategic planning (the agency at the achieve customer goals and maximize ROI). ).
For about a third of respondents, account managers are responsible for additional tasks:
- Support- Ensure agencies run smoothly by taking on the role of an office manager, accountant or executive assistant
- business development– Generate leads, close sales opportunities andbuilding partnerships
- expertise– Providing a service in which they are qualified, such as B. design, copywriting, etc.
Josh Krakauer, CEO of Sculpt, a B2B social media marketing agency, sums it up well.
"Account management is a balancing act between adequate customer service, strategic thinking and profitability."
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Related:14 Best Project Management Tools for Agencies to Manage Projects Efficiently in 2022
Typical number of clients served by an account manager
So how many clients is too many before an account manager hits an existential crisis?
Our survey shows that nearly 70% of agencies responded that theirAccount managers serve fewer than 10 customers at a time. Surprisingly, more than 10% of our respondents haveMore than 15 clients under the control of a single account manager.
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Factors that determine the workload of customer account management
If you are an agency owner, you may be confused when deciding on the client account management workload. However, there are a few factors that could help you with this decision.
According to our survey participants, the factors that have the greatest impact on choosing the right workload are the customer's needs and budget. Conversely, the factors with the lowest impact are account manager experience and billable goals.
Related:How many clients is too many? The Ideal Number of Clients Agencies should need to optimize their profit margins
Let's take a closer look at these factors.
- customer needs
- Customer budget
- client complexity
- Service Level
- Account manager experience
- Billable Goal
Some customers are more "needy" than others and require more attention from account managers. If you're a digital marketing agency, clients who need PPC, content marketing, and SEO services will take more of your account manager's time than if you're just paying for content marketing services.
Then there are the customers who are satisfied with a meeting every two weeks. Others would prefer to meet with the account managers twice a week.
Jonathan Aufray ausAgency for growth hackerssays, “It's really difficult to pinpoint a specific number of clients that an account manager should serve. I mean, there are customers who are very demanding, while others are more relaxed.”
If you have multiple clients with larger needs, you cannot assign more clients to the same account manager. However, with limited customer requirements, the workload of account managers can increase at the same time.
Your client's budget affects the workload of account managers.
Most marketing agencies have a monthly retainer budget of1.001 $ – 2.500 $. While clients' budgets may differ for your agency, one thing is certain - you have a diverse range of clients and the money they bring in.
Some clients would have a budget of $5,000, and a single account manager can manage many clients with similar budgets.
Chances are you also have a few high-paying clients and you don't want to assign more of them to an account manager. Surely you don't want to risk losing those valuable customers by overburdening account managers and disrupting their workflows.
Related:How much should your marketing agency charge for their monthly retainer fee?
What happens when your manager gives you a difficult task? You put all your focus and effort into nailing it, even if it takes a lot of time. But if your boss assigned you a simpler, more routine task – you'd get it done in no time.
The greater the customer complexity, the fewer accounts you can assign to account managers.
Jordan Brannon outcoalition technologiesagrees: “For me, there is no fixed number. It depends on what an account manager is handling (the complexity/requirements of the client list) and how equipped that account manager is to handle it.”
Your Service Level Agreement determines how many customers Account Managers can manage.
If your agency offers product-related services (standardized services with defined parameters and prices), account managers can take on a larger workload.
In contrast, when doing client-specific work, you cannot assign multiple clients to a single account manager given the amount of work required.
Account manager experience
This may seem obvious, but experienced account managers can handle more clients than younger ones.
Experienced account managers are adept at juggling multiple customers at once and solving common problems. They may also have a larger team that the work can be delegated to.
Junior account managers lack this crucial experience, which explains why they may be assigned fewer accounts initially.
Looking at account agent billable hours—work hours that can be billed to one or more customers—is a quick way to see how many customers can be assigned to them. If they are already on target, it is not advisable to give them more accounts, as this can reduce quality.
How many clients should an account manager look after?
One thing is for sure: account managers have a lot to do. With that in mind, how many clients should be assigned to a single account manager?
We asked this question to the agencies we surveyed and compiled the best answers for you. Let's dive in.
- No more than 5 customers
- Between 6 and 10 customers
- Less than 15 customers
- Between 15 and 20 customers
- More than 20 customers
No more than 5 customers
5 sounds like a good number of clients to be managed by a single account manager. It's not overwhelming, but at the same time competitive enough to keep account managers on their toes.
Michael Maximoff outBelkins.ioshares the same opinion: “Account Managers should typically manage around 5 clients in total and this is usually the best scenario for the clients, the agency and the managers themselves. Exceeding this number usually results in manager work overload, a Degradation of service quality for the client and a lot of later problems for the agency.”
The reason for choosing a relatively conservative number of accounts is to avoid the possibility of burnout.
When account managers are overloaded with work, the likelihood of mistakes increases. And since the agency-client relationship is fickle, mistakes can be damaging. Sculpt's Josh Krakauer shares what can happen when account managers get a large number of clients.
“Account managers are at particularly high risk of burnout. The more daily firefighting or task shifting (between clients) that occurs, the more likely it is to have a negative outcome. For this reason, I prefer the model where each account manager oversees a small number of larger accounts.
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Another reason agencies prefer to stick to fewer clients per manager is high client budgets.
When account managers are struggling with a high fee fee, it only seems fair that they have a lighter workload. We've already seen how this factor can affect the number of clients assigned to each manager.
Regarding high budgets/holding fees, Perry Nalevka outPenguin Strategiessays: “Our customers are complex B2B technology companies that work with us on fairly large retainers. That means they expect a lot of attention and an experienced account manager who can understand their products and the world view of their buyer persona. This means that our account managers can optimally look after up to 4 customers.”
For some agencies even 5 clients is too big a number. These agencies typically deal with complex projects that require a lot of attention, and they'd rather hire more account managers/executives than burden a few with multiple clients.
For this Frank Olivo outSagapixelsays: “An account manager with larger budgets or more complex tasks, such as B. a content audit of an old website, can only manage 1-3 accounts.”
Between 6 and 10 customers
A large percentage of our survey respondents believe that the ideal number of clients an account manager should oversee is between 6 and 10.
This number may be appropriate for agencies with a growing client base. It's also a safe number to experiment with if you want to test assigning more clients to account managers.
Off for Gabriella SanninoLevel343, an account manager should look after between 4 and 6 customers. Anything beyond that may prove inefficient.
Sannino says, "More than this (4-6 clients) can result in workload overload, which can lead to degraded service quality and a less successful customer experience."
“If an account manager is handling too many accounts at the same time, they may feel overwhelmed and therefore cannot devote enough time and energy to each individual account. This could result in details being missed, deadlines not being met, or important tasks not being properly performed.”
Account managers can get exhausted when dealing with the same types of customers. A better approach is to mix and match different account types to add some variety.
Andi Graham takes a similar approachbig sea. Graham says, “We have limits on the sales level of our AMs, not the number of customers, but we find that more customers for the same sales level means a lot more stress. So our AMs typically manage 2-3 core accounts and then also 2-4 smaller accounts with a project manager doing task management and resource sourcing in-house.”
PROFITIPP:If you're not sure how many clients to allocate to each account manager, you should look at each client's monthly requirements and then decide accordingly.
Anthony GänzleEntire Marketingexplains: “Rather than setting in stone the number of clients an account manager can manage, it is better to look at it from an hourly perspective. Look at each client's typical monthly requirements, then spread out the work so your account managers don't get overworked and burn out. Make sure you put your niche specialists on the accounts that require a more niche approach.”
Less than 15 customers
One factor we've already discussed that determines how many accounts an account manager can be given is their experience level. The more experience, the greater the likelihood of a large clientele.
This large number (11-15 clients) is justified given that experienced account managers have a sizeable in-house team.
Serendipit Advicetakes a similar approach. Luci Peterson of her team says, “I personally have 5 accounts as an account executive, but my senior account executive has 14. However, she has 2 account coordinators and 2 interns to support her. In my personal opinion, when an account manager is more than 7 without this support team, the quality of work goes down with the increased chance of burnout.”
Between 15 and 20 customers
Some of our respondents believe that account managers can easily manage up to 20 clients at a time. While that number may sound scary, it is possible if the nature of the job allows for it.
Dmitry Shelepin ausMiromindconfirms: “It depends on the complexity of the customer projects. For clients who don't have many problems, for example, and the workflow is somehow standardized, we don't see a problem if an account manager manages up to 15 projects."
Account managers can also easily manage 15-20 clients if they dedicate one day a month to each client. Sam Bretzmann from Whiskey SEO explains it better.
“Our goal is for every account manager to work with 20 accounts. They can take on more, but it allows them to invest a full day a month in that customer. In reality, they work with multiple clients on a daily basis, but this general rule of thumb allows us to provide our clients with the level of service that we aim to provide. This number also allows us to expand a little if needed before hiring a new account manager.”
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More than 20 customers
Don't be too quick to get rid of the possibility of having 20+ clients under the management of a single account manager.
If your agency has specific departments and streamlined processes, assigning a large number of clients to each manager is more than possible. This allows you to expand your portfolio and generate more income.
Out for Daniella PozzolungoPupDigital, between 10 and 30 customers for your team is a good number. Speaking of having more than 30 clients, Pozzolungo says, "Because I came from a big agency before founding PupDigital, I personally managed over 100 clients at a time."
“The fatigue, exhaustion and stress associated with high customer numbers are not worth it to us. Accounts at this level receive less than bare minimum. We want our employees to feel empowered and happy, and we want every customer to get the time and attention they deserve.”
Interestingly, if your agency deals with product-related services, you can significantly increase the number of clients given to individual account managers. In such a case, the account manager's responsibility is limited to coordination and strategy while other team members do the dirty work.
In this regard, Nate Tower speaks outPerrillsays, “If an agency only serves a single industry with standard packages, an account executive can potentially manage 50 or more accounts because of the repeatability of everything.”
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Regardless of the number of clients they serve, account managers are constantly juggling one task at a time. The last thing they want is to spend their already limited time creating manual reports.
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