Article by Nadia Venezia, Account Manager at Webgains.
‘It’s all about relationships‘; that’s what I was told upon starting my career in affiliate marketing back in 2020. It won’t be surprise to most readers but I can now wholeheartedly confirm that, as an account manager, this statement rings incredibly true.
Thankfully, Webgains employs me to work completely remotely from Italy but on UK accounts. Whilst I am very grateful to be doing a job I love and living in my homeland close to my family, it does present a few challenges when it comes to nurturing relationships with clients and providing value for the business.
“Whilst I am very grateful to be doing a job I love and living in my homeland close to my family, it does present a few challenges when it comes to nurturing relationships with clients.”
As soon as I started to take on clients, I was very conscious to find ways to compensate for the fact that I wouldn’t be able to provide as much in-person interaction and support as some of my office-based colleagues. The foundations of any relationship are communication, trust, and honesty. I started by working on these pillars virtually.
“The foundations of any relationship are communication, trust, and honesty.”
It’s obvious to say, but regular contact has been fundamental to filling the virtual void. Perhaps I had to work a little harder each day to get an understanding of my clients’ needs, goals and expectations. All of which are critical for me to ensure their affiliate programmes succeed.
I’ve learned that listening to others is more important than being listened to. Not just listening but active listening. Only by doing this am I able get to know my clients, to understand their needs as individuals as well as teams and entire companies.
“Listening to others is more important than being listened to.”
I am constantly trying to gauge my clients’ opinion. I want to know when to play along with their ideas and when to push back and offer alternative direction. Similarly, asking for feedback is essential. I do this regularly to understand if they are happy with the service provided and adjust to optimise and improve my service as an account manager and our network’s as a whole.
Another thing; we’ve all been doing this for long enough by now but cameras on! I especially must show my face and let my clients and colleagues learn from my body language and I always value that being reciprocated. Part way through the pandemic I noticed people in video calls leaving their camera off more and more often. I think it was a term I’ll call ‘zoom fatigue’ or maybe it was just because everyone was still wearing their pyjamas! Anyway, it didn’t last too long and today it seems our cameras are on more than ever and we’ve properly adjusted to the new normal.
“We’ve all been doing this for long enough by now but cameras on! I especially must show my face and let my clients and colleagues learn from my body language and I always value that being reciprocated.”
Talking of wearing pyjamas for work, this was never an option for me. I knew that as I was fully remote, I have to hold myself to the highest standards and take my meetings and relationships extra seriously; dress the part, as they say. Not that I always wear a suit to sit in front of my office computer, but it’s casual business attire as a minimum for me!
I feel that establishing working relationships often extends beyond the professional sphere. One skill of an account manager is to work out what a client is looking for from their relationship with you and follow their lead. Do they want to be super professional all the time? It’s important to know when to get personal. Perhaps they like to get to know you outside of work and understand your hobbies and how you spend your leisure time. After all, we are all humans living multi-faceted lives. There is so much power in that and potential to ignite strong relationships.
“Establishing working relationships often extends beyond the professional sphere…There is so much power in that and potential to ignite strong relationships.”
Building trust is another crucial element and in the context of my role at Webgains, it mostly comes down to reliability. Many of our clients have not used the affiliate channel before, they need to feel that they are in safe hands and working towards common goal with us. When a client starts to view their account manager as an extension of their own team, that is the ideal scenario. Being reliable also means accountability. As account managers, we can’t run away from issues or ignore them. That doesn’t help anyone. I find enormous pride being able to meet and transcend expectations, while also being transparent about the reality of the expectations set.
Being open and transparent with my clients puts me in a position where they trust me and value my opinions when shared. They understand that I am working with them rather than for them. In October of last year I travelled to London to attend PI Live. Those types of large scale events are amazing for bringing together the industry as a whole but also for providing me some valuable face-time with my clients. After two years of virtual meetings, it was especially rewarding, like meeting up with old friends!
“Being open and transparent with my clients puts me in a position where they trust me and value my opinions when shared. They understand that I am working with them rather than for them.”
My time at PI Live cemented what I was hoping it would; that the extra efforts I had made to foster strong client relationships remotely was paying off. It was a really satisfying feeling and one that I never want to lose so long as I am an account manager. To be honest, it did make me slightly conscious again of the physical distance between myself and my clients but I have reflected and am grateful for the situation I have. To live in Italy with my loved ones and work with amazing people and brands for a fantastic company is enough for me. And I’ll keep putting in the extra miles for my clients to make sure that my colleagues and client partners feel like I’m round the corner rather than some 1,200 kilometres away!