You’ve spent years putting in hard work to make it as far as you can in your digital advertising career. You’ve progressed from an entry-level PPC specialist to a seasoned account manager and finally made it to a senior account strategist. So what’s next?
Team management positions don’t open up frequently. But if the opportunity presents itself, becoming a people manager or department head can be a feasible next step for a motivated digital advertiser….even the ones who don’t think they have “management potential.”
What you might not realize is that you’ve been acquiring skills along the way in your career that will serve you well in becoming a successful team manager. The important part is knowing how to translate these skills from a team member to team manager role.
Adapting to Constant Change
As an account manager, your day-to-day responsibilities are always changing. You may be asked to launch your company's first-ever shopping campaign or figure out how to hit a client’s aggressive performance goals with a limited budget. Working through these changes may require consulting with colleagues/industry peers or researching a new marketing topic/technique at length.
Having the ability to adapt to change as a team manager is essential. In a given day, you may need to figure out how to incentivize your team to hit department goals, appease a frustrated client, and fit in an extra desk into an already crowded workspace. Your team will look to you for guidance in times of uncertainty or difficulty, so being thoughtful and deliberate in your decision making is key.
Takeaway: Finding people or resources you trust to give you guidance is important. Look to mentors/peers, blogs, podcasts, books, etc. to expand your “managerial intelligence." And finally, ensure you’re making decisions within the context of the greater company’s goals, policies, and procedures.
Engaging Your Audience
Whether you’re addressing a group of one or one thousand, you need to be able to engage with your audience. You have to put in hard work to learn about a topic, an industry, or a client/stakeholder before you can communicate authoritatively with/about them. The good news is that every time you speak in a meeting or to a client/stakeholder, you are working on becoming a better communicator. Focus on speaking with clarity, conciseness, and connecting with your audience.
As you gain experience in handling difficult client calls or pitching new strategies to your boss, you’ll reach a point where you’re able to handle more challenging conversations and relationships. That’s good, because as a department manager, the game has changed. You’ll be responsible for relating important information upwards and downwards to your superiors and team members, and possibly to your entire company.
- Are you effectively communicating company decisions, policies, etc. that affect your team members?
- How aware is upper management of your team’s performance and status at any given time?
- Are you confident being the voice of your department when you face difficult client conversations?
Takeaway: While speaking in front of groups may not be your strong suit, it’s a skill that you can improve over time with practice. Every time you address a group (whether in writing or in person) ask for feedback and work to improve. Groups such as Toastmasters can help you gain confidence with public speaking as well. The trick is to get comfortable quickly because public speaking will be a major part of your role as manager.
Turning Data into Meaningful Decisions
As an account manager, it’s likely you’ve spent entire days analyzing performance metrics, identifying campaign opportunities, and implementing changes. Digging through mounds of data to come up with meaningful insights and then turning those insights turn into mega-performance boosting optimizations is exciting. Digital advertising is as much about creating the perfect ad variation as it is being able to determine if that ad is a winner at the end of multivariate ad test.
As a team manager, you still be calculating figures in spreadsheets but with a different purpose. At the very least, you’ll be required to regularly report on and speak to your team’s performance. Depending on your key performance indicators, you may also be responsible for reporting on things such as quarterly revenue growth. You’ll likely spend more time than you’d like crunching numbers to support your need for additional resources such as people, tooling, or product development as well.
Takeaway: All those hours you spent learning and utilizing pivot tables, vlookups, and macros will come in handy. We promise. Get comfortable with spreadsheets, and consider taking a few advanced level courses to become a power user. Oh, and always check your analyses, recheck, and then recheck again. Making a stupid calculation mistake can damage your credibility in front of your team and your superiors.
Resolving Conflict with Empathy
Some of the most challenging relationships you’ll manage as an account manager are with your customers or stakeholders (if you’re in-house). You’re responsible for speaking to performance results, making recommendations, and graciously taking feedback. Ninety-nine percent of your customer/stakeholder relationships may go well. But, inevitably you will have to mitigate a stakeholder’s fury or frustration. Being able to empathize with the stakeholder’s frustration will be the first step to helping you find a path out of a difficult situation.
It may seem pretty obvious that relationship management will be a considerable part of your role as a people manager. It is. It’s your responsibility to ensure each of your team members can work together and work across departments civilly. And, you’ll likely make or enforce tough decisions that your team won’t like. They’ll doubt you and they’ll question the company. When you can, prepare ahead of time for contentious conversations with your team instead of trying to wing it.
Takeaway: Again, empathy and understanding is key here. It’s cliche, but try to understand where your team members are coming from. And while it will be tough, you need to be able to have/mediate tough conversations without getting emotional or retaliatory (even if your employees do).
Transitioning from managing digital advertising accounts to managing people may seem like a big leap. But, you’ve already been building great skills to help you succeed as a people manager just by learning and excelling in your PPC career.
Are there any other skills you learned as a digital advertiser that you think are traits of a great leader? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Nicole Mears, VP of Marketing at Shape
Nicole is a former PPC analyst, department head, and product manager. She now focuses on marketing and customer success for Shape.io.