We Are on the Offense. Always

A Call to Arms for Account Service

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Curt Hanke
Curt Hanke
While digging through a file cabinet about a month ago, I stumbled onto an old copy of Nike's Maxims -- 11 principles that Nike established to inspire and guide employee behaviors. (If you haven't seen them, you can find an overview here.)

Pithy, inspirational, and 100% what you'd expect from Nike, headlines like "Simplify and Go" and "Do the Right Thing" are equal parts galvanizing and practical, reminding employees what is expected on a daily basis. But in reviewing them with fresh eyes, the one that stood out the most to me was No. 10: "We are on the offense. Always."

It took me aback. Such a declarative, stark statement. So provocative. A true call-to-arms for any organization -- whether you're Fortune 200 like Nike, or a 31-person shop like Shine.

As an "account guy," it made me question whether we're "on offense" as a department and job function -- but also what it takes to even be on offense. I mean, you can't just show up one day and decide to "be on offense," can you?

We've kicked this around internally and boiled it down to three reminders. Three best practices for what every account person needs to be working toward on a regular basis in pursuit of greatness -- in our interactions not just with clients, but in helping foster, cultivate, and manage breakthrough thinking within our own four walls.

Knowledge. This one's first for a reason. You can't be on offense if you don't know the playbook; it's that simple. The life of an account person (at a small agency in particular) is challenging, to say the least. We need to be experts in our clients, their business, their category, their customers and prospects, their culture, the competitive environment -- and also in our own industry -- trends, technologies, possibilities, feasibilities, and best practices in a radically changing world.

We need to be curious. Inquisitive. We need to ask questions. To be active listeners. To smell for the proverbial truffle. To dig deep for insights -- business and product, brand and marketing -- that can lead to big wins for our clients. In sum: We need to be business and brand consultants.

Desire. Whether you're an employee, a manager, or an owner, being on offense requires desire. Hunger. Passion. This is about tapping into your internal competitive spirit -- the desire to win, day in and day out, for both your clients and your agency.

Find the things that put fire in your belly. Spend time with people who help you get and stay motivated. Control your environment and outlook. In sum: We need to be motivators.

Confidence. In our teams. In our clients. In our own skills and best intentions. Great account people aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty -- and they aren't afraid to look stupid doing it. Great account people are advocates for great creative. They make connections. Take risks. Stick their necks out. Fight for more time and budget. And do what it takes to create success. In sum: We need to be leaders.

"We are on the offense. Always." For any agency account person, regardless of the size of your agency or the length of your title, it is a frank reminder for why we got into this business in the first place.

Curt Hanke is the co-founder and account director of Shine, a 28-person advertising and interactive agency headquartered in Madison, WI, serving clients such as Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Carver Yachts, Wisconsin Cheese, Kaplan Inc., and Winston Fly Rods.
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