Proactive vs. Reactive Achieving The Right Balance of Both

As a digital account manager, you often have a lot to juggle. You’re generating ideas, fielding feedback, answering questions, managing relationships, facilitating campaigns and leading your team to present the highest quality content in the most creative ways possible.

So, understandably, you feel like the best thing to do is to be proactive about almost everything, because the more prepared you are the better right?  I disagree. Though there are benefits to being proactive, it can often be a waste of time if the work you do doesn’t add strategic value, or actually get used at all.  I have found that when it comes to account management, it is essential to find that balance between being reactive and being proactive – once this balance is understood and perfected, life gets a little easier. 

But what exactly does that mean, and how can you put it to work?

Proactive vs. Reactive Account Management

Proactive and reactive account management are at two totally opposites sides of the spectrum.

As a proactive account manager, you have clearly defined goals and continuously work toward them. You do everything you can to prepare for any unexpected events.  It’s a highly controlled approach.  While this approach has many benefits, there is also a downside. Surprises are bound to pop up, and if you’re too married to the proactive style, you’ll have a much tougher time rolling with the inevitable punches.

In contrast, a reactive approach is quite literally reacting to your surroundings. You address problems as they come up.  Obviously, this style is not as calculated, meaning things can often feel a little chaotic when practiced on its own. 

Striking a Balance

You don’t want to be caught off guard – you want to be adequately prepared for whatever comes your way. But the reality of this industry is that it’s much better to strike a balance between the two and be prepared to manage situations as they come in, while at the same time working on proactively seeking opportunities to sell your business’ skills wherever needed. 

This means that account managers need to go above and beyond client expectations to generate more benefits to the client-business relationship, delivering predictably good results (proactive) while also seeking out opportunities to upsell or add value as circumstances change (reactive).

Being proactive is great for establishing procedures and keeping things organised. But, account management, in general, is very reactive—it would be impossible to plan for everything.  

Here are 3 tips I have learnt, that you could implement to help strike that balance between proactive and reactive working.

1. Assess Your Current Planning Process

Physically plan to be more reactive. It all starts with sitting down and assessing your current planning processes.

Are things highly rigid? 

Sure, being highly organised helps you to cover your bases, but it can also make it difficult to deal with unexpected work, leaving you with a lack of the flexibility needed to deal with changing conditions.

Take a look at your current processes and see how you could adjust to be more reactive. 

  • Could you build in a buffer of time for more feedback?
  • Can you create alternate processes to address issues that have a higher likelihood of popping up?

It might seem strange to prepare to be unprepared. But, when you’re attempting to strike a balance between proactive and reactive, this step can make all of the difference!

2. Segment Your Feedback

Feedback is all part of the process, and when you’re on the receiving end of a mountain of varying thoughts and suggestions, it’s tempting to think that you should brief everything in at once.

However, it’s important that you learn how to sieve through the feedback and determine what you need to react to as a matter of urgency, and what you can let simmer for a little longer.  Remember: the more time studio gets to work on a project, the higher the quality of work, so break projects up into manageable segments. 

This will help you focus on the changes that should actually take precedence, rather than getting caught up in all of the noise. 

3. Set Aside Proactive Time for Yourself

Take an hour each week to have some quiet time and think through potential scenarios where you might need to be reactive.  It’s important to leave time to explore the “what if” scenarios in a positive light.

  • How will you deal if a campaign pitch is far more successful than you anticipated? 
  • If a competing agency shuts down? 
  • If you end up ahead of schedule?

Explore how these sorts of things (both positive and negative) would impact you, and what you would do to react accordingly and leverage those situations to your advantage. That way, you’ll be sure to cover all bases and be as prepared as possible.

In closing

When it comes to account management, you’ll hear plenty of people say that it’s best to be proactive. And, yes in many cases, that holds some water.  But, when the very nature of account management is reactive, there’s simply no way to have everything controlled and planned out. 

The perfect campaign or project is never going to be straightforward, but if you can find the balance between a proactive and reactive approach you can greatly increase your productivity while continuously building strong and
favourable relationships with your clients.

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