How To Make A Good Account Manager Assignment

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

One of my key responsibilities is assigning new accounts to team members. Account manager assignments are the first critical decision made on behalf of an account. Making a good account assignment instills confidence and positively demonstrates to clients an ability to make solid decisions. On the flip side, a poorly conceived and executed account manager assignment could poison a client relationship and increase the chances of an account churning.


This post discusses how I make account assignments that balance both needs of the client and workload/stress level of the account manager. Both needs must be addressed for a new account to successfully onboard and develop into a trusted long term partnership.


Have A Governing Philosophy


One cannot make consistently solid account manager assignments without having a governing philosophy of how they should be made in the first place. Account manager assignments are complex and fundamentally affect a paid search team’s ability to operate.


A philosophy I developed and ascribe to is called ‘capacity and best fit.’ Capacity is important because assigning new work to someone who can’t take it on will lead to failure. Best fit is important because account management is about building relationships with clients. I’ve witnessed numerous instances where a highly skilled account manager is unable to ‘click’ with a client. Personality clashes lead to tension and stress on both sides. Often when a client relationship fails it’s because the match between client and account manager wasn’t a good fit. When clients and account managers aren’t connecting, the AM is unable to demonstrate their abilities. Therefore, assigning an account manager that’s a little less technically proficient but can connect well with their client leads in the long term to a more productive and successful working relationship.


Determining Capacity


At Hanapin we’ve created a formula that determines when account managers are ‘at capacity.’ Having a defined process for quantifying capacity leads to a more informed account assignment decision. A tool we use to record and track our client hours is called SpringAhead. This tool allows us to view total hours worked by client or individual employee. SpringAhead provides us the raw data for us to analyze who is or is not at capacity.


Below is an example of a SpringAhead entry.


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We also developed an excel tool that takes the SpringAhead data, pushes it into a pivot table, and based on that data helps determine who has capacity to take on a new account. Below is a screenshot of the excel tool.


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Here’s how the tool works:


    1. SpringAhead data is exported and pasted into excel. This data contains all client hours worked within the past 30 days.
    2. A master doc of Hanapin’s account managers, the number of accounts they manage, and the amount of revenue they have under management is copied and pasted into a separate tab within the tool.
    3. A pivot table that brings all this data together is refreshed when updated data is imported to the tool.
    4. All of this data rolls up to a worksheet that determines who has the potential to take on a new account. This calculation is based on total monthly spend, client hours each account manager works, and their role within the department.


Capacity is a critical component in determining who should manage a new account. However, it’s not the only factor. The next part of this post discusses the importance of ‘best fit.’


Determining Best Fit For A New Account


‘Best fit’ is another important determining factor when assigning a new account. It’s one thing for an account manager to have the availability to take on new work, but it’s a completely different story to know whether a particular account manager is a good match for the new client they’ll be working with.


How do we determine ‘best fit?’ I determine best fit using the following criteria:


  • Size of Account Spend: Based on an account’s total spend I determine whether the account is best suited for a senior account manager, account manager, or a more junior account manager. I generally try to assign high spend accounts to Sr. AM’s, mid-range spend accounts to AM’s and low spend accounts to Jr. AM’s.


  • Perceived Complexity: Let face it, even experienced account managers may not be a suitable fit for certain types of accounts. For instance, maybe an account is paid social heavy and not paid search oriented. This dynamic needs to be accounted for so an account manager is not put in a position where they can’t succeed. Also, an account may have a higher perceived level of complexity because the client advertises on multiple platforms, which means the account will need a larger time commitment than what the AM can devote.


  • Personality: One of the biggest considerations I try to incorporate into my decision-making process is the person I’m assigning to an account. Some questions I ask are “Is there temperament suitable for the account at hand?” “What is their current workload and stress level?” “Are the accounts they manage in good shape?” “How long has it been since they’ve on-boarded a new client?” Having this additional context helps determine whether you’re putting an account manager into a position where they can take on the extra work and succeed.


In addition to the above, I also take into account what prospects are in the sales funnel. Making one account manager assignment may preclude them from taking on another, and possibly more valuable client down the line. In this instance, you may have an employee who has the capacity and is also a best fit, but may want to reserve their capacity in order to take on a larger, more complex account. When making account manager assignments, consider not just the assignment at hand but the consequences of making that assignment against future needs.




Account assignments are difficult. Resources are usually limited and a fresh onboarding creates additional stress for whoever’s responsible for the new account. Having a governing philosophy behind how assignment decisions are made, analyzing hard data to determine capacity, and being in touch with your team on an emotional level helps determine who’s best fit to take on a new account and therefore puts your team in the best position to succeed.