No one sets out to fail. Yet nearly everyone sets out to learn.

This contradiction had me thinking reflectively over the last couples of weeks as I quickly approach the end of my 3rd year with Hanapin. I’m truly in awe at how much has happened during that time within the industry, and how seamlessly those around me appear to transition from one phase to the next. And that’s when it hit me — it only appears like that.

We are all failing, in some way or another, nearly every single day. But it is that exact phenomenon that leads to our greatest growth. This is by no means my own original thought, simply a topic I’ve come across more frequently both in the news and communicating with family members working in public education. I highly encourage anyone interested in this topic to explore it more.

With all of this in mind, I’d like to explore my 5 biggest shortcomings as an account manager and the takeaways unearthed by being able to identify them.

Blindly Following the Status Quo

Following the status quo is not always a bad thing. The issue here is that I did so out of contentment with current performance. Either our team was hitting the primary KPI comfortably, or the client was performing well ahead of YoY numbers. The combination of these factors led to an ill-advised “stay-the-course” type of approach.

While this may work for awhile, the digital landscape is too dynamic for this to be a long-term strategy. Making major changes to an account meeting goals is a scary decision, but even the most successful ones will show Red Flags.

Personally, I’ve noticed a major knowledge shift in clients which has moved the status quo. A great example of this comes in client’s opinions on How To Use Attribution Models. Previously, employing any model beyond last-click was viewed with great skepticism. Even if they agreed with the logic, the complexities added to comparing YoY numbers were enough to justify maintaining the current model. That narrative has switched radically, however. Nearly every client is not only informed on attribution, but they are now huge advocates of Data Driven Models. Most now need very little convincing to embrace a more full-funnel approach to performance tracking.

Reluctance to Adding Automation

While human-driven PPC isn’t going anywhere soon, there is simply no denying the impact of account automation. Initially, I didn’t trust it at all. I’d heard endless horror stories of them performing simple tasks as effectively as shown below.

A major obstacle to testing automation was actually the success in which those around me had already established manual processes. We’re not talking about one-off changes or the use of simple filters in the interface, but complicated bid matrixes factoring in recent, historical, and projected seasonal changes. Much like the above, performance metrics provided no indication that a switch was needed. While there are certainly Reasons To Not Use an Automated Bid Strategy, it’s a fool’s plan to not at least test.

Gaining confidence in these tools is a long process. Begin with small, controlled tests that demonstrate value. Soon enough you’ll be employing SQR scripts, automating your bid strategy, setting account notifications, and creating automatic budget trackers.

Reactive Vs. Proactive

I think it’s safe to say that just about every client would prefer a proactive account manager. Fortunately for myself, Hanapin has championed a Consultative Approach which helps foster this type of management. That said, this has remained an obstacle in accounts that are often changing or seemingly always on tight deadlines. Examples of this include online retailers and travel providers which face sharp seasonality, competitive markets, and the tendency to run frequent promotions.

The continued grind of prepping for the next seasonal spike or the upcoming sale makes it more difficult to step back and provide proactive advice. That time is needed to reassess larger account strategy instead of simply running from one project to the next. With the help of those around me, I’ve become better at “steering the ship” even when there are countless minor tasks leading away from the greater account goal.

Failing To Delegate

Despite my sports-heavy background, I occasionally fail to embrace the team aspect of account management. When I first became the lead member of larger accounts I found myself trying to tackle every single task. I wanted to be aware of every variable within every campaign. While I still strive for that level of familiarity, my ability to delegate has grown much higher with experience.

Often times it was tough for me to delegate a task because I wasn’t yet 100% certain what I wanted to achieve. Additionally, insecurities in my skill set often led to less than clear instructions for those around me. Becoming more comfortable with my deficiencies have led to a quicker progression of my own skill set, and in return provided a huge benefit to the accounts I’ve worked on.

Chasing the Shiny New Toys at The Expense of The Basics

My final failure is a by-product of the successes I discussed earlier. Essentially, proactive management seeking to steer away from the status quo while employing new automation tools is not without risk. If not properly tempered, the combination of these three can lead astray. While it will always be our goal to implement the most recent beta in AdWords or leverage new targeting options on Facebook, it’s important to prioritize properly.


I imagine many readers can relate to this list. It’s neither unique or truly profound, but it is a constructive exercise in self-awareness. Each of these failures has provided me an opportunity to learn and improve. With each step, I’ve cultivated a stronger account management style, one that is still countless failures away from its final state.

Cover image by Thomas Hawk