The Difference Between Client Partnership and Client Services, with Amy Stettler

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From a student of Ogilvy & Mather, to an Apple powerhouse, to now expanding and innovating our growth at Level Agency, Account Director and Client Partnership Center of Excellence Lead, Amy Stettler shares the excitement and significance of client partnership to marketers who want to bring their clients’ marketing to the next level.

Rather listen than read? Listen to the full interview here:

What is a fun, non-work related, fact about you?

I’m the youngest of 7 kids, coming from a very multidimensional family! With siblings across 18 years, it was an interesting, generational upbringing that taught me a lot early on about independence and problem solving. It also gave me a wild imagination, because of the time I had to talk to siblings several years older than me. It was the brady bunch on steroids if you will.

What do you do in your primary role as an account director?

Our role as account directors is to be the primary point of contact for our clients, build out the blueprint for achieving client goals, address client problems, and empower each of the disciplines to deliver those goals. The role is also equal parts of coaching, leading and doing, but the most fun part for me at Level is that we have clients at various states of growth and needs. When smaller clients don’t have deep resources on their side, that allows us to build out a team that acts as an extension of their marketing department, and as the account director, you’re the coach of that team—deciding who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bench, who’s in training, and who’s got the spotlight.

The part where we have area to grow with our clients is in strategic marketing leadership. A lot of clients today are eager for the solution and are looking for how to move from Point A to Point B very quickly. We have the opportunity to take a step back and understand the audience, the product, the competition, the marketplace, and work with creative and media to build those elements into an action plan and then implement it.

Could you please share with us a bit of your resume? When you talk about marketing strategy, coaching, leading, what are some companies you’ve done that for and how are you able to use that big name experience and apply it to customers for Level, and Level as an internal client?

I am a student of David Ogilvy first and foremost. Ogilvy & Mather was my training ground, and I was brought up to be a voice for the consumer in the advertising and marketing process. David’s advertising philosophy was very direct and smart: assume your customer needs to know everything there is to know about the product you are selling. I take that approach with my clients and teammates today, trying to be incredibly articulate, detailed, and perhaps even over-communicative.

At Ogilvy I got to work with clients like IBM and American Express, who set me up for understanding the power of marketing through storytelling and putting that story in the right place at the right time. I took it upon myself in my career to be the voice of the intersection between message and medium. I made sure we weren’t just pushing messages out into the media but understanding where the customer was in their journey.

I went on to work for Intel for many years and in the 90’s we were creating Wi-Fi, we created computers to be placed in every home. I was fortunate to be part of the Intel Global Leadership Team on the agency side that not only oversaw our own messaging and strategies, but also the Intel Inside Program, which is one of the most powerful ingredient marketing programs that has ever been created. That was a very powerful learning ground for me in terms of developing strategy.

When Apple decided to start to use Intel chips in their machines, I was in the right place at the right time and got to join that team and be part of some of the most powerful storytelling on the planet—including Steve Jobs—for many years. What I still take away, to this day, after working with these high performing individuals and teams is three-fold:

  1. Communicating the goals that we’re all working toward and making sure each individual on the team is empowered to achieve that goal with whatever they need is vital to our success.
  2. Attention to detail is critical. If we need to step back and dig into a very minute detail on a Facebook campaign to gain an insight that will make things better, it’s worth it.
  3. Something Steve used to say to us is, “Genius is not just a brilliant idea, genius is a brilliant idea, flawlessly executed,” and so that attention to detail and empowerment of the team is all working in service to that flawless execution of programs, and that is how you drive efficiency through the entire system.

How does your background transfer into leading the Client Partnership Center of Excellence? What does this role mean to you?

The team dynamic of what the Client Partnership COE represents is made up of account directors, data and research, testing, and operations. All those things touch every aspect of how we handle a client’s business. For data and testing, we’re constantly building out testing frameworks and hypotheses to improve upon results and iterate our “Test. Learn. Grow” model. That, married to strategy and research—making sure we have the right tools in place with the most cutting edge training, with the most forward thinking, and strategic framework—connect directly to testing and then to operations.

Working with some of the best project management thinking in the market today, making sure we’re systemically infusing our teams with an operational model that is increasing efficiency and allowing our resources to grow in a financially viable way are all part of my vision for the building blocks of a successful client partnership team. Ultimately, it is going to be about creating that Client Partnership COE team as a leadership coaching team. In our vertical model, when we have our B2B I and B2B II team, the COE will work with each of those to evolve their operating models and processes so they’re continuing to drive better performance for their clients.

What we call client partnership, a lot of companies call client services. What do you think is that important difference between client services and client partnership?

I like to think of this visual: It’s the difference between being handed a tray of food versus getting together in the kitchen and cooking a meal together. We are not on the mission of just supplying services, because that can be very shortsighted. Our mission is to immerse ourselves in our clients’ business and our clients’ industries and have as much vested interest and responsibility for the success of their business as they do. It doesn’t quite end when the workday ends, it means we are always thinking about their business, their marketing, their money like it’s our own. Together, we are going to achieve success because we are in this for the long haul. We are in this to bring our expertise through years and years of performance marketing, now layered with strategy and holistic, full-funneled marketing through the long term with our clients.

So, if I’m a client, and I’m listening to this… why should I care that Level has a Center of Excellence dedicated to client partnership? What about it most helps the clients and makes it something they should get excited about?

Great question. There are a couple things, the first being that we become deep subject matter experts in clients’ industries and their business challenges. A piece of feedback from one of our clients is that we were able to articulate language in our copywriting that even they, so close to their industry, couldn’t. Because we brought in our fresh perspective, we bring in the well-rounded insights from doing all of the research on the industry. And because we are not only in that industry, we can supplement additional perspectives, which is one of the benefits in my opinion. To be able to be completely immersed in a clients’ business and understand their industry and their business challenge and marry that to the depth of knowledge we have on marketing allows us to provide value that is exponentially greater, in my opinion, than a full in-house team might be able to bring.

Sometimes, one of the biggest benefits I see us bring to a client is just getting that in-house marketing in order. Going back to me being the youngest of 7, that came with a lot of cleaning up, creating order—not to say that every client has a messy house—but one of the things our Client Partnership COE can do for you is see through the mess, the rooms of the house to get them organized and in place for future growth. People who are deep on the organization/client side are so deep in it, we’re coming in from the outside and can sometimes more easily see the path through the trees.

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