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Why Digital Marketing Agencies Need Both Account and Project Managers

When you start working with a digital marketing agency, you’ll come across a wide variety of organizational structures, ambiguous job titles, and potentially confusing combinations of managers. For the most part, the team you’ll be working with will consist of specialists, strategists, a project manager, and an account manager.

It’s a common misconception that Account and Project Managers are interchangeable or that the responsibilities and skill sets of both can be combined into one hybrid role. Read on to learn more about the differences between these roles and an answer to the age-old question: “Do I actually need both a project manager and an account manager?” Spoiler alert: you do!

Understanding the Roles

Though Account and Project Managers should have overlap in a *Liam Neeson voice* Particular Set of Skills, each title has unique traits, skill sets, and ideal personality types that make it clear that these roles should be filled by two very different people.

Shared skills: 

  • Communication: Both AMs and PMs should be proficient in communication – with clients, coworkers, and stakeholders.
  • Organization: Both jobs involve a lot of moving parts – having an organized system in place is key.
  • Problem Solving: AMs and PMs both need to be able to anticipate and resolve any issues that come up throughout any engagement.
  • Conflict Resolution: Minor conflicts, miscommunications, or disagreements are inevitable. Both managers should have the ability to quickly de-escalate and resolve any basic issues.
  • Attention to Detail:  Account and project management both require massive amounts of documentation and keeping track of minute details to be successful. 

What is an Account Manager (AM)?

At the forefront of client interactions, Account Managers play a pivotal role in building and nurturing relationships. Their primary responsibilities include understanding client needs, providing strategic oversight, and serving as the client’s advocate within the digital agency

Effective AMs excel in communication, possess strong problem-solving skills, and exhibit a deep understanding of their clients’ goals, priorities, and preferences.

Unique Traits:

  • Empathy
  • Negotiation / Persuasion
  • Flexibility / Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Patience (Marathon-not-sprint-mindset)
  • Outgoing / People-person
  • Ideal Disc profile: Di (Dominance + influence)

What is a Project Manager (PM)?

Project Managers are the backbone of project execution. They oversee timelines, resources, and deliverables, ensuring that projects stay on track and within budget. With exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail, PMs navigate the day-to-day challenges of project management while keeping productivity high and risks minimal.

Unique Traits:

  • Leadership / Team Management
  • Accuracy
  • Risk Management
  • Decisiveness
  • Stress Management
  • Persistence and Resilience
  • Ideal DiSC profile: C (Conscientiousness)

The Case for Separation – Why Do I Need Both?

Strategic vs. Tactical Focus

Account Managers, in broad terms, are here to provide a human touch and advocate for the client. Project Managers tackle the day-to-day challenges of executing projects, keep an eye on productivity, and protect the agency from a budget and workload standpoint. By separating the roles of AM and PM, agencies can leverage the strategic insights of AMs and the tactical expertise of PMs to drive project success.

Skill Set Optimization

Having dedicated AMs and PMs allows each role to focus on their core responsibilities, optimizing skill sets and improving overall performance. AMs can dedicate their efforts to client satisfaction, relationship-building, and strategic planning, while PMs can concentrate on project management, resource allocation, and timeline management. This division of labor leads to increased job satisfaction, better client experiences, and improved project outcomes.

Conflict of Interest Avoidance

In a hybrid role, conflicting interests may arise between the client’s satisfaction (AM’s focus) and project efficiency (PM’s focus). Trying to balance both can be very difficult – and often leads to a confusing position for both the manager and the client. Splitting the role eliminates this conflict, allowing each manager to prioritize their respective responsibilities without compromise.

Enhanced Communication

Having an additional manager on your account shouldn’t feel like just another person you have to go through to get your answers, a good Account Manager should be the opposite: functioning to amplify the client’s voice, concerns, and desires. They provide an improved outlet for clients to talk through their ideas, brainstorm, and flesh out potentially wacky ideas without the pressure of resourcing in mind. AMs speak the client’s language AND the PMs, and can ensure everyone gets what they need.

Having a standalone AM frees up the Project Manager to do what they do best – manage their projects, budgets, and resources outside of the AM’s “what if we did THIS!?” realm. This leads to more proactive recognition of potential risks on the project side, and the advanced notice allows the production team to be flexible, when possible, to meet client expectations. 


While combining the AM and PM roles may seem efficient, separating these roles is essential for maximizing client satisfaction, project efficiency, and overall agency success. By leveraging the unique strengths of AMs and PMs, digital agencies can streamline operations, foster better client relationships, and deliver exceptional results consistently.

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