Sales promotion account executives use their excellent communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills to run campaigns and make money
You'll create and run promotional marketing campaigns to increase the sales or the use of a product or service. In this role, you would entice customers with a range of strategies, including competitions, samples, coupons, promotions and point-of-sale displays.
These incentives reach the consumer in a variety of ways, such as in retail outlets, at events and exhibitions, through direct mail, press advertising, websites, text messaging and social media.
You will usually be involved in all stages of the process, making sure a campaign runs smoothly. You have to keep everybody involved in the campaign informed and up to date, and provide central administrative support to the team.
Account executive is the typical entry level position for recent graduates. Your tasks usually include:
- researching clients and markets
- liaising with clients, agency staff and external suppliers of goods and services
- developing ideas for promotional marketing campaigns
- reporting to the account manager
- briefing agency staff, such as creative teams and production departments
- attending meetings and sharing ideas at brainstorming sessions, reporting back details of discussions
- writing and proofreading promotional marketing copy
- monitoring the progress of work and producing status reports
- compiling budgets and costing supplies and projects
- preparing and checking invoices and bills
- maintaining information on projects and clients
- assisting in the preparation of presentations to clients
- carrying out a variety of administrative tasks.
- You would generally start on a salary in the region of £18,000 to £24,000.
- With experience it is possible to progress to account manager or senior account manager level, where salaries can range from £25,000 to £38,000 depending on your level of experience.
- Salaries for account directors/senior account directors are around £40,000 to £75,000+. The higher end of this scale is likely to be for the most senior positions with large agencies.
Some posts include incentives such as a company car allowance, bonus scheme, pension, private health and life insurance.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Standard hours are 9am to 5pm but they typically go beyond this, particularly prior to the launch of a big campaign or when preparing to pitch to clients. It may also be necessary to attend promotional events in the evenings.
What to expect
- While the work is largely office based, you may be required to visit clients, printers and suppliers and attend events.
- Self-employment is possible after several years' experience. Agencies also use freelance staff.
- Opportunities are available throughout the country. There are large agencies in all major cities, as well as many small regional employers.
- Dress code depends on the agency, but is frequently informal or smart casual in the office. Smart business dress may be required when meeting clients or attending events.
- The need for travel within a working day can increase with seniority. International travel is not usual, but travel within the UK is reasonably common as you progress in your career.
You may be able to enter the role without a degree as employers are often looking for experience and relevant skills. However, some will specifically want graduates and in these instances, although any degree or HND is usually accepted, the following subjects may be particularly useful:
- business studies or management
- information technology
Larger agencies run graduate training schemes but may be willing to recruit those with an HND, if the candidate has the required skills and personal qualities.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential. A combination of aptitude, enthusiasm, commitment and business awareness can be more important than a specific degree subject.
You'll need to have:
- interpersonal and communication skills
- creativity and ingenuity
- problem-solving skills
- organisational skills
- the ability to prioritise your workload and to work to strict deadlines
- motivation and enthusiasm
- self-confidence and the ability to persuade
- the ability to use your initiative and be proactive
- attention to detail
- teamworking skills
- the ability to work well under pressure
- administrative skills
- an open mind and a can-do attitude
- general business sense.
Experience in promotional work, sales or customer service is extremely useful. As some agencies specialise in working with particular sectors, any knowledge or experience relating to that area may give you an advantage.
Undertaking work experience with an agency or in any other business environment (if possible within a marketing department) can help you to become known to an agency and will help your applications. Use this experience to network and make further contacts.
Vacancies are not always advertised so speculative applications are worthwhile. Relevant professional bodies such as the Institute of Data & Marketing (IDM) and the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) provide details of their members which include agencies, brand owners and service providers.
Use the IPM Members Directory to research potential employers and opportunities for work experience.
Well-informed, targeted applications are vital, so make sure you've researched the sector and agency before applying for work experience or a graduate role. It's also important to keep up to date with industry news and developments so reading any related trade press will help.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Traditional marketing disciplines, such as branding, advertising and sales promotion, have blurred and few agencies now specialise exclusively in sales promotion, working more broadly instead in the field of promotional marketing.
Most sales promotion account executives work in integrated marketing communications agencies, which offer clients a range of below-the-line services, especially sales promotion, direct marketing and digital media. Some agencies have a stronger focus on sales promotion than on other areas, but there is considerable overlap between these activities.
Traditional above-the-line advertising agencies (those specialising in television, radio, outdoor and cinema advertising) may also have a below-the-line/sales promotion division.
Digital media has made a significant impact on direct marketing techniques, and sales promotion account executives may find themselves working in companies that use the latest digital and data technologies.
Opportunities also exist in client side work, being employed directly by a company rather than an agency.
Look for job vacancies at:
It's also worth making speculative applications directly to agencies.
Recruitment agencies specialising in marketing and media also advertise vacancies.
Large agencies may offer structured in-house training and mentoring for new account executives. With smaller agencies, training may be carried out on the job.
There are also a range of external courses and qualifications available through various organisations. For example, the IPM offers a range of courses recognised by the industry, including:
- IPM Certificate in Promotional Marketing
- IPM Diploma in Promotional Marketing
- IPM Incentive and Motivation Diploma.
The IPM Certificate in Promotional Marketing is an introductory course that many agencies use as part of their training programme for new staff. The aim of the course is to provide you with an overview of the breadth of the industry and an understanding of how your company fits in so you can make a productive contribution to campaigns.
The IPM Diploma in Promotional Marketing provides more in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the role including the different ways that promotions are communicated. Most agencies will pay for you to take the diploma as part of your training.
The IPM also runs a series of one-day courses and seminars, as well as networking events. Topics include the fundamentals of motivation, measuring the value of experiential campaigns and strategic thinking in promotional marketing.
The Marketing Agencies Association (MAA) also offers a variety of courses including:
- excellence training courses in account management and account leadership
- bite-size two-hour training sessions covering topics such as writing pitch documents
- a Future Leaders Academy, which provides information and guidance for running your own agency.
There is also the MAA Diploma in Integrated Marketing, which is useful if you want to develop a career in that particular area. Find out more at the Alliance of Independent Agencies.
Relevant courses in areas such as direct and digital marketing, mobile marketing and multichannel marketing are offered by the IDM.
From the junior role as a sales promotion account executive, and with enough experience, you can progress through the roles of senior account executive, account manager and account director.
An IPM qualification may help your chances of career development but your performance and success in the job are the main things that determine your promotion prospects.
Promotional marketing is a fast-paced business and progression to more senior roles may be rapid. It's not unusual to reach account director level in less than ten years.
Further promotion beyond account director is possible. This could be to more senior strategic posts, such as group account director, or to board-level roles. However, opportunities at this level are limited and some account directors may move between agencies, either to experience bigger companies or to focus on different sectors.
With substantial experience and a strong network of contacts you may consider setting up your own agency. It is also possible to move to a client-side role, where you would work directly for a company to increase their sales and promote their services, rather than being based in an agency working for different clients.