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Accountability: Partner, Coach or Mentor?

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Marketing Analysis, Product Marketing, Strategic Communications | 0 comments

Most people know that social accountability helps to increase the chances of sticking to your plans. And many in my network already have accountability partners, coaches or mentors. However, it is not always clear how these differ, and when which is most useful.

What Is an Accountability Partner?

An accountability partner is someone with whom you establish an ongoing, reciprocal relationship. Each member of the partnership commits to working with the other towards achieving their goals and being held accountable for their progress. This relationship helps each partner to stick to their commitments.

I have several accountability partners. One of them is my business partner Laurence Sarno.

As well as being my accountability partner, Laurence is my marketing communications Partner. His marketing speciality is different from mine.

Most of my clients will at some point need marketing communications expertise. Their communications needs will range from a change of wording on a web site, to a complete messaging overhaul due to a change in strategic direction. Either way, by partnering with Laurence, no client has any unaddressed gaps in their marketing strategy and resulting plan.

We also share the responsibility for conducting research (client, prospect, competitive), because everything our consultancy does is informed by market research.

We mutually benefit from ensuring that every lead is followed up, every prospect contacted and closed, and every client is happy. In these daily tasks of a partnership, we hold each other to account.

Accountability partners are not always internal. As a product marketer, much of what I do takes place before a client launches a new product or service. To ensure post-launch success, I work with Amie Kendall, UK Managing Partner at Sempeak,  and Seán O’Brien, Digital Marketing Consultant at Optily, they are my Search & Performance marketing partners . Again, each has marketing expertise and ICP (Ideal Customer Profile). Many of my clients don’t know the many nuances of marketing, and that’s OK. What’s important is that I understand enough about each to know when to call the relevant expert.

As with my internal accountability partner Laurence, Amie and Sean have a vested interest in the success of my business and the wellbeing of my clients, and will therefore hold me accountable to the management of my pipeline.

Seán O'Brien
Seán O'Brien

Digital Marketing Consultant


Amie Kendall

Amie Kendall

UK Managing Partner

Accountability Coach vs Mentor

Post-launch, many of my clients will retain me as a coach or mentor. The difference between a coach and a mentor is the extent to which they are directly involved in the accountability process.

Coaching is more performance-driven, designed to improve the professional’s on-the-job performance. As a coach, I challenge clients to stick to the agreed strategy, or justify any changes in direction, to keep them accountable to the marketing plan.

Mentoring is more development driven. Mentors look not just at the professional’s current job function, but beyond, taking a more holistic approach to career development. We draw on my past experience for knowing what’s worked and what has not. I mentor individuals wishing to pursue a career in product marketing, or C-suite executives looking to integrate product marketing into their strategic mix, or business owners wishing to adopt a market- and data-led approach.

Best Suited for a Coach

If you and your team are just setting off on your accountability journey and need someone to directly guide the way, teach all of you how to implement the concepts and practices of accountability, a coach is appropriate. Coaching is particularly useful when, as we recommend, your company takes an agile approach, setting up procedures and then improving with each iteration of implementation.

Best Suited for a Mentor

If your team already understand the fundamental concepts and practical aspects of accountability, and don’t require continuous monitoring to ensure the marketing plan is being followed, a mentor is appropriate. In this situation, the mentor works on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly) with team leaders to review progress, evaluate changes in the market that might require a change in plan, and help them develop their professional skills.

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