Account Transition Series: Onboarding Accounts

Keep CalmFor every person that offloads an account, there’s another that is onboarding.  That’s why it only makes sense to follow up last week’s Offloading Tips with a second set of tips for the successor of the account. Often times when taking over an account things can be a bit of a whirlwind, especially if the previous account manager is leaving the company.  Things might be a little stressful and hectic but don’t let yourself get caught up in the chaotic nature of the situation.  Take a deep breath and get yourself organized, following the steps below!

 Step 1: Learn About the Company and the Industry

You need to understand what the client sells, where they market themselves, who their competitors are, what their consumers are saying about them, and the list goes on.  The person that is offloading the account may not be able to spend all of their time with you, so the good thing about this exercise is that you can do this somewhat independently.  Check out their web site and any marketing materials that you can get your hands on.  Read up on industry news. Do some branded searches and see what type of sites, news, and articles appear.  As you move through this exercise, jot down any questions that you might have and take them up with the previous account manager.

This first step might seem obvious but if anything, it’s understated.  Your credibility with your new client depends on your ability to understand their business.

 Step 2: Account Access & Review

Hopefully you already have access to the account by this point.  While you’re immersing yourself in the client’s business and goals, you’ll also want to take a deep dive into their campaign structure and settings.  Again, this is something that you can do independently, making a list of questions as you go.

As a general rule of thumb, you should look through the whole account.  Check out the structure, check out the settings, keywords, messaging and so on.  Specifically, here’s a starting point for things that you should begin to understand:

  • How is it structured? Are campaigns segmented by product/service, location, match type, high/low funnel, or a combination?
  • What keywords perform best? If you can get a sense of why they perform best, that’s even better.
  • How do they position themselves? What messaging is working best?
  • Are there things you can and cannot say from a brand compliance standpoint?
  • What locations are performing best? Why is geo-targeting set up the way that it is? Are there modifiers?
  • What days and time of day perform best? Do hours of operation dictate when you can display ads? Is dayparting in place?
  • How do various devices perform? Are there modifiers in place?
  • How are the various networks/channels performing?
  • What audiences and lists are available to you? What is currently being leveraged?
  • What can and can’t be reactivated in the account?
  • What assets do you have available in the account (video, image, etc)? Are there multi-media campaigns active? Are there any additional creative assets available outside of the account?

The list above may not be immediately clear just from parsing through the account.  However, I suggest getting a feel for the account and answering the questions as best you can.  From there, regroup with the previous account manager, check your answers with them and fill in any blanks.

As a bonus, it’s always helpful to have a fresh set of eyes on the account.  You might find some low-hanging fruit or opportunities.  What better way to kick off your new role?!

 Step 3: Client Goals and Reporting

Keep Calm

As you begin to understand your client’s business, you need to understand their goals.  It’s important that you understand their goals both as a company and, on a more micro level, within your accounts. Much of the intricacies of their goals may come in later conversations but the more you can learn now, the quicker you can hit the ground running.  Soon enough, this will all be second nature.

 To get you started, here are some questions you might want to ask the previous account manager:

  • What are Example Client’s goals? As a business? In paid media?
  • How are we pacing toward those goals?
  • Do you have any concerns?
  • If the client is lead based, are they more geared toward volume or efficiency?
  • If the client has revenue tracked, is there an ROI goal?
  • What is the acceptable cost per lead, or sale, and does it differ by product/service?
  • Are there any recent focal points that I should be aware of, in terms of product lines, keywords, channels, tests, etc.?

Once you have a good grasp on the client’s business and goals, you should begin taking over tasks.  .  You’ll need to understand what deliverables are being provided and at what frequency.  Have them show you how to create said deliverables and then try your hand at it to ensure you get the same results when you are on your own.  Be sure to take a lot of notes.  You might not repeat some of the tasks until the previous account manager has already left, and you want to feel confident in the process and your memory.

Even as you’re still learning, you can take on some of the more tedious tasks and reporting, so that you get practice.  This will help you to immerse yourself into the account and think of questions that you might want to ask the client or the account manager

 Step 4: Joining the Conversation

As soon as you find out that you’ll be taking on a new client, you should request to be added to all communication.  Be it email or phone calls, internal or external, you should be in the loop. The sooner you are introduced to the client, the more time that they have to become comfortable with your leadership and the idea of their previous account manager’s departure.

If you have a question you’d like to ask the client, run it by the current account manager first, just in case they already know the answer. That will at least help you message it appropriately if you have follow up questions for the client.  You want the client to feel comfortable and confident in the transition, which means that you don’t want them questioning whether or not you are familiar with the account, or receiving appropriate training.

The more you are involved in client communication, the more important it is to understand their business, though.  Coming to meetings prepared is a great first step to building a relationship.  Likewise, the quicker you can begin to lead internal and external meetings, the more comfortable you’ll feel taking the reins.

 Making the Most of Your Onboarding Time

As you take on responsibilities, try to keep an ongoing list of questions and notes. This will help you stay organized and ensure all of your questions are answered. In addition, in my experience, the more learning styles that you employ, the more likely that you’ll remember. Be as hands-on as you can in meetings and with tasks.  When in meetings, take lots of notes that you can refer to later! By doing these things, you can leverage visual, auditory and tactile learning methods, which seems to help retain information.

Ultimately, the biggest tip that I can share is to be as proactive as possible throughout the transition.  The extra legwork that you put in doesn’t absolve the departing team member from going the extra mile but, at the end of the day, the account is yours and it is your responsibility to be prepared.

For additional tips on a smooth transition, take a look at the Offloading Tips I posted last week. Do you have any tips of your own?  We’d love to hear them in the comments below!