Acing Account Transitions From First Call To The First Year

By William Larcom | @Will_Larcom | Production Associate at Hanapin Marketing

Much like a 7th grader’s PowerPoint presentation, PPC account transitions can come at any time and from every direction. Given the dynamic nature of this industry, it is no surprise that nearly every account manager ranging from in-house to agency, small-business to enterprise, has navigated through a handful of account transitions.


While I’m lucky to say that the majority of my accounts transitions have been the product of internal growth, these can be triggered from a wide array of factors ranging from natural progression to the unexpected. Regardless of the cause, every account offers unique demands which make the transition period a particularly delicate time. With that said, we’ll walk through a timeline based framework of tips and tactics to streamline the transition.


Before The First Call


Preparation for a successful account transition begins long before the first call. In the event you are lucky enough to coordinate with the current account manager, make sure to capitalize on this overlap. Every PPC account has their fair share of unique demands that make them tick. Here are some important aspects to help structure this conversation.


  • Client overview
  • Account goals
  • Conversion types
  • Routine task specifics
  • Reporting procedures
  • Main contact background


This conversation should take place following personal research of the company’s digital presence. After that, coordinate with the previous account manager regarding recent performance and the metrics used to gauge success. Whether it be lead generation or e-commerce, a deep understanding of conversion goals within an account are vital to shaping overall strategy. Given the upcoming AdWords update that will allow varied attribution models across conversions, this is tremendously helpful for understanding unique conversion paths across an account. Lastly, seek background information on the main contact in order to provide relevant and efficient data within reoccurring reports.


During The First Call


While structuring the perfect client call can be a difficult task, the first call during an account transition is a particularly delicate time. While there may be an urge to dive into specifics immediately, it can be beneficial to begin with a high-level introduction for both parties. If time is willing, allow the client to reiterate many of the bullet points we discussed earlier. Hearing an explanation of the client’s service, the account strategy, recent performance, and overall direction straight from the source sometimes paints a much different picture. This is an excellent time for the client to share their views on both the successes and short-comings of the account. During this process remain active with clarifying questions.


Furthermore, use this time to establish yourself as the credible and capable PPC hero that you are. Provide basic informational background regarding vertical and account type experience. If you’ve had the chance to work on the account in the past or been an “account stalker” prior to the transition, convey your familiarity with the account. Indicate an intention to maintain the status quo for reporting routines, but a willingness to adjust to new procedures in line with the client’s preferences. In short, show that this minor speed bump has true potential for positive change.


First Week


Through the combination of account shadowing, personal research, previous account manager coordination, and client introductions, it’s likely that you now of an excellent high-level understanding of the account. This means it is time to dive much deeper into the account. In the event that the account was hastily put in your lap, a quick account audit can help uncover any hidden bugs. These areas include:


  • Campaign naming conventions
  • Networks
  • Bidding methods
  • Language settings
  • Ad scheduling
  • Device modifiers
  • Geographic targeting


After performing this audit don’t be afraid to direct questions to the client when uncovering any anomalies or unexplained settings. This presents an excellent opportunity to establish a strong standard of communication based on open, honest, and concise correspondence. Getting a grip on new paid search accounts can be a daunting task, but putting in the work up front will yield those incremental gains that fuel PPC success in the long run.


First Month


The first month is all about acclimation and coordination. Identify particular pain points for improvement while continuing to run the tried and true content. During the first month, the tendency is to make wide-scale changes according to your methods, but it is important to fight the urge to run before you walk. I’ve made the mistake of making too many large updates during the infancy stage of an account transition. Too many updates can lead to significant performance swings while muddying up data for follow-up analysis.


To avoid this issue, continue to communicate high-level strategy with easily accessible details on upcoming initiatives. A status doc or overview of recent tasks conveys a clear gameplan and helps temper impatience during the transition. A document detailing the task and associated follow-up actions such as the one shown below can be very helpful for establishing expectations.


Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 4.40.37 PM


First Year


Routine and familiarity should be well established by the conclusion of the first month. With that said, don’t feel restricted to the status quo. Routinely update procedures according to your client’s needs diagnosed via weekly correspondence.


Lastly, there is a tendency to view account performance relative to before the transition was made. If possible, avoid this comparison in favor of your typical week-over-week or year-over-year contrast. This avoids the unfair juxtaposition of two account managers with a unique set of obstacles. Additionally, this emphasizes a team-based approach to the success of the account.




Account transitions are almost always a delicate process. They represent both a curse and a blessing for all parties involved. While on one hand there is an inherent learning curve that can slow progress, a successful transition will also breath new life into an account. For more tips and resources on how to manage account transitions feel free to reference this compiled resource bank.