Uncertain Waters: Dealing With Executive Management Change

By Jeff Baum | @jeffbaum71 | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

A member of my client’s senior leadership team recently left the company. This void has led to an uncertain future for the marketing department. Decisions currently being made can easily be overturned by the new regime, which will most likely have a different vision and point of view.


Adding to this uncertainty is the future of my everyday contacts of which I’ve built solid relationships. Will their roles change? Will they stay with the organization? These are legitimate concerns that beg the question “Will I fit into the new regime’s plans”?


Let’s discuss some ways to navigate through an executive management change.


Continue Producing Results and Providing Value


Executive leadership changes can slow an organization down. Often times, projects are put on hold so the new management can decide whether or not those projects are consistent with their priorities. Although this is logical reasoning, I believe this is a time to step up and press ahead with any initiatives you believe can either grow or make a client’s PPC program more efficient and profitable.


There is no better way to reduce the uncertainty of whether or not you provide value by continuing to drive positive results. Results can be driven in a variety of ways. For instance, a client I manage had issues with rising cost per lead recently. We used this opportunity to reduce lead costs prior to the new management team taking over. The last thing we want a new executive to see is costs rising and profitability decreasing. Instead, reducing cost per lead will show the new management team we’ve acted quickly to get performance back on track and will hopefully build confidence in them that we’re out in front of issues and committed to strong performance.


Add Additional Resources To Your Account Team


Another way to strengthen your client relationship during a management change is by adding additional resources to the account. Adding additional resources demonstrates your strong commitment to account success. Use these resources to:


  • Audit the PPC account and determine whether or not common practices are being followed. If the account needs to be tightened up, use the extra personnel to bring the account up to speed as soon as possible. Having an account that’s managed to common practices will demonstrate competency to the new leadership.


  • Complete projects that bring additional value to your client. Speeding up an implementation of a new initiative or installing that optimization earlier than planned can bring improved performance at just the right moment. Showing improved performance as new management is taking over puts you in a stronger position when evaluations of the organization and how your services fit into it begin.


Executive management changes should be considered an ‘all hands on deck’ moment. Do whatever is necessary to show you’re committed to driving results, even during a period of transition when there might be a lack of overall strategic direction.


Onboard The New Executive Team


Although you might be working with many of the same people, a new person in charge means the client relationship will change. A new executive often has a different vision, way of thinking, and method of operation. You can also be assured the new executive will also have a different personality, which means your current method of doing business with the client may no longer apply.


A great way to address these changes is putting your client back through the onboarding process. Once a new executive is in place, schedule a kick off call. The purpose of this call is to introduce yourself and provide as much background information regarding your time working on the client’s paid search account. Providing information on issues, opportunities, and key wins will give the new leadership team a better overall sense regarding the state of PPC for their organization.


Kickoff calls are also an excellent time to have the new executive explain what their expectations and urgent priorities are moving forward. This is critical knowledge to have considering a change of strategy or tactics might be required to get in alignment with their needs.


It’s also advisable to schedule a follow up call about a week after the kickoff call. During this interim period, take time to reflect on everything you learned and use that time to build an action plan that reflects current priorities and expectations. Proactively creating an action plan based on the new executive’s priorities and expectations demonstrates you’re on the same page as them and that you’re committed to executing their vision.


Recommit To A Stronger Client Relationship


When a C-level executive leaves an organization, there’s often a loss of continuity and clarity. This occurs because there’s a void in who sets and reinforces the vision for PPC. However, this does not mean it has to lead to a misalignment of goals and objectives. Now is the time to actively work on building an even stronger relationship in order to keep the paid search program on track.


A couple of ways to improve client relationships are:


Showing a Sense of Urgency: Not all communication is written or verbal. The way we carry ourselves goes a long way towards clients forming either a positive or negative opinion of us. Are we responding promptly to emails or phone calls? Are we being proactive vs. reactive in the way we manage accounts? Displaying a sense of urgency instills both trust and confidence in our clients.


Active Listening: Listening without judgment or prejudice allows us to gain valuable information. When we’re in active listening mode, we learn what our client’s specific needs are and about any hidden issues or concerns they may have. I know from first hand experience I’ve missed signals that a client was displeased because I wasn’t actively listening to there needs and concerns. Refrain from drawing conclusions or offering recommendations until you’ve completely deciphered what the client is really trying to tell you.


Final Thoughts


Navigating through a senior leadership change can be fraught with uncertainty. However, continuing to meet and exceed goals, creating new opportunities for growth, and increased commitment to strengthening the client relationship can help put you and your organization on more solid footing. In the end, increasing your value and communicating it to the new team increases the chance you’ll be viewed in a positive light.