Guide

How to Ensure a Smooth Agency Handover

A practical checklist for switching digital agencies.

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Whether you’re unhappy with your agency or simply want to try a new approach, the complexity of the agency handover process shouldn’t be the thing holding you back.

Equipping yourself with the right knowledge and understanding can make the agency handover process less stressful and make it more likely that you will get the results you want.

In this guide you’ll find out:

  • What an agency handover entails
  • Which pieces of information you should have ready
  • Why existing data is so important
  • How to analyse your new agency’s approach

Simply fill out the form below to get your free pdf copy, or read the guide online further down the page!

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How To Ensure A Smooth
Agency Handover

A practical checklist for switching Digital Agencies

This guide is for:

Marketing teams and managers who are either:

  • Considering switching agencies
  • Currently going through an agency handover

Contents

 

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Introduction

Changing agencies can be a daunting prospect.

You’ve been through the pitch process and you want to make a switch, you want a new way of thinking and a new approach.

However, you fear a drop in search rankings when you change your SEO provider, you worry about a drop in conversions when someone new takes over your PPC campaign… and while you want to change agency, you can’t afford those kinds of losses.

In this guide…

This guide will help you understand the agency handover process. You’ll find out…

  • Which of your fears are really nothing to worry about
  • What your new agency will want to know
  • What’s involved in handing over the various elements of the digital marketing mix

Throughout the guide you’ll find cheatsheets, so you can easily check if you’ve got the right information and are asking the right questions.

Change for the better

A good agency should have procedures in place to ensure a smooth handover – so that those perceived risks and potential losses are avoided.

Looking beyond the risk, moving agency is all about what you can gain. We’ve included an example at the end of the guide so you can see the kind of positive uplift you can achieve by moving agency.

 

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Handover Scenarios

Every handover is different; a huge number of variables and factors come into play. Every business and every agency is different, meaning that you will be experiencing a unique situation.

We’ve seen it all before. Here are just some examples of the handover scenario you could be seeing:

  • Your current agency demonstrates the height of professionalism and works with your new agency to make the handover as smooth as possible
  • You don’t know the terms and conditions of your existing arrangement and are unsure what information you can and can’t expect to see from your current agency
  • You don’t have your marketing strategy or commercial targets locked down, but you know you want things to be done better
  • Your relationship with your existing agency has broken down and things are in free fall

While some of these scenarios sound worse than others (that last one probably sounds like an utter nightmare to you!), with the right approach any handover scenario can be resolved with minimal disruption or loss.

 

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What’s Being Handed Over

In terms of delivering the digital marketing mix, what needs to be handed over can broadly be split into 3 categories:

What’s Being Handed Over

Relationship

You’re creating a new relationship between yourself and your new agency. Expectations need to be set, lines of communication need to be defined. The first thing you hand over is trust – that’s what we mean when we talk about the relationship between yourself and your new agency.

This relationship continues to evolve as your agency starts to kick-off their activity. You should start to see deliverables, giving you information tailored to your objectives and your strategic needs.

Services

‘Services’ refers to the areas of online marketing the agency will be handling – which will likely include some of the following:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Display
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Affiliates
  • Hosting
  • Website design
  • Web maintenance

Access

Access refers to the various logins and connections your new agency will need. This is likely to include some of the following:

  • Web analytics
  • Google AdWords/Bing Ads
  • Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools)
  • Email service providers
  • Affiliate accounts
  • Databases

While you can split what you’re handing over into constituent parts, relationship, services and access are all interlinked and rely upon each other. None of them can operate in isolation.

 

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An Important Note on Intellectual Property

At Coast Digital, we thrive on a deep understanding of data. Any marketing agency worth its salt will want to know as much as possible about what went before (this is a trend when it comes to handovers).

What should be given to your new agency?

You can give your new agency:

  • Any data you have
  • Any data in accounts, like analytics, you own
  • Any documents/deliverables given to you by your previous agency

What an agency won’t hand over is their ‘Intellectual Property’.

What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

Perfect examples of Intellectual Property are strategies and tactics. Your old agency won’t hand over their SEO strategy, or the tactics they use to run PPC campaigns.

However, consider this: Your new agency will have a strategy and approach of their own – you’re investing in them and their ideas… leave the old approach behind!

If you aren’t sure about the new approach, and want to sense check it, compare it with the old approach. Ask your new agency to justify the changes they make.

 

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A New Relationship

A relationship between you and your new agency is formed from the start of the pitch process, but it’s at the point of handover that you can really start to reap the benefits.

The Go-Between

All those requests for access (more on that later) to accounts and databases? Your new agency should take the lead on that.

These kinds of conversations need to be handled with delicacy and professionalism – inter-agency requests of this kind shouldn’t be about rattling cages, but rather about making sure the client’s account is transferred without incident.

Your new agency should guide you through the handover process, letting you know if there is anything you need to do – while also being the point of contact, both for your old agency and any external services.

Your new account manager will be dedicated to making the process as easy for you as possible.

On-Boarding

Another vital element of your new relationship is ‘bedding in time’ – or ‘onboarding’ the agency.

It’s during this time that your new agency should perform audits on each service and your site, making sure everything is set up correctly and that all your tags and tracking
are working properly.

You should expect to see these as some of the first deliverables you receive.

Time should be taken to understand your tone of voice, your culture and your performance. The best way for your new agency to get that insight is to come to you, to sit with the elements of your business and see how your company really works.

Your agency should immerse itself in your business. At your end, you can help this along by offering them opportunities to attend events with you, go through internal training and a full staff induction.

 

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Kick Off

When your new agency is crafting the relationship and looking at kickingoff services, here is some information they might want to help them integrate with your internal processes – allowing for the delivery of information to you at the right time and in the right way.

What weekly cycles do you have?

For example, do you have a regularly scheduled call with a development agency?

  • To get website amends actioned, does your new agency need to deliver them by a certain time for them to be included in that call?

How do your internal communications work?

Are there regular important meetings your agency should know about?

  • Do you have an internal marketing activity plan?
  • When do you need to receive data, statistics and results? After all, someone will be asking you to see what your new agency is delivering.

Who are the points of contact? A day to day contact plan is vital…

  • Who is your point of contact at the agency?
  • Who is their primary point of contact at your end?
  • What’s the best way to contact them?
  • What are your points of escalation?

What are your objectives?

When it comes to a strategy, your new agency needs to understand what you want to achieve before it can properly analyse what the digital marketing mix is going to look like for you.

  • What does success look like for you?
  • What collaborative KPIs do you want to measure?

Knowing this information will help your agency deliver better, more valuable reporting.

What to expect from your agency

Going forward, your agency should use these points of contact to deliver an activity plan and their audits to the right people.

An activity plan will sum up how they will be handling the various online marketing channels. Audits should help you to see where the problems are, and how they plan to fix them.

The agency should then provide you with access to any portals or tools they use to deliver content.

 

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The Role of Strategy

A holistic view of your marketing is vital. That means understanding all the channels in use and having a strategy for how your objectives are going to be met.

While you can break online marketing activity down into its constituent parts, it’s vital that your agency understands the entire marketing mix. The channels of online marketing are no longer independent; in the modern marketplace they feed each other.

The strategic approach

While it may appear that one channel is not performing well, it may be driving the success of your other channels. When you consider channels in isolation, removing this channel may seem like a quick win. But once you look at the mix, and how channels interact, you start to see the whole picture.

That’s why digital strategy is so important.

Attribution modelling makes it possible to go beyond this isolated view of channels (eg. how is SEO performing?) and looks at how the different elements of the marketing mix are interacting and influencing each other.

Ask your new agency:

  • How do your channels interact with each other?
  • How do your objectives inform your marketing mix?

SMART Objectives

When you’re setting your strategic objectives, a good way to ensure you come up with useful targets that allow you to measure success is to create ‘SMART’ objectives.

SMART stands for:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Timebound

Work with your new agency to set objectives that fit this framework – it’ll give your agency a better idea of what you want, and will make you more able to determine whether or not they’ve delivered it.

 

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On-Boarding

You want results. After all, that’s why you change agencies – to see an improvement.

Equally, your new agency will want to show you success.

However, sustained success that is based on insight and strategy takes time to set up. Existing activity needs to be analysed and new opportunities need to be discovered.

Our advice? Make sure your agency takes time to let the campaign ‘bed in’ before they start making changes. Let the data come first, because that’s what will lead to true success.

relationship cheatsheet

 

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Delivering Services

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty – how to take over running the diverse elements of online marketing and what information is needed to do so.

Don’t forget, there’s a cheatsheet covering services and access for each channel. If you’re only handing over a few particular channels, go to the right section and make sure you’re prepared.

 

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SEO

A new approach to SEO can have a huge impact on your business – an increase in organic traffic expands the user base of your website and gives you a wider audience.

By helping to acquire email addresses, discover your remarketing audience and by giving you user behaviour to analyse, organic traffic helps you to create the databases you need to make the most of your other channels.

Taking over SEO should be relatively simple, but there are still things worth considering.

Questions your new agency will want to ask

What CMS are you running?

  • Your CMS might apply some technical limitations to what is possible from an SEO perspective.

Do you have Google Tag Manager installed on your site?

What kind of web analytics is installed on your site? (eg. Google Analytics, KISSMetrics, Webtrends, etc)

IMPORTANT – Who owns the analytics account? You or your old agency?

Do you have Google Tag Manager installed on your site?

  • It’s vital that your tracking is aligned with your objectives.
  • If the objectives being tracked are changing as you move agency, then this needs to be taken into account – it can make data look better or worse than it actually is!

Do you have any deliverables from your previous agency?

  • A great example of this would be a summary of which keywords were being targeted.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t – your new agency should want to do an SEO audit and keyword review. Fresh eyes are a good thing and you’ll get more up-to-date keywords based on more recent searches.
  • Having prior information gives insight to the history of the work carried out and how your potential audience might be changing.

Have you had any data issues, either in the past or ongoing?

  • An example of this would be problems with self-referral traffic.
  • Another example would be spammy referrals and low-quality/fake traffic skewing data.
  • You could also have mis-configured goals in your analytics or be lacking event/goal tracking.

Did your old agency do any link building for you?

  • Your new agency should perform a link audit either way, but if your old agency did happen to build any ‘suspicious’ links it’s important to know early to mitigate any potential penalties from Google.

What will your new agency need access to?

  • Your Analytics
  • Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools)
  • Google Tag Manager (if it’s installed)

seo cheatsheet

 

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PPC

There is so much room for optimisation with PPC. The right agency can create some incredible uplift in the results you see from paid search.

Due to its data driven nature, bedding in time is vital for PPC – you have to take the time to learn from the data and the available historical insight before making changes.

You should expect to see an audit of your existing campaigns from your new agency, which should cover:

  • What should be kept
  • In which areas your campaigns can be grown
  • In which areas spend is being wasted
  • Where the saved money can then be reallocated to best effect
  • What the next steps are

It’s this kind of insight that will give your new agency a chance to deliver impressive results.

What your new agency will want to know

Who owns your Google AdWords account?

  • The worst case scenario is that you don’t own your AdWords account and an amount of historical data and insight is lost
  • DON’T WORRY – even if this is the case, there are still ways to get information! Your new agency should be able to recover the data

Are you running campaigns on other networks?

Who’s being billed?

  • Are you being billed directly, or are your agency being billed and then passing that on to you? This is critical, as if this changes without proper planning it could lead to downtime

What’s your media budget?

What are your KPIs for PPC?

What access is needed?

  • Google AdWords
  • Other networks (eg. Bing ads)

ppc cheatsheet

 

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Email

Taking over Email Marketing is all about management – of both the Email Service Provider (ESP) and of the databases that are being targeted through it.

Sometimes, when you move agency, you may also want to change ESP (potentially on their recommendation). In this situation, the new agency will want to extract and export as much data and historical insight as possible from the previous ESP.

Information your new agency will want

Which email service provider are you using?

  • Is it set up client side or agency side?

Who’s being billed?

  • Are you being billed directly, or are your agency being billed and then passing that on to you?

What is your sending domain?

  • You’ll need to provide your sending domain details
  • If you don’t have one, don’t worry – your new agency will work with you to set it up

What access will your new agency need?

  • Email Service Provider (eg. Pure 360, Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor etc)
  • A collection of logins to all the email databases that are being used
  • A sending domain
  • Access to your brand design guidelines
  • Access to any assets or image libraries you may have

email cheatsheet

 

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Affiliates

The main concern with Affiliate Marketing is ensuring that everyone involved with your campaign is made aware of the change in contact.

Your new agency needs to establish contact with your affiliate network quickly, ensuring that all contact emails and numbers are changed so that obsolete contacts from your old agency aren’t accidentally sent information or enquiries.

It’s important that your affiliates are emailed and notified of the change in management as soon as the handover takes place. Another priority is establishing contact with your account manager at the affiliate network, something your new agency will set in action as soon as possible.

What your agency will want to know

Which affiliate networks are you using?

  • Also, who are your account managers at those networks and what are their contact details?

Who’s being billed?

  • Are you being billed directly, or are your agency being billed and then passing that on to you?

What will your new agency need access to?

  • Affiliate Network Dashboard
  • Affiliate Forum logins, if applicable

affiliates cheatsheet

 

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Social Media

Social Media is an integral part of the online marketing mix, so having a smooth transition is invaluable.

Just like any other data driven marketing activity, it’s vital that your new agency takes advantage of bedding-in time on your social media accounts.

Questions your new agency will want answered

Which social networks are you running on?

  • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube… the list just keeps growing!

Who is in control?

  • For each social network you are present on, who is responsible for marketing activity? You or the agency?

What are your objectives on Social Media?

  • What are you aiming to do, and what are your KPIs? How do you want to measure success?

What access is needed?

  • Login details for Social Media accounts

Notes on Facebook

You can now run Facebook accounts through Facebook Business Manager. As long as your new agency is correctly set up in this application, all should run smoothly.

When you do move to a new agency, you need to ensure that you clean up your ‘page roles’. Removing any obsolete personnel, either from your previous agency or old employees, is always good practice.

social media cheatsheet

 

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Display

Changing which agency is handling your Display advertising is the epitome of something we mentioned earlier – it is a change in approach. A new media plan isn’t something to be afraid of, it’s a new opportunity for the channel to drive better results for your business.

This may mean anything from a switch in strategy, to a transition to another Display network. Starting a new Display campaign is relatively straightforward in terms of handover.

As always, any historical data your new agency can get their hands on will be eagerly jumped on!

What your new agency will want to know

What are your objectives for Display?

  • Sales or brand advocacy?
  • Whichever you are aiming for, what are your KPIs? How do you want to measure success?

Which Display partners have you worked with previously?

Do you have previous creative and associated performance information?

Do you have any consumer insight that you can share?

Which reporting tech partners do you currently work with?

Things your new agency will want access to

  • Previous creative and performance information
  • Any available data from your previous/existing Display network

display cheatsheet

 

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A Coast Digital Handover Story

Earlier this year, we took over a wide range of online marketing activity for a large retail client from an extremely reputable Top 100 agency. The client’s biggest cause for concern was PPC.

They had a number of fears surrounding a PPC handover. The two biggest problems were the following:

  • They needed to see a higher ROI
  • The ownership of their Google AdWords account was a grey area – was it theirs or did it belong to their previous agency?

The AdWords account issue led to concerns surrounding loss of data, a loss of authority and then knock on effects like reduced traffic and lost revenue.

Fear vs Reality

While the clients concerns were understandable, the reality of what their PPC handover looked like is very different.

The Google AdWords ownership issue was, following investigation and communication, resolved – with the client having full ownership of the AdWords account.

Then came the results. In the first month we achieved year-on-year improvements of:

  • 84.7% increase in revenue from PPC
  • 36.8% increase in average order value

The upward trend continued, with the first three months showing more dramatic year on year improvements – the standout being a 560% increase in revenue.

All of this resulted in the client almost doubling their ROI for PPC. This resulted in their year end target being met in just 16 weeks.

Finding the Right Fit

This client knew they’d found the right team for their business at Coast Digital, but their fears and concerns over PPC could have easily caused them to hold back – thankfully they trusted their judgement, made their decision and followed through.

Our team helped them through the handover process and now they are reaping the rewards!

results

 

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Should You Be Changing Agencies?

If you’ve read this guide, then we suspect that you’re already thinking about moving agencies. At Coast Digital, we understand this is a major decision and we’d like to help.

Get in touch with our team today, to discuss your needs.

Download the guide