Don’t Make a Huge Mistake: A Guide to Inheriting Campaigns

By Susan Rust

Let’s start off with a digital show of hands.

Who here has started working with a new client, and inherited their online marketing campaign from a previous agency with below average SEO, social or content execution?

I hope the answer leans towards no (for the sake of agency reputations), but there are times when your agency might be brought on by a business to fix what others have done.

You might have also been brought on for a multitude of different reasons, such as budgetary restrictions, a fresh perspective or to offer communication the previous agency lacked. Sometimes, it may just be that the first agency didn’t properly educate the client on what they do, and now the client has unfair expectations for their campaign.

Whatever the reason, if you inherit a campaign, there will be things that need fixing and others that need a new direction. I’d like to talk about some of the items I’ve come across and how I now go about planning for them. For the purpose of this post, we’ll assume your agency has already been hired by a new client and they are willing to pay for your services to correct or continue their interactive marketing efforts from a previous agency.

Start With An Inventory

Before we take action, I always like to start with an inventory of everything that’s been done by the previous agency. These can either be obtained by asking the client for them or connecting with the agency.

Here’s a peek at my checklist:

  • Strategy or tactical documents
  • Logins (directories, tools, CMS, email identities, forums, Analytics, social media)
  • Reports from previous agency
  • Obtained inbound links
  • Images, promotional materials, page templates or any other graphic
  • Outside writers or resources

When you have these in your possession, you’re already a step above the previous agency by using what they’ve done as a launchpad. You can either decide to build off their strategy with better execution or learn from their mistakes and change direction. The point is to not waste any research or experience that’s already been learned.

Expect Pushback

Inherited campaigns become a little difficult to manage as the 2nd or 3rd agency for many reasons. However, I always seem to run into pushback from clients when I cover something that they’ve had to meet about before. For example, if they’ve had monthly meetings with the previous agency on link building strategy, asking to schedule a meeting for the same topic might incur some resistance.

Using your inventory, try to get as much information as possible from these documents instead of emailing the client back and forth. Save your communication with the client for questions you can’t find the answers to. I like to use Basecamp for message threads that keep all communication in one place and also help with smooth campaign transition if a new account manager has to pick up where you left off.

Set Your Own Goals

Once you have a list of all the available resources at your disposal and you’ve discerned which direction to take the campaign, be sure to set new goals with the client. This is what you will eventually tie back results to, and the client should understand that everyone is working towards the same thing. It’s easy to become distracted with inherited campaigns when errors and time sensitive fixes become new priorities. Stick to your goals and ask for additional help if there’s something that needs attention.

Fix Any Immediate Concerns

Ok, so now we’re ready to execute on deliverables. I like to start by evaluating the site’s user experience and sales flow which can often suffer when multiple agencies are working on each. Unfinished pages, promotions and site updates can lead to dead ends for users that prevent them from a conversion. This can also stop your agency from delivering results to the client and running into the same fate as the previous agency!

Here are some items I like to check for as soon as I take over a site from someone else.

  • Page errors (400 errors, 302 temporary redirects, 500 server errors)
  • Duplicate content (page titles, meta descriptions, headers, on-page text)
  • Robots.txt file has all pages properly being crawled and indexed
  • Updated sitemap
  • No competing sites (subdomains, test servers, other owned domains)
  • Broken internal links

I recommend using Google Webmaster Tools and Screaming Frog to check on all of those items. To learn more about Screaming Frog and how you can use it to for a thorough site audit, check out this great article by Aichlee Bushnell from Seer Interactive.

Perform A Content Audit

If social media or blog management is part of your marketing strategy for the client, you’ll want to do a quick audit of the content that’s been promoted to their target audience and the public. Do this to prevent any confusion to users, fans and followers from a different voice behind the brand messaging. Ideally, you can continue where the previous agency left off but I like to understand everything that’s been disseminated.

Here’s how:

  • Use Storify to find any mention or response from your client on different channels like Google+, Facebook and Twitter. I go back for the previous 6 months and store all the conversations right in the timeline on Storify. I also keep this private.
  • Use Google Analytics to group blog posts by category or tag. See what type of posts the previous agency wrote about the most and redefine your blog strategy based on which saw the most traffic or interaction.
  • Do an advanced search in Google with the “intext:” and “intitle:” operators for the client’s name and “guest post” or “press release” in the search query. I perform these searches to better understand where else my client may have been featured and what they wrote about.

Clean Up Any Bad Search Tactics

One of the hardest things to hear from your client is that the previous agency had performed poor SEO tactics that got them penalized or dropped from rankings. It can be time consuming and difficult to correct but if your agency has been brought on for this reason, then congratulations for being a respectable and honorable business!

Here’s what I look for after I’ve addressed the immediate concerns and content audit.

  • Link wheels
  • Spammy links and directories
  • Paid reciprocal links
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Fake reviews on social and local sites
  • Nofollow outbound links

Fixing these (if they exist) can be just as important as everything else I’ve mentioned so you’ll definitely want to tackle these. I personally go after these as I’m executing on the campaign so that progress is being made while I patch the holes.

Managing The Client

Even after all of these checks are performed, I always make sure I am communicating about each to the client in my reports. It’s crucial that you don’t become another intermediate agency and one way to prevent that is to make the client understand all the good work you’re doing for them.

Traffic, conversions and rankings can take time and educating the client on your fixes can buy you the time you need to see results.

Inheriting an interactive marketing campaign from another agency or person is challenging, but if you establish goals up front, build trust along the way and communicate results, you are setting yourself up for success. Don’t make a huge mistake and miss this opportunity to be your own STEVE HOLT!


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Susan Rust

By Susan Rust

I believe we hear and learn to say "no, it can't be done, that's too hard" rather than say "yes, let's do it now!" I have many mottos, mine for now is "Run fast, break things."

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