The Ins and Out of Switching Marketing Agencies

Jenna Ott

Account Executive, 7+ Years of Digital Marketing and Project Management Experience

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The Ins and Out of Switching Marketing Agencies Blog Feature

Published on December 17th, 2018

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I’ve been working for marketing agencies for quite some time now.

Personally, what I love most about my job are the relationships I get to build every day, whether it be with my co-workers, fellow marketers, or my clients.

My clients are easily what drive me to jump out of bed every morning, excited to do what I do.

My best client relationships are the ones where we are completely open and honest with each other; where I have the opportunity to hear about their experiences with other agencies, good and bad.

These insights help me be a better marketer and advocate for my clients because I’ve learned about things that have gone right in the past, and also the things that didn’t.

Another thing I’ve learned is the driving factors and reasons that an organization makes the move from one agency to another and the challenges and benefits that come with such a move.

Why Would You Switch Marketing Agencies?

There are many reasons that can be cited for switching agencies. Often, it has to do with budget and value and other times it is a more personal reason. Let’s look at a few of the most common reasons.

Strategic Motivation

In a lot of cases, the decision to switch marketing agencies is a strategic one.

Consider this, every year an organization reviews budgets and their strategic plan. In this consideration period, they review their investments and determine if there is value in that investment.

In most cases than not, when it comes to a marketing agency, the decision to make a change comes down to these key factors:

  • A lack of function and/or financial value:  Not meeting expectations when it comes to the deliverables, whether it be a timing issue or a quality issue, and/or not getting the ROI that was expected are major drivers for a needed change.

  • Poor account and project management: Having a point of contact that is not organized or able to communicate effectively to keep projects moving forward successfully has a big impact on your engagement. This leads to missed deadlines and costly critical mistakes.

  • An inability to pivot: Most industries and organizations are always experiencing changes. This often includes rapid growth. Just like your organization, your marketing agency has to be flexible and able to pivot priorities and tactics to accommodate such changes and scale accordingly.

  • Management changes within the organization: Simply put, someone new takes charge of the organization and feels there is a better fit elsewhere.

  • Your agreement is up: It’s come time to make the important decision of whether or not to continue with your marketing agency, and whatever the reason, you feel it is time to part ways.

Culture Misalignment

Another common reason for a change is cultural misalignment.

I mentioned above that one of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to build different relationships. This is not always easy or even possible if an organization and it’s marketing agency are not culturally aligned, meaning you may have very different visions for what constitutes success or your teams’ communication styles don’t match up, for example.

Culturally misaligned partnerships may lead to:

  • Different ideas of what success looks like: As the engagement moves along, there are times when the client and the marketing agency don’t see things eye-to-eye and are measuring success by different things. This makes it difficult to agree on what is working and what isn’t.

  • People issues: This simply comes down to conflicting personalities that have a difficult time working together.

    • Type-a versus type-b

    • Proactive versus reactive

    • Fast-paced versus moderately-paced

    • Over-communicative versus not communicative enough

  • Lack of transparency: Being open and honest with each other about goals, expectations, and challenges isn’t always easy. Without conversations around where things stand or what is being delivered makes it difficult for a client to feel confident in the relationship.

  • Miscommunication: Struggling to clearly express goals, expectations, etc. on either side can lead to a breakdown of a relationship. It can also lead to costly and time-consuming work that may not provide the value or results expected. And on a more personal level, it can lead to people feeling like they are not being heard.

Budgetary Factors

The last “why” that is commonly heard comes down to the budget.

When an organization reviews its numbers and finds that some changes need to be made, financially, difficult decisions arise. One such decision is to scale back or stop their marketing agency investment.

This decision is often made, not based on any kind of performance issue or lack of results, but simply on the basis of needing to scale back spending.

This can lead to a temporary halt of the engagement, a hybrid model, or a full cancelation. Sometimes, it even means turning to another, smaller agency that offers smaller scale services at a lower cost.

Preparing To Switch Marketing Agencies Change

Here are a few critical things to consider when going through the process of finding a new marketing agency:

  1. Know your “why”:  It’s important to reflect on and fully understand the “why” behind your decision to go in a new direction. What ultimately made you end your last relationship and what are you looking for in a new relationship?

    In order to set the right expectations for your future marketing agency, you need to have clarity on what those expectations really are.

  2. Give them time:  When you make the shift to a new agency, keep in mind that they are new to your organization. They will need some time to become familiar with your products or services.

    In order for a new agency to be successful, they need the opportunity to familiarize themselves with historical performance data and metrics and develop a strategy to propel you forward. As much as we all wish it could be, this doesn’t happen overnight.

  3. Realign with your leadership team:  It is never easy to admit to others that something you championed didn’t quite work out as you had hoped, but be open and honest with your leadership team about what did and did not satisfy expectations.

    Show them your commitment to the organization and your marketing efforts by putting forth a solution in the form of a new agency that better aligns with your mission. Reassure them that continuing with an agency is the right choice for your company.

  4. Expect a ramp-up period:  Sure, you have plenty of documentation and historical data from your previous marketing agency relationship, but your new agency is going to need time to review it all and  bring their approach to the table.

    They will have unique ideas, strategies, and tactics that will develop from their review of your organization and the historical data reviewed.

What to Look For When Hiring a New Marketing Agency

Let’s be honest, there is an overflowing market of agencies these days. You have your pick of the litter. But you should be looking for specific things in your next agency so that you find the right fit for you, your team, and your company.

  1. Someone who practices what they preach:  When it comes to choosing a new marketing agency, you want to find one that has been able to create its own success through its methods.  The most telling sign that an agency has the skills and knowledge to help you be successful is how they’ve applied those skills and knowledge to drive their own success.

    If your goal of hiring a marketing agency is to reach the top of Google through content, they better have their own search results that rank on the first page above the fold in Google’s SERPs (search engine result pages).If your objective is to reach a specific amount of site traffic and leads over time, they must be able to demonstrate they’ve had that similar acceleration of growth.At the end of the day, the marketing agency you hire should be it’s own best success story. You want to work with an agency that is constantly testing their ideas and tactics internally before implementing them for clients.  

  2. They don’t wait until they are working with you to help:  Make sure that the agency has adopted the “ABH” mentality - Always Be Helping.

    As early as the initial sales call, an agency should be asking you questions and offering suggestions. There should be a genuine effort to understand your organization, your industry, your competition, etc. and an ability to provide value even before an agreement is developed.

    Making tools and documentation available to you early on to help your team internally is a huge indicator of an agency’s willingness and desire to be a partner that will be focused on your success.

  3. They have a great NPS score:  Net promoter score (NPS) is a collective rating from an agency’s clients that evaluate their  experience in currently working with or having worked with that agency.

    The NPS gives insight into the overall health of the relationships the agency has had, over time, with their clients, but your perception of a company should not be wholly reliant on this factor.

    Here at IMPACT, Account Executives, like myself, ask our clients for their NPS score every other week.

    We don’t do this solely for the sake of gaining a score on a scale of 1-10, but also to create an open dialogue where we can learn from our clients areas in which there is room for improvement. This is something we genuinely care about.

  4. They support your internal team where needed:  When determining if another agency is the right fit, you should be looking for them to offer up the resources to fill in the gaps in your internal team.

    If you have a strong content writer internally, but need someone to provide high level strategy, make that clear.

    An agency should be adept at building out the supports you need so that time and money is most effectively allocated to make for a productive relationship.

Key Takeaways

Change is never easy, especially when there is so much at stake, but finding the right fit to help you achieve success in your marketing efforts is key to your success.

With the information above, hopefully, you feel better prepared to make a change that will ensure the outcome you are looking for.

If you’re considering leaving your current agency, remember to make sure to:

  • Fully understand why a change is needed

  • Give your current agency enough time to wrap up in-progress projects

  • Realign with your leadership team on the changes that are being made

  • Be prepared for another ramp-up period
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