Maybe traffic is low, leads are poor, and you're just not closing the deals you were looking for. You might be faced with the difficult decision of breaking ties with your agency, but you don't want to burn bridges or leave your business in an even worse place as you transition.
Breaking up with your agency doesn't have to be messy.
There are key steps you need to take to end the relationship on good terms and set your business up for continued success.
In this article, we’ll cover:
How to know if it truly is time to fire your marketing agency.
Steps to take when offboarding your agency and ending the relationship.
How to proceed after the service end date.
What to consider before jumping into hiring another marketing agency.
With this information, not only will you learn how to approach this difficult situation in the appropriate way, but you will also learn how to ensure you’re covered after parting ways.
Signs you need to fire your marketing agency
When businesses hire a marketing agency but don’t see the growth they’d hoped for, it can be difficult to know if the time is right to fire your agency or if there is a way to salvage that relationship.
You might be thinking about how much time and effort it’s taken to find the agency, and maybe there are things you can do to help make it work, but trust us when we say that waiting too long can be costly.
Here are the red flags to be aware of when deciding whether or not to let your marketing agency go:
You haven't seen an uptick in sales opportunities after six months: Marketing strategies can take a while to plan and implement, but they shouldn’t take too long. Although your business should expect a planning period and time to get things rolling, you should ideally be seeing big results within the six-month mark. Even if other numbers are climbing, if they aren't resulting in sales, something is afoot.
The content they produce doesn’t sound like your brand: One of the biggest setbacks we see businesses with outside marketing agencies struggle with is that the content produced for them doesn’t sound like them. It’s very difficult to get an agency or even a freelancer to capture who you are if they don’t focus solely on you — and with other clients to juggle, they will never be able to.
Your agency team has high turnover: A high turnover rate at your agency is never a good sign. When you work with an agency, you're building a relationship and trusting your image with them. You don't want to work with an agency where the talent on your project is constantly changing. If your account is regularly changing hands it's likely the agency is not as stable as you would like.
Bottom line, if no one at your business is excited about the agency’s work, this is a major indication the marketing strategy is falling flat and doesn’t have the command it needs to create real change.
An effective marketing agency will not only have an exciting strategy in place for your business but will be generating results that are motivating for your team.
IMPACT Director of Training Justine Thomas explains the trend saying, “They’re doing everything, soup to nuts. They’re coming up with a strategy, they’re pitching it, and they’re implementing it. But most of the things agencies strategize about are recycled ideas they've used with other clients. What works for Client A may not work for Client B, and so more often than not, your success will be hit-or-miss.”
So, don't wait. Be honest with yourself about how your agency is performing and make the best decision for its long-term performance.
How to fire your agency (and not skip a beat)
So you’ve made the decision to fire your marketing agency. There’s no turning back.
Here’s what your offboarding process should look like:
1. Review your current contract and follow its conditions
The first step to firing your marketing agency is knowing your contract. It’s important to know the terms of your separation, how much notice you need to provide, and the rest of the conditions you’ve agreed to so you can keep them.
Most agreements require 30 days of notice, but if there is no time frame specified, set one. Whatever you choose, just be sure to give your business enough time to wrap up loose ends and not blindside your team in-house or at the agency.
2. Have your decision-makers make the announcement
To avoid confusion and enforce formality, make sure to have your decision makers communicate your decision to end the partnership.
This shows alignment and avoids the agency asking to speak to leadership for further details.
Also, ensure that leadership is direct and concise with the decision, but also provides feedback, if possible, as to why. Especially if you've developed a friendly relationship with your contact, this detail is appreciated.
3. Plan when and how to end current projects
If you're in the middle of a project with your agency, ask it to provide you with a timeline detailing how they will complete it before the service end date or come to an agreement otherwise.
This is critical to making sure you're not left with unfinished work you need to complete on your own.
4. Get all files and processes
Get your agency to gather and send you any files and processes used during your time together.
If you’ve used a project management tool, such as Basecamp, ask how long you will have access to them so you can take all the necessary files with you before ending any projects.
5. Get admin access to all company accounts
Believe it or not, some businesses miss this step and let agencies keep access to their private business accounts.
Make sure your agency grants you access and ownership of all the relevant accounts so that you can maintain them after the partnership ends.
These accounts typically include:
Google suite tools, such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, and Google Adwords.
Social media pages and accounts.
Third-party accounts, such as HubSpot, Semrush, Hotjar, and Lucky Orange.
6. Remove agency from all accounts
Once your service end date is over, be sure to remove agency users from all company accounts and change your passwords. This is so they can no longer access your company’s profiles, metrics, and private data.
After the breakup...
Once these steps are complete, it’s time to set yourself up as soon as possible for your business’s next chapter. This may include asking yourself if you should work with another agency.
Should you outsource marketing again?
Before hiring another marketing agency, think about what you need to accomplish.
In general, we recommend that you keep the most important pieces of your marketing efforts in-house.
For example, if it’s important that your messaging resonates with your buyers better than anyone else in your industry, bring content creation in-house.
While some outsourced writers are incredibly talented and may even have experience in your industry, they will never have deep understanding of your business. They’re simply not in it.
The people who will resonate most with your prospects and most accurately address your products, processes, and culture are the people in it every day — your sales team, your engineering team, your customer support team, your executive team, and so on — your subject matter experts (SME).
Your SMEs are the ultimate source of the most honest, helpful, and transparent content available, anywhere.
They will know more about your business than any outside marketing agency or freelance writer ever could.
Overall, anything that is core to the way you operate your business and marketing on a day-to-day basis should be in-house.
Typically, we recommend the following:
You need the people on your team to obsess over your content day in and day out, making sure you’re publishing three times per week and getting the type of content you need.
If your company is set on being the voice of the buyer in your industry, then you will want to follow in the footsteps of the most successful companies we work with — and their first step is always getting their content right and published at a regular cadence.
This includes blog articles, buyer's guides, email campaigns, and anything else that is core to your strategy and ongoing.
What you'll need to do: When you bring content in-house, you need to start by hiring someone to own your content strategy and production. Depending on their experience and specific responsibilities, this person may be called a content manager, content writer, or even content director. You may even find yourself needing to create a content team to handle higher volume.
Whatever your approach, your content team will be determining what content is needed, getting it produced (whether its writing it, coaching others, outsourcing, etc.), and measuring its performance afterwards.
Same goes for video. Just think about all the questions your buyers are asking during the sales process. Hundreds if not thousands of questions need to be addressed and discussed on your website, and with video being such an important part of marketing strategies today, it should also be a large part of what your business focuses on every day.
What you'll need to do: Similar to content management, when you bring video in-house you will need someone or even a team to own video production in your company. This includes someone to determine what videos are needed and ensuring they're produced, but also actual filming, editing, and even script writing.
With so much to analyze and keep on top of, no marketing agency is going to manage your CRM like an in-house specialist, whether you’re using HubSpot or another tool. You want to have constant access to analytics and reports from the marketing tools that provide the most accurate and reliable data.
What you'll need to do: Your CRM management may likely fall more into the hands of your sales team, as it houses all of your lead and prospect activity. Make sure they incorporate it into their sales process, but also make sure your marketing team is aware of how to use it to personalize content, automate emails, and more.
Although it’s tempting to hire a marketing agency to take care of all your strategy and messaging, the best way to ensure your marketing success is to take it into your own hands.
Things like marketing strategy, content creation, and data analytics are all parts of the marketing process your business can’t afford to hand off to a company that doesn't live and breathe what you do and shares its attention with other clients.
No one knows your business better than you do. No one knows your processes, culture, voice, and most importantly, buyers better than you do. It's these details that you need to capture and share to build trust with a modern customer.