Your Go-To Guide To Switching Digital Marketing Agencies
Finding the right marketing agency for your business is a lot like searching for a compatible life partner – sometimes it takes a few tries to find your perfect match. Much like relationships, where the right partner complements your strengths and understands your aspirations, your online marketing team should align beautifully with your business objectives and feel like the extension of your internal team that they’re meant to be.
But what do you do when an agency that once seemed to be a match made in the marketing heavens gets a little too comfortable and stops yielding results for your business? While you won’t find any literal romance advice here, this guide will walk you through the process of breaking up with your current online marketing agency and using the lessons you’ve learned to find a new, more compatible marketing partner.
How do I know it’s time to switch marketing agencies?
Performance has declined over time.
You used to ride high on the wave of success, but lately, it feels more like a kiddie pool. A consistent decline in key performance metrics is your first hint that your digital marketing agency might not be delivering the results it once did. Don’t jump to conclusions, though. There are plenty of legitimate reasons that metrics could temporarily trend downward – seasonality, for example. Before you write your breakup email, have a discussion with your marketing team about the decline. Ideally, they will have already noticed the reduced performance and are strategizing a plan of action.
The strategy is misaligned with your business goals.
If your agency is veering off into uncharted territories that have nothing to do with your business objectives, it might be time to pause and reassess the partnership. To some degree, marketing is about experimentation and trying new things. While it’s not an immediate red flag if your agency suggests a new marketing tool or method that you’ve never heard of before, they should be able to explain clearly how the new strategy aligns with your goals, as well as how and when its success will be evaluated. Furthermore, experimental strategies should never come at the expense of tried-and-true methods that are still driving results for your company.
Transparency and effective communication are lacking.
Communication is the backbone of any relationship, professional or personal. Transparency fosters trust, and a lack thereof could signify deeper issues. An effective agency will be upfront and honest with you about costs, timelines, deliverables, roles and responsibilities, conditions, reporting, expectations, etc. If your agency is speaking in riddles or keeping you in the dark, it’s time to turn on the light.
Deadlines and commitments are often missed.
A missed deadline here and there can be forgiven, but when it becomes a recurring theme, it can seriously disrupt your marketing strategy and hold you back from achieving your business goals. Consistent excuses and missed commitments are likely a signal of disorganization or other dysfunction within the agency. While every business is entitled to its growing pains, a responsible agency should be able to provide you with a quality, reliable experience despite whatever they are dealing with internally. If there are larger issues standing in the way of progress, that should be a discussion of its own that should be happening before deadlines are missed, not after.
Your feedback and suggestions are ignored.
You’re not looking for a “yes man” but a partner who values your input and encourages open and honest discourse in your relationship. A trustworthy agency partner will tell you honestly if you suggest an idea that is misaligned with your goals. But that doesn’t mean your input should be dismissed. On the contrary – you possess a level of first-hand knowledge about your product, customers, and market that makes your contribution invaluable to the people leading your marketing strategy. If you feel frequently dismissed by your agency, consider it a warning bell.
How do I leave my current agency?
Evaluate your contract’s exit requirements.
Before you even think of contacting a new agency, dust off your existing contract and give it a thorough read. Understanding the termination clauses is crucial to ensuring a smooth departure. Are you obligated to stay with your current agency for a specific period, or do you need to give notice X days in advance? If you’re not sure, simply contact your agency and ask about your options.
Communicate your decision.
Breaking up is hard to do, but it doesn’t have to be messy. Once you’ve decided to leave, inform your agency contacts as soon as possible. You can avoid burning bridges by handling this process with clarity, consideration, professionalism, and mutual respect. Be honest about your reasons for the decision. Your feedback will help the company improve its services in the future. While they will no doubt be disappointed to hear that you’ve decided to cancel your services, losing the occasional client is part of life for even the most reputable agency.
Prepare for potential counteroffers.
Brace yourself – your agency might not be ready to let go. Be prepared for counteroffers that may range from sweet promises to desperate pleas. Give these offers fair consideration, especially if you are on the fence about whether to leave. Your honest feedback may be enough to yield a better experience moving forward. Discount or not, don’t let yourself be persuaded to stay unless you have genuine reason to believe that your concerns have been heard and will be appropriately addressed. Stay firm about whatever decision best aligns with your long-term business objectives.
Take inventory of projects in progress
Are there projects currently in progress? If so, collaborate with your current agency to ensure ongoing projects are handed over seamlessly, either directly to your new marketing team or to you to forward once you’ve hired a new agency. You should also consider any projects that you anticipate being completed over the next 1-2 months. If anything is crucial for your business operations, communicate those immediate priorities to your new agency ASAP during your onboarding process.
Secure access to necessary data and assets.
Your current agency almost certainly has access to several online accounts associated with your business. You likely granted them access at the beginning of your relationship. In this case, you can simply remove the agency’s access after the transition is complete. If the agency created some accounts on your behalf, you may not have the ability to log in to them yourself. In this case, you must request access to all your accounts before parting ways.
Which platforms you have accounts on depends on the particular services the agency was providing you. To get you started, here are the most common and important types of accounts digital marketing agencies work on:
- Website logins. If you owned your website before working with the agency, you simply need to confirm your credentials still work. If the agency developed the website for you, they will need to grant you access. While Intuitive Digital doesn’t believe in this practice, some agencies retain ownership of sites they develop. In the rare case that this caveat is in your contract, you might be forced to purchase ownership rights to your website. Annoying as it may be, it’s worth jumping through an extra hoop or two to be in control of your most important digital asset.
- Analytics accounts. Google Analytics is the top priority, but this includes any platform that is collecting data about your marketing strategy.
- Advertising/PPC accounts. Depending on your marketing strategy, this includes platforms such as Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook Ads, Pinterest Ads, etc.
- Google Search Console. Formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, this platform helps SEOs monitor, optimize, and troubleshoot your website’s performance in organic search results.
- Social media accounts. This includes platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and Snapchat. Like your website, control of your business’s social media accounts could lie with you, the agency, or someone else in your organization. At Intuitive Digital, it’s common for our partners to realize that an agency they no longer work with still has admin access to their social media accounts. Want to avoid this headache? Make a checklist of social media platforms your business has a presence on and verify that you’re able to log in to them and that your account has administrator privileges. After offboarding is complete, ensure you remove the agency’s access to each account.
- Email marketing platform. If your agency sends regular newsletters, promotion announcements, or other automated communications to your list of email subscribers, you need to know what method they use to manage these communications. While some agencies use proprietary software, many use branded software such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.
How do I choose a new marketing agency?
Avoid cookie-cutter strategies.
Your business is unique, and your marketing strategy should reflect that. Look for an agency that understands the intricacies of your industry and tailors their approach to align with your specific goals.
Align values and culture.
A successful partnership goes beyond services rendered. Choose an agency whose values and culture align with yours. This synergy creates a more cohesive and productive working relationship.
Check portfolios and case studies.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the portfolio. Examine the agency’s past work and case studies. It provides insight into their capabilities and the results they’ve achieved for similar businesses.
Seek client testimonials and reviews.
What do their clients say about them? Client testimonials and reviews offer a glimpse into the agency’s reputation and client satisfaction. A positive track record is a strong indicator of a reliable partner.
Ask these crucial questions during the selection process:
How are results measured?
Different agencies may have different metrics for success. Ensure their definition aligns with your business objectives. Whether it’s increased brand awareness, lead generation, or conversion rates, be clear from the beginning how the agency will evaluate the effectiveness of its efforts.
What is your approach to communication and reporting?
Communication breakdowns can derail even the most well-thought-out strategies. Inquire about their communication practices and reporting frequency. A transparent and regular update system keeps everyone on the same page.
How adaptable are you to my industry’s unique needs?
Every industry has its nuances. A great agency can adapt its strategies to fit your specific industry requirements. Ask about their experience in your field and how they plan to navigate its challenges.
What timeline can I expect to see results?
Be exceptionally cautious about any promises that sound too good to be true. While it’s not impossible to see a bump in business volumes soon after a campaign is launched, it will typically take a few months of testing, optimizing, and monitoring for the strategy to begin bearing fruit. In the case of SEO, a realistic timeline for results is 9-12 months. Even then, unpredictable algorithm updates and other ever-evolving aspects of the digital marketing landscape make guaranteeing results anywhere from irresponsible to downright impossible. Before signing on the dotted line, be confident that you’re working with responsible marketers who aren’t promising you the sky to get the sale.
What is my role during the transition?
Be prepared for temporary fluctuations in metrics.
Transitioning to a new digital marketing agency will typically require a brief period between your previous agency stopping their efforts and your new agency initiating theirs. A couple of weeks of downtime won’t make a huge difference to your SEO rankings, but your business volumes may decline if your ad campaigns are a significant contributor to your operations. Trust the process and expect fluctuations in metrics as the new agency settles in and fine-tunes strategies. This is a natural, temporary part of the transition process.
Be available and prepared for LOTS of questions.
So you’ve hired an agency that has a reputation for creating in-depth, custom-tailored marketing strategies. Great job! The good news is that you’ve set yourself up for greater success down the road. The “bad” news is that before your new marketing team can help you, they need you to help them learn everything they can about your business. Expect the onboarding process to include a lengthy list of questions about your business, requests for access to necessary digital assets, and at least one kickoff meeting.
This may feel like a lot, but the more effort you put into setting your new marketing team up for success, the more tailored and effective the marketing strategy will be in promoting and growing your business.
Communicate with your internal teams.
Even if they don’t directly interact with your agency contacts, the decision to change marketing agencies affects more than just you. You can help keep everyone in your organization on the same page by communicating the reasons behind the change, the potential impacts, and the long-term benefits of the switch. Also, be sure to give them regular updates as the transition progresses.
The decision to switch digital marketing agencies is a strategic move that requires careful consideration. By recognizing the signs indicating the need for change, navigating the departure from your current agency with professionalism, and being diligent in your search for a new marketing partner, you pave the way for a more aligned and fruitful collaboration.
At Intuitive Digital, we understand the importance of transparent communication, tailored strategies, and delivering results that matter. Our commitment to high standards, adaptability, and client satisfaction sets us apart. Consider Intuitive Digital for your digital marketing needs, and let’s create a strategy that not only meets but exceeds your expectations. On the search for the right agency? Intuitive Digital is a B-corp digital marketing agency in Portland and currently accepting new partners. Reach out to us to get started.