Taking an active role in the way your agency handles your marketing activity is essential to maintaining a good relationship with them. As an extended part of your team, it’s their job to work towards achieving your business goals and spend your budget in the wisest way.
But sometimes, your agency can get a little comfortable, or changing priorities for both your company and theirs can mean a shift in focus. Whatever the reason, it’s not unusual to find that after a few years with an agency it may be time to move on. Here are five tell-tale signs you’ve reached that point.
Reviews and reports have dropped off
Regular reviews and reports are essential for staying on track and ensuring that the agency is working towards your objectives. At the beginning of a relationship, agencies bend over backwards to ensure everything is ‘transparent’, i.e. you’re seeing regular reports and having frequent meetings, but if this has tailed off and you find yourself chasing for monthly reports or dissatisfied with the review meetings, it may be time to look elsewhere.
Reviews should cover the latest results, what work has been done, what has worked and what hasn’t, any alterations in strategy and what is planned for the next quarter. Your agency should also be making recommendations about how and where to spend your budget. Of course, for them to do this you have to acknowledge their expertise and follow their advice. If you are missing any of the above from your reviews, ask your agency to include it at the next meeting before deciding whether to open up for new pitches.
Lack of adequate information
Following on from the above point, if your agency begins to withhold information or doesn’t offer it up without being asked it’s time to start asking questions. Handing over hundreds or even thousands of pounds each month requires a basic level of trust that your money is being spent well, so if your agency is reluctant to give you, say, a quarterly breakdown of how they’re spending your budget, or access to your analytics dashboards, it suggests there’s something to hide.
Handing over hundreds or even thousands of pounds each month requires a basic level of trust that your money is being spent well.
Your strategy or results aren’t changing
Part of the reason for using an external marketing agency is to support your in-house team with tasks they may not have time for. The agency may take on strategy planning, aspects of digital marketing or execution of print campaigns – whatever their role, you would expect the strategy to change as your organisation and its objectives change. In line with this, a good agency will make recommendations for the budget, moving money from SEO into PPC if needed, for example, or scaling back PPC when relevant to put money into a video or social campaign.
You would also expect to see a long term improvement in results as campaigns become more effective – by which we mean year on year improvements as opposed to the weekly peaks and troughs that are inevitable in a fluctuating market. If one or both of these things are beginning to stagnate, or your results have been trending downwards for a significant period of time, it might be time for a fresh pair of eyes on the marketing. A new agency can bring different ideas and skillsets to the table, giving your strategy and campaigns a much needed boost.
High turnover of staff
If the staff at the agency are changing frequently and you find yourself with a new account manager or team member more than once a year, it could be a clue that something untoward is going on behind the scenes. Agencies have a reasonably high turnover rate in general – most employees stay for around two years – but if the team on your account is changing more often it could be that they are dissatisfied, or that redundancies are being made for financial reasons.
If the agency isn’t treating its own employees very well, you’re right to question how seriously it’s taking your business.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about team changes – after all, it is in your interests for the staff on your account to feel valued and to remain aware of any restructures that might affect the work being done for you. If the agency isn’t treating its own employees very well, you’re right to question how seriously it’s taking your business.
No questions asked
Obviously a relationship is a two-way thing, so your agency should be taking an interest in how your business is performing as a result of their work. That means asking for information such as what kind of conversions your PPC is driving (are you getting good leads or poor quality ones, for example?) or average order values. If this kind of detail isn’t available in the marketing dashboards they have access to, or they’re not probing deeper, it could mean their interest lies in simply doing what’s necessary to keep collecting their monthly fee, rather than whether their activity is actually impacting your business. Perhaps it’s time to find an agency that will ask the right questions.
What to do if you think you need a new marketing agency
How long you stay with your agency is really up to you. If you don’t feel you’re getting the results or the communication you expect, address it with them and give them a chance to remedy it. If, however, things don’t improve (or improve briefly and then revert back), dig out your contract and see what the notice period is, and if there are any terms surrounding it.
You may want to notify your agency that you are opening the pitch process before terminating a contract. Re-pitching keeps an agency on its toes and reminds them that they can’t rest on their laurels when it comes to your business. Invite them and a few others that you’ve carefully researched to pitch, and then make a decision based on the needs of your team and your business.