by Jacob Baadsgaard June 30, 2016

Is it Time to Switch Online Marketing Agencies?

There are a lot of good reasons to hire an online marketing agency—the price point is typically better, you get the time and talents of a team of marketing specialists…and the list goes on.

However, sometimes things just don’t seem to be working out.

Maybe you aren’t getting the results you need. Maybe you don’t like the account manager you are working with. Maybe something’s changed in your business.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

According to a recent report by the Agency Management Institute, 50% of companies with an agency have changed agencies at least once in the last 2 years.

Clearly, not every agency-client relationship is a match made in heaven.


However, there are times when it makes sense to switch agencies and times when it doesn’t. The question is, should you be switching agencies? Or would it be better to try and make things work with your current agency?

To answer those questions, let’s take a look at 3 of the biggest reasons why companies switch online marketing agencies, the specific problems that prompt them to switch and how to handle those problems.

1. You Aren’t Getting Results

For 46% of companies, it all boils down to results. If the agency can’t drive the results they need, they get fired.

At first glance, this seems like a perfectly reasonable way to determine the value of your agency relationship—and it is.

However, before you say, “The results aren’t there, it’s time to move on”, it may be a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:

Have I established clear expectations?

If you don’t know what you expect from your agency, how do you know if they’ve succeeded?

More importantly, if you haven’t made your expectations clear to your agency, they may be chasing a moving target. They don’t know what you want, which makes it hard to produce the results you need.

If you’re frustrated with your current marketing agency, but you haven’t set clear, specific, measurable goals and expectations, changing agencies won’t fix the problem.

Instead of pulling the plug, get together with your agency and define what success looks like. Then give them the chance to actually meet or exceed your expectations.

On the other hand, if your expectations are clear and your agency still isn’t performing at an acceptable level, it’s probably time to move on.

Are my expectations realistic?

Simply setting expectations isn’t enough, though. Your goals need to be aggressive, but realistic.

For example, if your goal is to generate $100,000 a month in revenue on a $500 AdWords budget for a product that sells for $50 a piece, your marketing agency is doomed to fail.

As crazy as that sort of goal sounds, you’d be surprised at what people think they can do with online marketing.

The best way to decide whether or not your expectations are realistic is to sit down and talk with your agency. Calculate what sorts of results your business needs to justify the agency’s fee and then see if your agency believes they can meet those goals.

A good agency will tell you flat out if what you want can be done and give you a timeline for achieving your goals.

If your goals are unattainable within the constraints of your budget, timeline or business model, changing agencies won’t solve your problem. You’ll either need to adjust your expectations or consider a different approach to marketing your business.

However, if you’ve set reasonable expectations and your agency isn’t producing the results you need, it may be time to switch agencies.

Have I communicated my frustrations?

Every relationship has points of friction. Mistakes happen, balls get dropped, expectations aren’t met. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in the wrong relationship.

I’d love to tell you that there’s a perfect agency out there. However, if there was, they wouldn’t need you as a client.

The key is to talk to your agency about your frustrations and give them a chance to improve. After all, if your agency doesn’t know what they are doing wrong, they can’t change.

No one wants to be that person and bring up problems, but if you are frustrated with something, you owe it to your agency to let them know. Simply changing agencies may provide temporary relief, but something new always comes up.

So, if you haven’t talked to your current agency about your frustrations, it may be a good idea to let them know why you are frustrated with the relationship. Give them a chance to fix things.

But, if you’ve been open and honest about the situation for some time and things still haven’t improved, the relationship probably needs to end.

Does my agency understand my industry?

Sometimes, even the most well-meaning, responsive and responsible agencies struggle to produce results. It’s not that they aren’t committed, they simply don’t understand the client’s industry.

If you’ve been working with an agency for a while that just doesn’t get your industry, that may be a good reason to change agencies. Just make sure that you’ve allowed your agency enough time to prove that they don’t get your market before you pull the trigger.

2. Your Agency is Hard to Work With

Even if the results are there, sometimes working an agency can simply make your life difficult.

However, before you decide that the results aren’t worth the headache, ask yourself the following:

Am I struggling with a culture clash?

Often, agencies and companies view success very differently.

If traffic is the primary metric you are held accountable to but your agency is focused on something else, it can feel like you are constantly trying to get your agency to focus on what really matters to you.

This sort of misalignment typically happens when you haven’t set clear goals and expectations. You and your agency simply have different priorities.

If you don’t clarify what you’re after, your agency is going to keep doing what they think is best.

The key here is to identify the point (or points) of conflict and get alignment between you and your agency. Sometimes, that will take a bit of compromise—your agency will typically have a reason for emphasizing certain aspects of your marketing campaigns—but the results will be worth it.

That being said, at the end of the day, you are the client. What matters most to you is what your agency should be working to achieve.

If you can’t get your priorities aligned, it’s probably best to look for an agency that will emphasize the right things.

Is this a personality conflict?

Let’s face facts, some people just don’t get along well.

Maybe your account manager is a details guy and you only want to talk about the big picture.

Maybe you want someone who is proactive and your account manager likes to wait for things to take their course.

Maybe you want to be aggressive and your account manager favors a more measured approach.

Regardless of the reason, if you don’t get along well with your agency point-of-contact, it can make life incredibly frustrating.

Fortunately, personality conflicts can usually be resolved by changing account managers. Odds are, if your account manager drives you crazy, you probably drive him or her crazy.

Changing your point-of-contact can make things better for both of you.

However, many agencies are dominated by certain types of people. That’s okay, but if you’ve changed account managers a couple of times and still can’t find a fit (or the agency won’t change your account manager), it may be time to look for an agency that matches your personality better.

Do I feel left in the dark?

If you feel frustrated because you don’t know what is going on in your accounts, that’s a problem.

One of two things is probably happening: 1) you have a lazy (or lousy) account manager or 2) your agency is trying to hide what it’s doing.

Both of these situations are unacceptable.

It’s your money and your accounts, you should be well aware of what’s going on. If you aren’t, something needs to change.

Sure, accidents happen, so if your account manager forgets to loop you in on a new idea, that doesn’t mean you should end your contract.

However, if you are constantly wondering what is going on in your account, you’re probably working with the wrong agency.

3. Something Has Changed in Your Business

Even if everything else is going well in your account, sometimes life just happens.

A product shortage could drive your cost of goods up. Marketing budgets may get cut. Your new VP of Marketing may have a favorite agency he or she wants to use.

When things change in your business, sometimes your agency relationship just doesn’t make sense anymore.

In these situations, it’s important to identify the change that is prompting you to switch agencies and look for a new agency that meets your new needs.

At the same time, if you love your current agency, it may be worth contacting them to see if you can change your contract to better fit your new situation. Even if they can’t continue helping you, they may be able to point you towards a agency that can, which can save you a lot of time.

Understanding Your “Why”

After reading this article, you are probably in one of two camps.

Either you’ve decided that your current agency deserves a second chance…or you’ve decided that it’s time to end things and move on.

In either case, it’s important to take a look at why you were considering changing agencies in the first place. Clearly, you had enough frustration with your current agency to read through this article.

The question you need to answer is, why?

If you want to have a successful relationship with an agency, you need to understand what works for you and your business…and what drives you crazy.

Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll be much more likely to end up in a great agency relationship.


  • Marketing

Jacob Baadsgaard

Jacob Baadsgaard

Jake is the founder and CEO of Disruptive Advertising. An entrepreneur at heart, Jake is a relationship-first kinda guy that loves learning from other people's life experiences. He actively works to create an environment where people feel seen, heard, and challenged to take that next big step on their life journey. When he's not juggling his many roles within Disruptive, you'll find him putting in a lot of miles on the bike or running and spending time with his wife Teresa, and their four children.

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