Switching Online Marketing Agencies – Your Guide to a Seamless (and Painless) Transition
June 17, 2016
Let’s face it, ending any relationship is difficult and awkward. Changing online marketing agencies isn’t any different.
After all, you’ve probably had a relationship with your current agency for quite a while.
You’ve probably shared hopes, dreams, plans and frustrations. You’ve tried to make things work, but ultimately, the magic wasn’t there.
It’s time to move on.
Unfortunately, this is where things can get awkward. Hopefully, you’ve already identified another agency that you believe will get you the results you’re looking for, but there’s a lot to consider in making this transition.
Do I need to give advance notice? What is the best way to let my current agency know that I am cancelling our contract? What accounts do I need access to? How do I transfer account access to my new agency?
Fortunately, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you through this process in the most effective and least awkward way possible. It won’t make things fun, but it will take the headache out of the transition.
So, ready to move on to bigger and better things? Let’s begin.
Understanding Your Contract
Unlike personal relationships, most agency relationships involve a contract. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is to protect your agency from having the rug pulled out from under them by displeased clients.
If you think about it, this makes sense. To fulfill their obligations to you, your agency has to commit resources to your account.
When you end the contract, those resources often can’t be immediately redeployed to a new account, which means that the company has to eat the cost of those resources.
For example, if you have an account manager assigned to your account, that account manager isn’t available to work on other accounts. When you end your contract, your account manager is now no longer working on your account, but he or she is probably not working on another account yet.
Of course, the agency still has to pay your account manager, so that means the agency is actually losing money while they find a new account for him or her to manage.
To make sure that they have enough wiggle room to make ends meet when a client cancels, most online marketing agencies require a 15-30 day notice prior to cancellation.
Some agencies have an even longer notice period, though, so check your contract to see how much notice you are required to give.
As annoying as a policy like this may seem, requiring you to give a 15-30 day notice actually helps you out, too. Without a notice period, your agency would constantly be guessing about where to place its resources.
As a result, the agency might hedge its bets on your account and (especially if it seemed like you might cancel) and avoid fully committing resources to your account.
Less resources means less results, so having a notice period actually helps you get better results from your agency.
In any case, a contract is a contract, so it’s in your best interest to double-check how much notice you are required to give before setting a start date with your new agency.
Another tactic that some agencies use to discourage their clients from leaving is to maintain ownership of the client’s accounts…even if the client chooses to stop working with the agency.
Essentially, this creates a huge barrier to changing agencies. If you stop working with the agency, you have to start your online marketing over from scratch.
No historical data…no ads…no landing pages…you don’t get to keep anything!
Sound a bit like an extortion racket to you?
This is a very shady tactic. It’s your business and your money—it should be your account!
If your agency is playing games like this, that’s a major red flag. Unfortunately, though, you may have a signed a contract assigning the rights to your accounts over to your agency.
In this situation, you basically have two options:
1) Start Over
Rather than fight for your account data, you can simply open a new account that you directly own and start from scratch. Depending on the age of your accounts, this may or may not be a big deal.
And sometimes, starting over can lead to dramatic improvements in performance, especially if your former agency wasn’t doing a particularly inspiration job at account management.
2) Fight for Ownership
If you know your last invoice amount and invoice data, you can petition the advertising platform (ie, Google) for access to your account.
This can also be a major pain, but it can give you access to your historical data (if you need a hand with this, let us know—we can help).
Hopefully, you’re not in this situation, but if you’re not sure, check your contract. If you don’t own your account(s), you’ll want to start addressing the situation right away.
Getting Account Access
Any good agency should be happy to help you give them access to your accounts. After all, they can’t do their job without access to your accounts, so they should be eager to get access.
If your agency can’t walk you through giving them access to your accounts, you should probably be asking yourself, why am I signing up with this agency?
So, we won’t spend a lot of time on how to grant your agency access to your accounts. Instead, let’s look at what types of accounts you should make sure you have access to.
Obviously, not every business will have all of these types of accounts, but here are the 4 main types of online marketing accounts you’re most likely to need access to while switching agencies.
If you advertise on Google AdWords, Bing or any other paid search platform, you should definitely make sure that you have access to your paid search account.
Paid search advertising platforms like AdWords track an enormous amount of data about your campaigns that will be invaluable to you and your new agency. By looking at what’s worked for you in the past, your new agency should be able to quickly figure out a new plan of attack for your paid search ads.
Whether you do paid social promotion or your company is simply active on social media, it’s critical to have access to and control over your social media accounts.
After all, social media is one of the biggest ways your company interacts with your customers. If you don’t have control over your social media presence, you’ve given away control over how your company is perceived.
Plus, most social media platforms also track your stats, which is another helpful chunk of data that your new agency can use to make their online marketing strategy effective.
There are a lot of different analytics platforms out there. Google Analytics is both free and easy to implement, so most agencies add Google Analytics to their clients’ sites.
Just like your paid search and social media accounts, your analytics account(s) give your new agency critical insight into how your marketing is working.
In addition to web tracking platforms like Google Analytics, you should also have access to your customer relationship management (CRM) account (Salesforce, Zoho, Prosperworks, etc) and any marketing automation software (Hubspot, Pardot, Autopilot HQ, etc).
These accounts are important for helping you understand your customers’ journey from click-to-close, which can help your new agency dramatically increase the profitability of your marketing campaigns.
Landing Page Tool
Great online marketing isn’t just about driving the right traffic. That traffic needs to end up on the right landing page.
Unless you want to redesign your landing pages from scratch, you’ll need access to your landing page tool so that your new agency will be able to see, use and improve your landing pages.
And…guess what? A good online marketing agency will conduct tests on your landing pages to see which layouts and content work best for your audience.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
All that data will be in your account, which will give your new agency yet another way to get you results faster.
Once you’ve checked your contract and figured out which accounts you have access to (or need access to), it’s time to pull the trigger. You need to let your current agency know that your relationship is coming to an end.
As you break the news, it’s important to keep things professional. Even if they have seriously messed up your accounts, you won’t get anywhere by telling them how terrible they are.
A good agency will accept your decision and ask for honest feedback about your experience. If you have complaints, that gives you a good forum to discuss them.
In your initial email, though, resist the urge to attack your agency or vent all your frustrations. Keep your communication simple and to the point.
In addition, give your agency timelines and expectations.
If you need them to give you access to an account by a certain date, let them know. If you will be removing their account access on a particular day, give them advance warning.
Don’t send your email and then assume that they will do what you want. Be clear about how things will proceed and what you need from them and the whole process will go much smoother.
Lastly, expect a little pushback. Breakups are always harder on the breakee than the breaker.
Depending on the situation, your old agency will probably want to talk about the situation and see if there is anything they can do to salvage the relationship.
Maybe they can save it, maybe they can’t, but you should expect them to try.
Don’t be offended by a genuine effort to repair things, but you should probably think about things in advance and decide what it would take to make you stay.
It’s never easy to end a relationship, but if you know how to approach an agency switch, you can make it through with minimal discomfort.
By implementing the suggestions in this article, you’ll be well on your way to kickstarting a bold new relationship with your new online marketing agency!