As someone who has done in-house marketing in multiple businesses, I know that just the idea of having to hire a new digital marketing agency is enough to make you sigh, shake your head and think about all the things you’d rather be doing. And still, sometimes it just has to be done.
The conversation about finding someone new to handle your digital marketing efforts typically starts when the marketing metrics don’t seem to be living up to the expectations or requirements of the brand. And while expectations can sometimes be unrealistic, part of a healthy brand-agency relationship is being aligned on those expectations from the get-go. If that’s not happening, it may just not be a good fit for either party.
If things aren’t going well with your current agency, switching to a new agency not only streamlines a new strategy and potentially stronger results, but it allows you to “reset” the relationship, explain what went wrong with the previous agency, and set forth the goals, expectations and general framework for creating a healthy, long-lasting engagement with the new team.
Daunting as the task may be, if you’ve accepted that you need a new digital marketing agency, one of the questions that needs answering is ‘when?’
Choosing the Right Time to Switch Digital Marketing Agencies
Clearly, there is no single correct answer here. Different situations call for different considerations. For example, if you have a contract with an agency that expires in two months, it probably makes the most sense to simply not renew the contract and make the switch at that point.
Putting aside contractual obligations and any other company-specific circumstances for a moment, I would offer two general options for making the switch:
Now. If things aren’t going well and you don’t expect them to get better without a change, then it might be time to rip off the band-aid and make the change. (This could be life advice as much as it’s marketing advice.) For as much as you don’t want to have to vet new agencies and have the break-up conversation with the current one, the sooner you do so the sooner things will be on a better trajectory.
The Low Season. If the change is necessary but not urgent, you have a little more flexibility in choosing when to make the move. Targeting the start of the low season (more specifically, the start of whatever quarter you typically see the lowest demand and revenue) is in many ways the ideal time to make the switch. Here’s why:
It can take time to get the transition made and get the new agency fully onboarded.
The new agency will likely want to make changes to the strategy, campaigns, and configuration that the previous agency put in place, which could create some short term performance volatility.
The low season allows the new agency to test and optimize while the stakes are lower, making it easier to roll into the high season as soon as it starts.
You and your team will generally have more time during the low season to strategize and communicate with your new agency.
In contrast, switching during the high season can still be a net positive, but part of that crucial period may not be fully optimized for maximum revenue or ROI right away.
Switching to a “Better” Marketing Agency
We’ve already covered the idea that sometimes a change is necessary, but a “new” agency doesn’t automatically mean a “better” agency. What you definitely want to avoid (for a multitude of reasons) is ending one relationship and going into a less effective one, only to have to change again later on.
When it comes to choosing the right digital marketing agency, you already know much of the common advice given:
Ask about the experience of the team;
Make sure their processes and communication style is a match for yours;
Ask for references.
Those are all important things to do, but I would encourage you to go deeper and ask questions that relate specifically to your business and objectives. For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand and in order for an agency relationship to be a good investment you need to have a certain ROI or certain gross sales, see how the agency responds to that expectation.
More importantly, see what follow up questions they have. If you’ve only ever had a 1.5x return on your marketing investment and you tell an agency you need a 5x return and they just give you a quick “yes, sure,” with no follow up questions, that’s an indicator they just want to close the sale and worry about performance later. And more to the point, it means when they don’t hit that target they’ve promised, you’re once again faced with the decision of whether to switch to someone else.
How Highway One Marketing Approaches New Client Relationships
This agency is built around long-lasting relationships, and our roster of clients proves it. It’s not in our interest anymore than yours to engage in a relationship that we don’t think can be successful.
Part of that success comes down to something mentioned at the beginning of this article: expectations. I’ve seen so many client-agency relationships turn sour because of unfulfilled promises and unspoken assumptions, whether they were performance-related or just communication-related.
When you start working with Highway One Marketing, we’ll ask a lot of questions. We’ll ask about past business performance, current targets, who the stakeholders are, what metrics they care about, and how often you (or they) want to hear from us. We’ll discuss hypotheticals, so we’ll know how to pivot if external factors create an unexpected increase or decrease in demand. And we’ll ask about your (our main contact’s) personal communication style.
We can’t promise to hit any goal you come up with, but we can tell you why we think we can or can’t and we can show you the best way to approach it.
Hopefully this has now been implied, but if you have any questions about how we work or what to expect with a relationship with Highway One Marketing, please feel free to ask.