The agency game: eight ways to leave your vendor

Scott Moe

August 19, 2016

The agency game

“It’s not you, it’s me.” “I’ve met someone else.” “I just need some space.”

Breaking up is never easy but sometimes it needs to be done. If a relationship isn’t working out, remaining together isn’t healthy for either party. Only by admitting that things have soured and ending the affair can you move on and grow.

This can be tough decision when it comes to your agency, given all the time and energy you put into deciding whether to work with one, choosing the right agency for you and then maintaining the relationship. But if you’re no longer feeling the love you once had, maybe you need to have that difficult conversation.

Here are eight signs that it could be time to ditch your agency.

1. Campaigns are just not working
Sometimes great ideas don’t catch on or they somehow fail to hit the mark in the way you intended. It may not even be anyone’s fault – audiences can be fickle. But if enough campaigns have not delivered the expected results, it’s probably time to try something new with another agency.

2. You’re no longer their priority
At first it was all regular check-ins and presentations from the creative director. Now you’re lucky to grab a meeting with a random junior designer. Most agencies have a high staff turnover rate, while bigger clients tend to command the best resources. Whatever the reason, if you don’t feel valued, find an agency that will make you their priority.

3. Their creativity is limited
Some agencies hit on a formula for campaigns and try to replicate this approach for each of their clients. If their blueprint is a particularly good one, it can prove successful for your business, but often a one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal. If your agency is unwilling to break its own mold, you need to find a more free-thinking model.

4. They just don’t get you
Sure, no-one is going to understand the intricacies of your product or service better than your own team. But if your agency continues to lack a good feel for what you do or, worse yet, doesn’t even use your product, get out of there before you waste more money on another failed campaign.

5. You’re no longer acting like partners
Where once there was true collaboration, now you just call them up to ask for a brochure, TV commercial or banner ad without ever providing context or outlining your goals. For their part, the agency isn’t bothered about asking too many questions. You’re no longer partners, you’re a client and vendor going through the motions. Time to end the charade.

6. You found someone new
This is business, not love. If you’ve found another agency that makes you happy in ways you never thought possible, dumping your current vendor won’t break their heart. They probably also felt the growing distance between you. Just remember that once you’ve destroyed the trust, there’s usually no going back.

The agency game process7. You’re still talking about process
If you’re continually having meetings that are more about your relationship than the work, it’s a sign that things aren’t going well. Granted, it’s always good to talk and keep things fresh, but constant crisis summits and best practice documents suggest that neither party is confident and relaxed working with the other.

8. It’s all about the money
If you need to cut costs, it’s tempting to swing for that hefty retainer fee. However, hiring an agency should pay for itself with additional sales so be sure that the lack of new campaigns won’t adversely affect your income. And always look to renegotiate your deal before pulling the plug.

If one or more of these signs seems familiar to you, don’t be in a rush to write your “Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You” letter just yet. First, explain your issues to your agency and give them an opportunity to fix them (try our tips on working well with agencies). If they still can’t rescue your relationship, it really is time to brush up on your best break-up lines.

“A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. What we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.”
Woody Allen