When’s a good time for an agency review?

For most marketers (and agencies), the answer to the question, ‘when’s a good time for an agency review…?‘ is likely, ‘never!

Yes, sometimes the decision to undertake an agency review is clear:  International alignment.  Competitive conflict.  Regional mandates.  Perhaps even irreconcilable differences.

But what if the reasons aren’t so clear yet there’s something gnawing at the back of your mind that an agency evaluation or review is something you should consider?  Those reasons can often point to bigger issues and underscore the fact you’re not maximizing value from a particular agency relationship.

So whether you’re contemplating a full agency review or thinking about a formal agency evaluation with agency search consultants, here are ten warning signs that your agency relationship isn’t as strong as it needs to be:

Team members are leaving and retention is becoming an issue

Whether it’s your team or at the agency, poor retention is an early warning sign that the relationship could use a check-up.  If the team members are within your own organization, take extra time with an exit interview and really dig for the underlying causes.  If the team members are on the agency side and you really valued their contribution to your business – find them on LinkedIn and ask for their feedback and perspective on the relationship.

New ideas aren’t forthcoming

When was the last time your agency came to you with a really innovative idea for your business?  I’m not talking about an added service, I’m talking about the excited call or e mail that says, “hey, I’ve been thinking about your business and I’d really like to talk about how this could make a difference to your business…” If you’ve not had one of those calls in a while – why not?

It looks pretty but…

The creative is great and perhaps winning awards.  But is it working?  What do the numbers look like?  What does the tracking study point to?  And how’s the competition doing relative to your share? Are you maximizing real, measurable value from your current campaigns?

Your team dreads agency meetings

If this is the case and you’ve noticed attendance or enthusiasm dropping off, pull some team members aside and ask why.  Is it a time issue?  Are meetings too long or just unproductive?  Or are there conflicts that won’t go away?  Is the chemistry off?  If you see a pattern emerge, perhaps it’s time for an agency evaluation to try and head off issues before they become barriers to your business.

You’re reluctant to bring up agency issues to your management team

If you’re reluctant to bring up agency issues to your executive management team, consider the underlying reasons.  Is it because issues are coming up too often?  Is it results based?  Is it a cost issue?  If you’re seeing a recurring theme in agency issues, then perhaps it’s time to address the issue head-on so your next executive management meeting can be solutions focused on the issues at hand.

ROI calculations are difficult to extrapolate

If you’re having difficulty extrapolating ROI or agency ROI calculations don’t make sense, you need to up the ante.  In today’s multi-dimensional digital ecosystem, ROI calculations have got to make sense – no matter what the medium.  If those calculations aren’t forthcoming, an agency evaluation process can help underscore the importance of an ROI mentality from everyone who works on your business.

Agency costs are becoming difficult to predict

If you dread opening an agency estimate or you’re getting that gnawing “how do they come up with these numbers” question in your mind, it’s a sign there’s more transparency needed in the estimation process.  And that’s ok if the problem’s fixed quickly.  But don’t let the problem linger – because the longer you leave it, the harder it’ll be to change behaviours.

Calls / emails aren’t returned promptly

If your agency is engaged on your business, you should reasonably expect a call back the same morning or afternoon.  Not the next day, not the day after.  If that’s not happening, you need to ask what’s stopping that from happening.  Are your key contacts focused on other business?  Are they too busy fighting fires?  Or is there an underlying issue that needs to be addressed?

It’s too comfy

This is a tough one.  You love your agency, the work looks good.  And you’ve known them for years.  All good, right?  Not necessarily.  Focus on the results and whether you’re really maximizing value on agency initiatives.  When did you last do a 360 evaluation? How competitive are their services?  The communications business has transformed itself in the last five years – has your agency stepped up?  Has your organization benefitted from that transformation?

The focus is on them not you

So the awards are good. And business evolution is imperative. But how much of that change is focused on you?  Are the awards and changes benefiting your business?  Are you seeing growth?  Are you seeing benefits in productivity?  Lower costs?  Better ROI?   In case anyone needs reminding, the agency business is about you – not them.

Bottom line:  If you’re getting that gnawing feeling in more than one of these areas, perhaps there’s some substance behind the questions. Like anything else in your business, you’re paying for results.   And if some of those results aren’t being delivered, perhaps it’s time to make a change sooner rather than later.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

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