When not to call an agency review

Since one of our core services is agency search management, it may seem counter-intuitive to be writing about symptoms that don’t call for one.  But the truth is, calling a review for the wrong reasons can land you and your organization in really hot water.

Calling an agency review at any time can be costly, time consuming and disruptive for your business, but calling it for the wrong reasons can also potentially exacerbate existing problems and tensions that may have led you to an ill-informed decision.

Ultimately, if the new relationship fails for the same reasons as it did previously, then you’ll likely have your executive team asking uncomfortable questions about your decisions and choices. And as if it could get any worse, you could also have the broader marketing community wondering if your issues are much closer to home than your agency.

Trust me on this – it’s not good.  And hence today’s post.

In our view, here are six primary symptoms that specifically don’t warrant calling an agency review as part of the solution. And if you’ve ever contemplated throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, here are the symptoms to watch for before you do:

You have a problem with your agency you’ve not tried to solve 

As straightforward and obvious as this may sound, you need to proactively discuss issues with your agency(s) as they arise.  And if you’re frustrated by a recurring issue then you need to address it.  Consider tying the fix to a performance bonus to correct the behaviour or issue – or call your friendly agency management company.

You can’t define issues – you just want a change

All well and good to want a change – but perhaps you need a vacation instead?  OK, a bit extreme – but you get the point.  Any agency change is an opportunity to look within your own organization to define areas for improvement and efficiencies internally.  If you can’t define why you’re looking to change agencies, try defining what you’d look for in a new agency, identify the gaps and meet with your incumbent to try and bridge them.  

You think your current agency is too expensive

OK. How much do you think you should be paying?  And what basis do you have for that conclusion?  If you don’t know, or don’t have any empirical evidence around pricing, it’s an opportunity to find out. Our cost benchmarking and  / or agency contractual services can help you define what you should be paying and whether your existing agency contract needs to be renegotiated.

You think it’s time

Marketers who have had agencies for a long time should take pride and comfort in the relationship they’ve cultivated over time and the institutional knowledge the agency has likely amassed on your business.  But if there are gaps in services – particularly around new digital services and offerings – then it’s important to define those gaps and perhaps break out a separate set of agency requirements that meet those needs  – then define whether your incumbent can meet them or not.

Creative isn’t where it needs to be

The grass is always greener” syndrome is a common starting point for marketers when contemplating a search.  But before you place full responsibility on your agency, ask how well your team is developing briefs and how creative have you been in engaging your agency in every facet of your business? And most important, what do the historical results look like with your incumbent?

Others are pointing fingers

Just because you’re getting comments from the peanut gallery doesn’t mean they’re right.  If comments are coming from other agencies on your roster, then consider an agency evaluation that evaluates all agencies to see how they’re collaborating together and where the issues are.  If your internal or executive team is asking questions, an agency evaluation could help identify positives and areas of weakness that could be easily addressed. 

Whatever your reasons for wanting to pull the trigger on an agency search, make sure your reasons will stand the acid tests of time and scrutiny and that you’ve taken reasonable steps to fix and / or improve your incumbent relationships. 

And if you’re not sure, call your friendly agency search consultant to help prevent you jumping from proverbial the frying pan and into the fire.  (It’s hot out there.)


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

Photo: being0828

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