When is it Right to Fire Your Marketing Agency?

Consider the reasons for the decision, and whether the issues can be resolved.

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By Timothy Carter

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Businesses typically hire a marketing agency when they need help. Their internal marketing efforts aren't working, or they don't have the resources or capacity to handle marketing by themselves. In any case, this arrangement is a show of trust — clients trust their agencies to handle their marketing in a streamlined, effective and profit-generating way.

Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen.

Every marketing agency makes mistakes, because no agency (and no individual) is perfect. But after a particularly egregious mistake, or after a series of repeated failures, you may feel inclined to part ways with your agency and find a new partner.

Related: 3 Reasons Marketing is the New Sales

So when is it right to fire your marketing agency?

Fire your marketing agency whenever you want, but…

Hiring a marketing agency is a mutual and voluntary exchange. You and your marketing agency each have a right to end the arrangement anytime you or they want (ignoring potential ramifications for breaching contracts). If you're unsatisfied with your agency for any reason, you're well within your rights to get rid of them.

However, before you do, there are some important points to keep in mind:

  • Marketing is a long-term strategy: First, remember that marketing is a long-term strategy. SEO, for example, is a strategy that takes months, and sometimes years before it starts showing the true potential of its return on investment (ROI). If your marketing agency isn't showing results after a week, it's not their fault — it's natural for this approach.
  • Mistakes can often be rectified: We all make mistakes. A single error, especially a small one, shouldn't motivate you to end the partnership immediately. Talk it out and try to fix things.
  • The firing shouldn't be a surprise: Your marketing agency shouldn't feel surprised or confused after they're fired; they should know that they haven't held up their end of the bargain.

Good reasons to fire a marketing agency

You can fire a marketing agency for any reason, but firing isn't always the best or most appropriate response. Some examples of solid, indisputably good reasons to fire a marketing agency include:

  • Repeated failures: If a company makes a mistake several times without improvement or correction, you should break the arrangement as soon as possible.
  • Gross incompetence: You've hired this agency because they're an expert. If they demonstrate gross incompetence on a subject they've supposedly mastered, it's time to leave.
  • Brand reputation issues: Marketing agencies are responsible for promoting and improving perceptions of your brand. If they end up causing a PR nightmare, it's time to ditch them.
  • Poor communication: Bad or inconsistent communication will instantly make all other issues worse; you should have no tolerance for it.

Other tips when firing a marketing agency

If you're thinking of firing your marketing agency or if you're on the fence, follow these additional tips to make the process smoother.

  • Have a frank conversation first: Before you fire the marketing agency, have a frank conversation about the issues you're facing. Explain why you're not happy with the service they're providing and what you expect in the future. Make it clear that you're not willing to continue the arrangement if these types of mistakes are ongoing. The agency may redouble their efforts to provide better services.
  • Review your contractual terms: Take a moment to review the contract you signed with your marketing agency (if you signed one). How long are the terms? Are there any penalties for terminating the contract prematurely? Are there specified grounds for what constitutes a breach of contract on either side? If you only have a few weeks left in a contract that lasts a year, it may not be worth the hassle of breaking the contract early.
  • Be clear and concise when breaking the news: When it's time to fire your agency, be as clear and concise as possible when breaking the news. A simple email or phone call with a few sentences is enough to get your point across.
  • Set terms for potentially returning: Your marketing agency may try to win you back or prevent you from leaving, offering discounts or other incentives. Is there an offer that could motivate you to return? Try to identify this before breaking the news.
  • Explain yourself: Explain why you're firing the agency. It could motivate them to resolve the issue you're facing — or could equip them with information they can use to better serve clients in the future.

Related: 9 Key Questions to Ask an SEO Company Before Hiring It -- or Firing It

Hopefully, the first marketing agency you hire will serve your business well and for many years. But if you find yourself in a tough position with a company that doesn't listen to you (or one that tarnishes your brand name), put firing as an option on the table. Oftentimes, you're better off moving on and finding a more competent partner than continuing on a harmful course with a familiar one.

Related: Why You Should Hire a Smaller Digital Marketing Agency

Timothy Carter

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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