Ready to Fire Your Agency or Freelancer?
If you read my previous blog on how to hire the perfect agency or freelancer, then you might have recently parted ways with your prior agency or freelancer. If not, eventually, all good things will come to an end, and you'll need to be prepared to part ways as professionally as possible.
Before you start penning your "Dear John" letter to your third-party provider, take a deep breath, and consider the possibility that perceptions could be playing in your current situation. It is vitally important that when you begin to feel any level of discomfort with any interaction you are having with your agency or third party resource that you bring it out into the light. You might be misunderstanding something, or you may be perceiving something correctly, but it is a result of a miscommunication.
It's good to consider how we view and treat our internal team vs. our outsourced team. For example, the average CMO tenure, according to SpencerStuart research, is 44 months.* From conversations with multiple agencies over the years, the average client tenure is far below 44 months. There are agencies whose average engagement is 6-8 months! Why the disparity between how brands treat thier CMO's/Marketing leaders vs. their marketing agencies?
Let's compare the costs: Average VP Marketing Salary: $190,000 vs. $35,000 to $50,000 annually for average agency engagement.
One possible reason for the increase in turnover with your agency/third-party vs. your in-house higher-level marketing hires is the time spent on the hiring process. Here's a good article from SpencerStuart for perspective.
If you've made it this far, you must have that nagging feeling that you need to make a switch. Here are a few potential reasons to begin moving into the process for disengaging with your agency/third-party:
- Lack of accountability (Give them kudos when they do own it)
- Inconsistency consistently
- Poor communication (that hasn't improved)
- Lack of innovation/ongoing strategy
- Overt malpractice
When you have resolved that disengaging and firing your agency or freelancer is the next move to make, remember this: Removing your agency should be a process and not an event. If you've begun writing your "notice of cancellation" email and it's still in draft status, you may want to consider the following items before you hit send.
Your agency or freelancer will appreciate the direct, honest feedback.
Use the DIRECT acronym and follow the following process when you believe it's time to consider a change.
- Discuss and reconfirm expectations: Most agencies or freelancers will have already sensed that something isn't right with the account or the relationship. Before pulling the plug, hop on a call and discuss the expectations that were outlined originally and listen to their perspective on how they feel they have met or missed those expectations. In some cases, you'll find that the agency is indeed hitting the original expectations, and you need to become re-aligned with the expectations you have for the project.
- Inform the agency or freelancer precisely what your concerns include (with evidence) and focus on systemic issues rather than one-off matters.
- Review the issues with an audit from another agency or expert and ask them if this was their agency if it is malpractice, a matter of opinion, or minor. In other words, if I was your client, should I fire you for this campaign/account structure, optimization, and results/ROI?
- Encourage the current agency/freelancer to defend/speak to the findings. At OMG Commerce, there have been a few occasions where if we had an opportunity to defend or speak to the situation, we were confident the client would have seen the case differently. Occasionally, this has involved personnel issues on the client-side that the decision-maker was caught unaware. These personnel issues can be a case of “Cover Your A**” (CYA) that shines a negative light on the agency. These situations are tricky for the agency as they don't want to go over the head of the team they were directed to work alongside. Once, at our agency, we had a decision-maker (who was about to fire us) allow us to speak openly about the issues that concerned him. It ended up in us keeping our agreement, and the “CYA” team member was allowed to go work for someone else.
- Count the cost before making your final decision and consider the transition along with seasonal implications.
- Terminate verbally and follow-up in writing. Understand if you react quickly without respect to the notice you are required to give in advance, you should be expected to honor the amount of time needed under your agreement. Typically a 30-day notice is very much appreciated. If you give notice of cancellation a week to 10 days into the month, you should expect to pay for that entire month.
Once you do decide to disengage, check your original agreement and make sure you give the notice required. After you have ended the relationship, schedule an autopsy with your team.
What did we like about this engagement?
What should we do differently next time?