How to Break Up with an Agency Safely

You’ve decided to terminate your marketing agency. Here’s how to keep your brand, relationships, and reputation intact during the transition.

Source: doble-d / iStock / Getty

Whether you’re hiring a new agency or bringing creative talent in-house, the way you end a relationship with a marketing agency is just as important as the way you begin one. Onboarding an agency involves careful vetting, management, and checklists. Make sure to preserve your brand, relationships, security, and other assets by handling an agency termination just as carefully. Here are some top-level considerations to bear in mind.

Review your contract: What do the details of your marketing agency agreement say? Determine whether your contract requires specific notification. Do you perhaps need to let them know about the termination in writing, or have your lawyer file a specific message, or give a certain amount of notice? The first step in ending any relationship is understanding what you’re contractually obligated to do and making sure you adhere to those guidelines to avoid challenges down the line.

Have a cybersecurity plan in place: Since so much of marketing today is powered by technology, it’s important to think through the cybersecurity aspects. Does the agency have access to your files, data, and systems? If so, what user names and passwords do you need to be aware of? Put together a list of everything that should be terminated, and when. Work with your IT department and get those safety rails in place to avoid any data or technology issues during the transition.

Identify institutional knowledge gaps: If an agency has been working with you for a long time or has been taking a leading role in launching a program or driving a campaign, they may have critical institutional knowledge that needs to be handed off internally or to another provider. Help mitigate any risks of injuring an agency relationship by identifying wide knowledge gaps that may exist and how they will be filled. Options include documenting processes, providing training, or paying for support during handoff.

End things on a positive note: There are a number of reasons why organizations will choose to terminate a relationship with a marketing provider. In some cases, they may not have met your expectations. In others, the issue may be budget cuts or moving away from certain practices as an organization. Where possible, take the steps needed to end the relationship on a positive note. The creative community is small, and having a good reputation as a client will help you attract the best talent over the long term.

Take the steps needed to end your relationships with marketing agencies strategically. From managing knowledge gaps to adhering to contractual requirements, taking the steps to remain a good client to the end will help protect your data, brand, and relationships.