How to fire my marketing agency

Sometimes marketing agencies will struggle with understanding a client's business or prove not to be accountable in the results they provide. While trying to amicably resolve gaps in performance, companies, charities, and professional organizations may sometimes need to terminate their marketing agency. Here are general strategies for how to cancel services with a marketing agency along with a transition plan. Don't settle for average growth - work with our team of dedicated growth professionals, and challenge your team to become the market leader in your industry today.

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Executive Summary

 - Organizations should work to ensure an existing relationship isn't salvageable before terminating an agency

 - One of the biggest mistakes in terminating with an agency is failing to reclaim owned media assets (social media, website, stock photos, and other user accounts)

 - World class brands like Nike, Samsung, and Coca Cola work with marketing agencies and the focus is working with the right partner

Signs that it may be time to terminate a marketing agency 

Here are some common challenges or symptoms that arise when it may be time to terminate your existing marketing service agency.

  • Regular quality issues in content
  • Lack of accountability to performance metrics
  • Inconsistent response times
  • Disregard for professionalism when communicating with you and the team
  • Similar work being created for other clients
  • Lack of innovation and new ideas to drive results

Pending contractual arrangements, clients may not be bound to provide any reasons for service terminations. Typical agreements will only state 14-30 days notice prior to termination. Organizational leaders should aim to provide a professional termination based on documentation and regular communication. This will help ensure that in the future when your organization is ready to work with a new agency that there won't be any misinterpretation concerning the reputation of your team. For other reasons it may be time to fire your marketing agency see this article by Hub Spot: which emphasize digital marketing issues that can be red flags for your company.

6 Steps to fire your marketing agency

Though there may be difficulty in terminating a service with a vendor, especially when vendors may have some degree of personal relationship with the business owners. As part of their role, leaders may sometimes be required to make difficult decisions that are best for the organization.

1- Reiterate the goals that you want the agency to achieve

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Identify with your marketing agency prior to signing an arrangement what key performance measures that you are looking for them to deliver. This will help clarify differences in objectives and value delivered. Make it clear what you are looking for the vendor to achieve and whether progress toward this objective can be tested. For example, a performance measure that can be established is a 30% increase in website traffic or growing social media followers by 1000 people by year-end. Ensure that the vendor has understood this and be open to input as to the performance indicator they feel most impactful to your business.

If this step hasn't been taken already it would be worthwhile trying it to ensure that an agency that has experience, industry insights, and creative capital isn't needlessly removed. There is plenty of value in salvaging a troubled business partnership. 

2-Set up recurring checkpoints to review progress and challenges

There is an optimal balance of checking in and reviewing the progress made by your marketing agency. This helps to ensure that they are getting the necessary input to serve well in their advisory or hands-on roles. Predetermine and schedule times to meet with your vendor to review goals, progress, opportunities, and challenges every 3-6 months. This ensures that there is accountability for both parties to bring the right input and perspectives while remaining focused on the right goals.

The challenge with accounts that don't need regular reviews is that the work is probably not too difficult to do in reality, which means organizations should consider bringing the contracted services in-house if a regular check-in meeting isn't required. This is because if a marketing service doesn't require a leader's industry input it most likely is turn key and can be run with little effort. This is an ongoing challenge faced by business leaders as marketing agencies may sometimes be distant. True creative work is done when technical marketing aptitude meets industry insights, even if the touch point happens only 2-3 times a year.

3 - Communicate issues and work to resolve systemic issues rather than one-off problems

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When vendors begin to miss targets or objectives, determine what the root cause of the issue is. There can be existing legacy applications, collateral, or media assets that could exist which your agency had little to do with. When there is strong evidence that a marketing agency is underperforming, the company should inform and communicate these gaps to the agency. Unfortunately, businesses will often only react to issues rather than take the next step to request a diagnosis or a change in process to prevent the one-off from becoming a recurring problem. If the agency continues to underperform or remains delinquent it will be up to the organizational leader to make the difficult to choice to terminate the agency.

4 - Get an audit from another agency to make a termination decision

Having the opinion of another agency could also help diagnose issues or confirm suspicions that a marketing firm is underperforming. This step may require additional time but it's worthwhile to ensure that there weren't extenuating circumstances before parting ways with a marketing agency that has a grasp on your business and industry.

Request an audit from a marketing agency to determine whether remedial action can be taken or termination is warranted.

5 - Create a transition plan

In the event that the final decision is to terminate an existing marketing agency, the creation of a transition plan is paramount to ensuring business continuity. Determine the scope of the marketing agency's work and identify internal team resources that can cover for the work. Often times this means having to hire or extend the hours of certain team members while a more permenant arrangement can be made. A transition plan seeks to ensure that your team or clients are not impacted by the transition, while ensuring timely reallocation of on-going marketing work.

6 - Reclaim all digital and physical media assets

Ensure that the agency you work with returns all passwords from social media accounts, website log-ins, hosting log-ins, and access to marketing collateral. This is important as there have been times where a previous agency was terminated and left with a number of different social media passwords that were later unrecoverable. This meant not only having outdated information that could not be changed and further complicating future customer interactions.

7 - Draft a termination letter to your agency

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A vendor termination letter is a formal communication to your marketing agency that you wish to end the service agreement. It is typically one page and delivered prior to the next billing cycle. Ensure that your signing officer completes the letter and delivers it to your marketing agency.

Here is a sample template to terminate the incumbent vendor.

Sample template:

Dear John Smith of [marketing agency],

We wish to inform you immediately that [your company name] will no longer be requiring your services effective [date]. For the reasons stated here we are concluding our service arrangement:

Reason 1

Reason 2

Reason 3

The team at [your company name] thanks you for your continued efforts and wishes [marketing agency] ongoing success.


[Signing officer]

Recovering from marketing agency flops

Creative agencies can be expensive to employ or a significant drain on resources like time and team member morale. Yet despite these challenges, world leading brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Samsung continue to rely on marketing agencies to help augment and shape their brand with cutting-edge concepts and themes. The key to successful marketing isn't whether an agency should be used but rather working with the right partner. 

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