Is it really time for you to start looking for a new agency? Maybe, but you need to look for the right signs to determine if it is time for a change.
As an agency, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients and seen businesses in every stage of their lifecycle. We have also spoken to hundreds of business owners looking to make a change from their current agency. By far the most common reasons to make a switch are pure lack of performance and a sense of brand/agency complacency over time. I am going to focus on complacency over time as it is much more subtle and hard to recognize if you haven’t been in the situation before.
All (good) advertising agencies are focused on helping their clients achieve their end goal, whether that is a target return on ad spend, cost per acquisition, or even pure customer acquisition at scale. If you have been with an agency for a year or longer, you are usually going to see a bell curve as follows:
- Initial Growth and Brand Improvement
- Optimization for Scale
- Gradual Planing Out of Results
- A Slow Decline Over Time
With any mature business, this is the general marketing cycle and comes as a natural effect of optimization. Each of these stages has the following signals.
1. Initial Growth and Brand Improvement
This phase usually covers the first 3-6 months, where your new agency takes over and you see immediate improvement. Their tactics and methods work, and you are pleasantly surprised by the trajectory that you are on.
2. Optimization for Scale
Once your agency has reached your target ROAS / CPA / Acquisition goal, they begin to push by finding new audiences to reach and methodically crafting creative to best reach your target user. With this, they are helping to build your business for the next 6 months to a year and creating natural positive growth.
3. Gradual Planing Out of Results
At some point, you start to see results remain high but growth slows. You’ve leaned heavily on the digital advertising channel but are not getting the same lift.
During this phase, your marketing agency is optimizing the advertising environment that they have built. The focus here is to continue optimization over time to keep results stable but high.
4. A Slow Decline Over Time
We begin to see companies looking for agency changes after three to six months in this phase. At this point, your marketing agency is just trying to hold on to the results that they have created, but the business, in general, is seeing less and less of an impact from their efforts. A subtle sense of foreboding comes along, as the business owner starts to feel the pressure to make a change to kickstart the business.
Sound Familiar? I would like to counter the traditional view of having to immediately leave your agency at the point of decline. The drop in performance that most companies see is a symptom of both the brand and agency's inability to shift your goals to match the business lifecycle. The changing of agencies can be a band-aid used to justify a monumental shift in brand strategy.
Before you make that change, you should be asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you trust the agency that you are working with?
- Are you still getting work completed in a timely fashion?
- Are you still learning from your current agency?
- Does your agency give you recommendations on other channels outside of paid media?
- Have you fostered an environment of experimentation?
- Have you given your agency the ability to make those changes?
- Do your goals match your business lifecycle?
- Are you ready and willing to spend the time to onboard a new agency?
If you find yourself answering yes to questions 1-4, and no to 5-7, you probably are working with a pretty good group of folks. In this case, I would recommend getting together with your agency and talking through your goals. You'll be surprised about some of the ideas they might come up with once you get outside of the norm.
At Slicedbread, our mission is to help businesses succeed even if you are not yet a client. Prior to signing anyone on as a client, we analyze advertising results and their effect on your business objectives. In this way, we help to ensure that we can actually be effective before starting a new marketing campaign.
In short, there are good marketing companies out there and you might be with one. If not, we believe that we can help. If you aren’t sure, drop us a line and we’ll let you know where you stand.