Dear John… the client guide to switching digital agencies

18 November 2020 5 min read
Written by

Peter Chaloner

The pitfalls of parting company – Joint MD Peter Chaloner explores the ins and outs of switching when the grass looks greener.

Are you dissatisfied with your agency? Do you feel you aren’t getting the service or value for money you expect? Are you fearful of the complexity of switching?

We understand that from time to time clients need to change agencies for a number of valid reasons. If you find yourself in this position before you serve notice (or go silent) just be aware that sometimes it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. 

I thought I’d write this article to explore the pitfalls – from a client perspective. Mobas sits on the other side of the fence and, unfortunately, we frequently talk to clients who are unnecessarily tied into their underperforming agency.
Clients are naturally fearful of departure. They often feel unreasonably held to ransom and sometimes powerless to leave due to the complexity of moving their work. This is not a good feeling! The unwanted tie-in is often the catalyst to a destructive relationship and the painful and sometimes expensive parting of ways for both parties.

As we focus on digital, and moving projects from one partner to another, here I’ve set out to explain the many implications and considerations that you really should seek to understand before you commission future work.

Typically, agencies are good guys earning a modest living based on delivering results for their clients with excellent levels of service. They have huge creative energy and are fun and inspiring to work with. That said, in our industry most relationships are likely to come to an end at some point. As with all break-ups, keeping things amicable is key. Acting in a professional, fair and reasonable manner will mean your agency will be far more likely to ‘play ball’ when it comes to the migration of your investments to your new partner. Your ‘Dear John’ notice should not come as a complete surprise, and you should leave in comfort knowing that both parties did what they could do to make things work.

You should protect yourself in your new relationship by ensuring you have the appropriate legal documentation in place. Your agency should be able to provide you with the appropriate legal documentation that protects both parties. Matters such as who owns the IP of the work should be checked to ensure you can transfer the work according to the terms of the agreement. Your contracts should include a procedure for termination. It’s important to follow this procedure as not only does it give your agency an opportunity to discuss the issues and put things right, but it typically provides you with time to plan the migration of your work. 

Think of your digital assets as physical property. The honeymoon period within all relationships is always exciting as your trust for each other grows stronger each week. Try and avoid getting blindsided by the romance and ensure you don’t hand over the master keys for all of your digital assets – that way you can change the locks if required. 

If a project requires systems or tools for day-to-day activity, ensure you are the admin and that your new agency has the necessary access to deliver their work. We’ve worked with many clients who’ve unfortunately let their agency set up their systems and tools as admins and have therefore been locked out due to a painful parting of ways. Examples include social channels, marketing and analytical tools, CMS, source code and domain names – to name a few. Yes, these things can sometimes be resolved but it’s often a painful and admin heavy process. Worst case scenario: you’ll have to start all over again with the consequences of losing valuable content, data and insight, plus incur extra charges from your new agency. 

Another big consideration is hosting. If your agency hosts your website and your relationship breaks down, how do you move away from them without having to redesign a new one? This can be easily avoided, and risks can be mitigated by ensuring you having appropriate clauses in your contract, keeping your departure amicable or hosting your website yourself. We offer our clients three hosting options: we host, the client hosts, or we refer our clients to our partner whereby they have the direct contractual relationship with the host – but we manage the dev ops process for them. 

Agencies have challenges with clients too. A difficult client or sour relationship can stifle creativity and become a killer for the agency’s bottom line. Relationships work both ways, and occasionally agencies need a change too. Understanding and avoiding the pitfalls of the departure helps both parties move on swiftly, avoiding unnecessary business stress.

At Mobas we understand the importance of relationships and trust. We pride ourselves on high client retention levels through delivering value, quality, results, and excellent service. We act with integrity: we’re honest and not afraid to stand up and admit when we’ve got things wrong. We do, however, recognise that sometimes relationships must and will come to an end.

If you’re in the process of procuring a new agency, we hope you can take something useful away from this article. Avoiding these important mistakes will allow you to focus more positively on the opportunity and success that lie ahead. Want to know more about Mobas, do get in touch