Breaking up is hard to do – especially when it’s with an agency you’ve worked with closely for years. These are people who got to know you and your team, living and breathing your brand day in and day out. However, the time has come for you to move on.
So, how can you ensure that the transition to a new agency goes smoothly, and what can your outgoing agency do to make the process easier? We have a few tips on how to avoid awkward parting conversations so that things end on a high note – and we have the experience to back it up.
Start with the Golden Rule
If you’ve made the decision to move on – for whatever reason – you’re going to have to break the news to your current agency. However, before you find the words, be sure to find your intention. Here’s a great starting point for a successful transition:
Treat others as you would like to be treated
This Golden Rule is the best advice we can give when it comes to having the ‘breakup’ conversation. To start, we recommend avoiding statements such as ‘it’s just business’ or ‘it’s a business decision,’ especially if you’ve been going out to tender without inviting your current agency to bid.
The reality is that the end of your partnership is not just business. However, by keeping the Golden Rule in mind, you can emphasize the value of your professional relationship while concluding your current partnership on positive terms. For example, provide input on what you appreciate about working with the existing agency and where their strengths lie. Be honest around the reason(s) why your company has chosen to move forward with a new collaborator.
This is a constructive way to help your current agency improve their services and operations for future clients, and it may even feel a bit therapeutic!
Adopt a collaborative approach
Your relationship up to now has required collaboration to produce results, and this remains true even as you now bring your working relationship to an end.
Begin by providing your agency with a timeline for when you’d like the switch to occur, and share the name of your new agency willingly. When doing so, recognize that this may be a tough pill for your current agency to swallow, and it may come as a shock. So, be compassionate and give it at least a week for the news to settle.
If there is ongoing work, projects, or campaigns, please don’t worry about your current agency sabotaging them. If they’ve been a trusted partner up to now, you can count on them to finish the job and maintain their professionalism right to the end.
Key elements of a smooth transition
A smooth transition requires planning. Prepare for the switch with a plan that includes:
- Ask your outgoing agency to participate in the transition and work together to make it a success.
- If appropriate, introduce your outgoing and incoming agencies.
- Set an appropriate budget.
- Depending on the scope/length of the relationship with your outgoing agency, the transition may involve considerable time and effort.
- Be prepared to allot time for the transition and to potentially pay your outgoing agency for the additional work this transition will require.
- Set clear expectations and ensure that each party is clear on their role/function during the transition.
- Remain open throughout the process.
- Provide your outgoing agency with constructive feedback.
Staying in touch
Your transition to a new agency marks the end of an era with your outgoing agency. However, it also ushers in a new phase of that relationship.
The monetary relationship with your outgoing agency will have ended, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut all ties. Some benefits to keeping it cordial and staying in touch include:
- Goodwill: You enjoyed a positive working relationship at one time, so keep the goodwill going by maintaining an interest in their business and achievements.
- Referrals: Your outgoing agency knows your business well and may be an unofficial ambassador for your brand, sending interesting connections your way. Similarly, you can also support them by sending referrals their way.
- Careers: You and your team are happy in your current roles, but you never know where your career will take you. You may cross paths with individuals from your outgoing agency in the future, so it’s always a good idea to nurture the connections you’ve made along the way.
When the final files have been transferred and it’s time to cut the cord, take the time to express gratitude.
Behind all the work completed by the outgoing agency were people who spent their days – and likely some of their nights and weekends – working on your brand. They were committed to championing your brand and making a difference in your business’ bottom line.
While it may be hard for the outgoing agency to see you go, simply saying ‘thank you’ to them can have a profound and lasting impact. It lets them know that you appreciate and respect them on a professional level, and it sets the tone for a positive new phase in your relationship going forward.