Marketing agencies are funny creatures.

There’s probably no other industry in the world that operates the way agencies do.  And no other industry in the world that is under such intense pressure as the technology space, client space, and talent space are all in the middle of significant change.

I’ve seen plenty of marketer relationships with agencies go South.

And while it’s not surprising when it happens in a relatively short period of time after the initial engagement, what is surprising and somewhat sad – is when a long-term relationship is hurting and the client and the agency start heading down differing paths.

In the perfect world, you have a marketing agency that gets it…always.  They know they have to stay ahead of the curve. They know they have to operate as a strategic, smart, and thoughtful partner.

We have managed over 30 searches for new agencies for marketers since starting the business in 2010.  Some big brand names like Jack-in-the-Box and Grand Cayman Islands, and some not so huge, like Glanbia Sports Nutrition and Advance Pierre Foods.

What’s tough is when you see what was likely a good relationship dissolve into frustration and ultimately the desire on the part of the marketer to look for a new firm.

Here are a handful of warning signs to look out for – that could signal the end of the relationship – or prove an opportunity for you, the Marketer, to address it with your agency partner:


  1. You feel smarter than your agency.  You’re reading about new technology platforms or new trends in the marketing/advertising space before your agency shares them with you.
  2. You are asking more than you are getting.  As a service provider, the marketing agency needs to there to serve and beat you to the punch on things like trends in the market, competitive activity, analytics.
  3. It feels like a revolving door.  You’re on your third Account Executive in as many years and you feel like you’re constantly in a training mode versus a growing mode.
  4. The spigot seems to be running dry.  Remember those early days when the agency was full of life, energy, and ideas.  If you feel like the new ideas have slowed, it might be time to fire them back up or consider alternatives.
  5. Another call…another agency.  I’m sure you get calls from marketing agencies all the time.  If the other agencies start telling you things that sound more appealing that what you’re getting from your agency, might be a tell-tale sign that things aren’t what they used to be.

So if you start seeing some/all of these things happening, you can do one of two things…sit your agency down and talk with them about the issues – or start looking for a better marketing agency partner.  Always good to try and fix what you have.  But while I’m a big believer in giving people chances and recognizing that everyone is entitled to make mistakes, if they don’t learn from them and make things better…then that’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Keep your eyes open and watch out for the signs of what might be not so good things to come!