Unhappy with your web agency? Options and advice for switching to a better digital agency

August 24, 2015
Rich

This article covers a situation that nearly all website owners are presented with at some stage within their business. Hopefully this article will give you a little more perspective and an understand of your options, if you find yourself in this situation.

Firstly, I have been working in the web industry for over 14 years and during that time I’ve held important positions within professional web agencies. Some large and some small. I started at the bottom as a junior designer and worked my way up to become a shareholding director. During this time I’ve been involved with many client relationships and seen various situations arise. For the past three and half years I’ve been running my own business consultancy which has given me even greater perspective.

So, let’s get straight to the point…

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Your current situation

You have been working with a web agency, could be large, could be small. Local or out of town it doesn’t matter too much. What does matter is how the relationship is maturing. It’s very common for the client / agency relationship to go a little sour after a few years together. The reasons for this are pretty obvious. People come and go and the agency you find yourself dealing with can be very different to the one that dazzled you with their pitch all those years ago.

Agencies also grow (granted they can shrink too) and this is a common cause of smaller clients feeling left out and not valued the same as they once were. Sadly, this is an effect of the capitalist market and poor management of the agency.

How many of the following do you agree with?

  • …paying too much for simple work.
  • …fees rising.
  • …not getting the service we used to receive.
  • …not feeling valued as a client.
  • …don’t like the people on our account.
  • …not achieving results.
  • …complicated working practices that don’t fit with our business.

If you answered yes to one or more you need to do something about it. Perhaps, you already have made your mind up to move on and find a new agency… The next section goes through your options…

Your options

Believe it or not you actually have a few options here. The objective is to make sure you are getting the results and service you require to keep your business growing.

Option 1: Do nothing

Yeah ok this isn’t really an option but I have seen clients (not mine) that have been very unhappy with their agency, even so far as to be pretty vocal about the fact they want to leave. Yet, nothing seems to happy. Is this because they are afraid of the effort it might take to migrate their web assets? Maybe it’s the financial investment required? The problem with doing nothing is exactly that. the problem just keeps getting worse. It’s better to take action sooner rather than later. You will feel much better for it and your business should be in a better position.

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Option 2: Speak to your web agency

Again, blatantly obvious but seldom happens in the right format. If you have issues with your web agency it’s in your interest to raise them with the appropriate person and attempt to resolve them. Start by putting together a prioritised list of items that are of concern to you and your relationship with the web agency. Then list out what the ideal outcomes would be, for instance: If the agency never recommend improvements to your website, state that you want them to be more proactive – and most importantly, explain what you mean by this eg: They will have a 10 minute call with you every week to run through ideas.

Next up arrange a meeting with the correct person. If you have a junior level account manager who basically just takes notes and fires them back and forth you should let them know that this is an important meeting about the business relationship and that you would like someone senior there if available. Someone like an account director. Hopefully not some BS sales guy (they’ll just promise anything to try and keep you happy).

For the meeting I prefer asking the agency to come to the client, after all you are paying them for a service so it’s only fair. Make sure the meeting is upbeat and positive. If either party walks into the meeting room ready to fight then it’s a waste of everyones time. Remember, the goal here is to get what you and your business need with as little hassle as possible.

Option 3: Bring it in-house

This is a big deal whichever way you look at it. However, if you are smart it is possible to do this. If let’s say your website is a fairly straightforward, marketing asset then it’s totally feasible to have someone in house manage it for you. There are a few different ways you can do this:

  • A: Hire a mid-level web manager and get them to do the everyday stuff. Basically it’s their baby and you get to choose who they are. You can then hire consultants and freelancers for any areas that your web manager cannot cover.
  • B. You can manage it yourself and use freelancers and consultants to work on the site and develop it with you.
  • C. If you have the cash, recruit a small team and grow it from there.

These options all depend on your business and how you plan to scale. Please make sure you research this carefully before jumping in with both feet and if you need help speak to a consultant.

Option 4: Find another agency and move

Perhaps you’ve tried option two and option three isn’t viable. That leaves you with the task of finding a new agency and moving. This part warrants its own article as there are a lot of things to consider. I’ll try to be brief…

Essentially you need to take your list from option 2 and build upon that. You are aiming to create a concise document that outlines:

  • where you are as a business
  • where you want to be
  • what part your website plays
  • how you want to develop it
  • what you need from your web agency

This is an incredibly useful doc that when you present it to your shortlist of agencies they will clearly understand your perspective and objectives.

Creating your shortlist of agencies can take some time. You need to think of a number of points, such as:

  • What technology your site runs on?
  • What level of resource you need from them?
  • What your budgets will be (for migration and ongoing)?
  • Do they need to be local or is remote ok?
  • What specific skillsets do they need? (UX, SEO, PPC, JS, Analytics…)
  • …and many more

I find that a good way to discover new agencies is asking your peers who they recommend. If you are a Marketing Director, chances are very high you know several other Marketing Directors. All of which have a web agency. Some who might recommend them because they are amazing. Reach out to them one at a time (keep it personal) and explain that you are short listing agencies based on the above criteria and could they recommend their agency if they fit?

See what you get from that. Next up find an independent consultant who can help you uncover some new options. The advantage here is that they will have the skills of seeing through the salesy agency stuff and should be able to highlight some good potentials that maybe you haven’t found. They can also help give you an objective view of each shortlisted option.

Be very wary of searching for “digital agency central london seo”. You’ll get lots of results and you have no way of knowing what they are actually like. Likewise be cautious of agency registers or guides. A lot of these are paid for listings and do not offer an unbiased selection of possible agencies.

There are thousands of agencies of various shapes and sizes out there. It is a daunting prospect but ultimately you need to invest some time to make sure you appoint the right one.

Summary

This article has gone on a little longer than I anticipated. I hope you have found some of it useful. Remember the important point here is for you to work with great people who drive your business forward. If you have found this article interesting please Like and Share on Linkedin.

I wish you best of luck and hope you find the agency you want…

Rich

Spinach Consultancy is lead by Rich Johnson, a consultant who works with businesses in the UK and Europe. He helps them with digital strategy and best practice.

If you need any help with moving to a new agency or finding the best one for your business please call Rich directly on +44 (0) 207 112 8859 or email: rich@spinachconsultancy.com.

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