More often than not clients end relationships with their agency, but occasionally it’s the other way around. Here’s some tips if you find yourself on the receiving end of an agency resignation letter.
I’ve been at this long enough that I’ve resigned a few accounts in the course of my career. Trust me when I say it’s never a decision I’ve come to lightly. There’s a sense of failure on my part that I and my agency couldn’t live up to whatever the ideal was that initially brought us together with our client. I’ve heard the analogy of client/agency relationships being akin to romantic ones. When you first meet, you’re dating – each party trying to impress the other. Once you kickoff the first project it’s a honeymoon phase and neither can do any wrong. But then the newness begins to wear off and you settle into a routine.
Unfortunately, some relationships will end in a divorce. If it comes to that, and your agency is the party leaving you, here’s some tips for how to react.
Understand the cause for the resignation. This may be abundantly clear, or you may never get a straight answer. However, I’d hope that your soon-to-be-former marketing firm will give you the courtesy of an exit interview. Listen. Take what they say to heart and try to not let emotions take over. There are more potential reasons for a resignation than I could list; many of them could honestly not be a negative reflection on you as a client. The point is, whatever feedback they give you, try to learn from it.
Get your assets from the agency. Marketing firms become the keepers of the content. They’ll have all of your logo files, images, ads, layouts and more digital files than you might realize. Request a copy of everything they have, both current and archived. However, be sure to pay particular attention to ownership rights. You may not have paid for the native or working files on projects during the course of your working relationship, depending upon how your financial agreements were structured. So, be aware that if you want files from which you can make derivative works, you may be asked to pay an additional buyout fee for them. But, if your agency is resigning, they’ll often want to make cutting ties rather easy.
Also be sure you get physical assets too, like products or literature your agency may have at their location. As an example, my firm has had such long-standing client relationships that in some instances we have more than a decade’s worth of marketing archives and carry more institutional knowledge about our client’s marketing than any employee of our client. Occasionally we reach back for old materials when anniversaries come up and a retrospective is in order. The point is, be sure you don’t lose all of the history your agency created for you along with all of the relevant, current working files and ideas you’ve paid for.
Get assistance with a transition plan. If your agency’s resignation puts you in a bind due to projects in-development you’re committed to, ask your resigning agency to help transition the projects to alternate vendors. Because your former agency should know you well, ask for recommendations of new agencies that might be a good fit for you. And if the tone of the separation allows it, ask if the resigning agency would be open to answering questions or helping on an as-needed basis in the future – so if you really need that institutional knowledge the agency has, you can access it.
Ensure your legal rights are protected. If your agency signed a non-disclosure agreement or other legal contracts with you, be sure that you remind the firm that some of those clauses may still be in-force, even if you are no longer working together.
Pay your final bills. The separation may not have you on the best terms with your former agency, but unless your agency has not delivered what they promised, don’t make things worse by not paying your bills. Try and keep everything professional, especially if you’d like to keep the door open for potential future work together.
Having your marketing firm resign your account is hopefully nothing you’ll ever face, but if it does happen, perhaps this advice will help the transition go smoothly.