Special thanks to SourceOne Management Services for this guest post.

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Your organization has finally come to the conclusion that it needs to partner up with a new marketing agency. Despite this being a necessary, but exciting business adventure, you may be exposed to some challenges along the way in working on the contract and establishing the relationship. Any company that has ever tried to hire a new marketing/creative agency knows all are not created equal: it isn’t easy, it is time consuming and could potentially be a lengthy process. Through this article you will learn some of the challenges you may face, need to prepare for and overcome.

Alignment & Orientation

When onboarding a new agency, keep in mind it will take the agency a while to learn your organization, culture, customer base, goals, and business relationship expectations. Some topics to definitely align on & discuss during on-boarding and should be placed in within a contract include:

  1. Scope of Work
  2. Timelines – Turn Around Times
  3. Costs
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Rights
  6. Contact Matrix
  7. Reporting
  8. Service Level Agreements and Key Performance Indicators
  9. Staff Permanence
  10. Cultural Norms
  11. Brand
  12. Audience
  13. Approval Process
  14. Payment Terms


This will take much of your time and theirs. You will have to practice your highest standard of patience for the agency to learn and begin to work effortlessly on your account. This is usually a lengthy and sometimes painful process to dedicate a lot of time to familiarize the new agency on the needs and wants of your marketing endeavors. This portion of the process is in your favor; express your needs and wants upfront and leverage this time to your benefit. According to Find Good, “There will never be a better opportunity to cover-off the formalities than during the beginning of the relationship.” Remember, in the end, the result usually pays off and is worth the potentially grueling on-boarding process. You chose this specific agency for a reason; trust your instinct, role with the punches and look upward towards the new, fresh business relationship that has blossomed.

How much of a hassle will this really be?

If you are first transitioning from an incumbent supplier, this is hard to fully gauge without knowing what state you’re in with your incumbent supplier. It depends on whether or not you’re in the middle of a large campaign, time-critical project, or a large development. You should focus on making your switch during more of a “down-time” period or at a place in time that is less critical. If there is no end in sight, have a collaborative conversation with your incumbent agency about when the best time to transition should begin. During your incumbent supplier’s transition out, ensure this is conducted in a professional manner with ample time to close out any open projects, communicate any open-ended deliverables, and fees are all squared away.

Transitioning from in-house marketing to an outside agency or adding a marketing agency is a serious business decision and, as mentioned above, it will take a lot of preparation, collaboration, and patience. To reiterate, this process is usually lengthy and sometimes agonizing to dedicate a majority of your time to familiarize the new agency on the needs and wants of your marketing objectives.

The Client – Agency Relationship

Getting to know “someone” can sometimes be difficult; guards rise up and you share a little bit of information at a time to gauge the waters. Just like any relationship, acclimation, comfort, and getting to know each other should take place. The relationship, after all, should be never-the-less be effortless by both parties by willing to understand each other, share knowledge, show positive attitude, give clear direction, share strategies, demonstrate consistency, and uphold each end of the deal when meeting deadlines and managing projects. Avoid getting in your own way, and using terms such as “..well our last agency did this….” as much as possible. Transition is always hard and maintaining and open communication platform will be key in developing positive output throughout the partnership.

Keep in mind, these are just hurdles you may face during this process, so remember, this development with a new agency is also exciting; you should enjoy it and have some fun along the way! Create the ideal relationship you want upfront, understand you may hit some bumps along the way, and look forward to the fresh start and new relationship.

Elizabeth Skipor

Elizabeth Skipor is a Senior Analyst at Source One Management Services, helping mid-market to Fortune 500 companies achieve cost savings and budget optimization through strategic sourcing and contract management best practices. Before joining Source One, she was an assistant category manager/category specialist for a major US retailer, and a global inventory manager for an international and domestic garment component manufacturer.

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