Seven Reason Why Businesses Fire Digital Marketing Agencies

Seven Reason Why Businesses Fire Digital Marketing Agencies

Any of the below seven reasons can get a digital marketing agency fired. Here is what to avoid in the agency-client relationship.

This is not a story about how to fire your digital marketing agency, but rather a list of errors that digital agencies make that gets them fired. If you are a business owner working with an agency, see if your agency is worth their fee. If you are a digital agency, take these seven reasons as an action plan to troubleshoot your relationships with clients.

I have been on both sides: working for an agency and doing digital marketing in-house. And I experienced both: my agency lost a couple of clients during my time, and I had to fire a couple of digital agencies during my in-house tenure. The context was always unique, but the patterns were similar. Let’s summarize them in these seven points.

Unrealistic Promises

When a business is hiring a digital marketing agency, the agency may overpromise here and there. The motivation is clear. The agency’s sales team wants to close the deal and move the new client over to the account management team.

As a business owner you’d want to meet the account manager and talk to the people who will be working on your account.

Agencies that don’t involve account folks in the pitch process may face a sad truth after. There may be a disconnect between the promises and the execution. This disconnect can become a serious divide that may ruin the new relationship.

Lack of Industry Knowledge

Agencies that specialize in a specific industry have better chances to get clients from that industry. I saw it first-hand how industry knowledge and specialization served as competitive advantages in bids against other agencies. And here it’s not about the industry knowledge sitting in one employee, but rather in how the agency positions itself and what clients it has.

I worked for an agency that specializes in CPG (consumer packaged goods). We were able to get new clients active in the CPG markets with a snap of our fingers. But we had a hard time dealing with technology companies, for instance.

An agency or a team can get industry knowledge, but the learning curve takes time. Working with several clients leaves that team less time to get to know the industry better.

Limited industry knowledge puts the agency’s contract at risk. The agency will not be an equal partner with their client. Accelerated knowledge acquisition may be a good solution to the problem.

Too Much Self-Focus

Let’s be honest – agencies are not in the business of growing businesses. They are in the business of billable hours and secured retainers. It’s the service sector, after all.

But an agency can be only successful when they put their financial interests in the background. Their usefulness to the client should be their main focus.

Some agencies grow their client base fast and start forgetting about the goal of helping clients grow their businesses. In my past I had to fire an SEO agency because of their complete disregard of my business objectives. If reminders don’t help, you part ways with such a partner.

Poor Communication

Communicate, but don’t over-communicate or under-communicate. A responsive digital agency knows what’s needed. They carry out projects and provide enough information and details to the client. And this information is timely and relevant.

The moment the agency becomes too invisible because updates, calls, reports are irregular, that’s where it will end. My tactic has always been to create healthy expectations: send status updates at regular intervals, set up regular face time with clients, deliver on time or communicate delays in advance.

No Perks, No Freebies

Some agencies may be stingy with their time, expertise, and resources. They will deploy the least effort needed to complete the task or project. Well, minimalistic may be a popular design trend, but it’s not what a respected digital agency does for clients.

Giving some resources away to clients is a perk the client gets by working with the agency on a long-term basis.

If the agency does not share their expertise on purpose or unintentionally, business owners may start asking themselves if the agency is worth the money paid. This sense of dissatisfaction may get into the way and cause the termination of the contract.

Lack of Technical Skills

Technical competence goes hand in hand with experience. Agencies tend to hire fresh graduates, whose expertise is not always enough to perform complex technical tasks. And, yes, digital marketing is very technical. Tools from CMS to advertising platforms require a decent amount of technical skills.

Gaps in such competences may create situations when the agency loses a client. I saw a situation when my past agency had got a client with a bunch of Drupal sites and we had no people to support such sites. We struggled with the project as we were not able to hire Drupal developers fast enough. In the end, the client left.

My example was a little extreme. But I worked with digital agencies whose account managers were not able to use Google Docs. And I did not have time to teach them.

Go-go Mentality

The go-go mentality is the consequence of the fast-paced environment that digital agencies live in. Multiple clients, chronic multitasking, no joy in task completion… These are not too helpful when you need to build solid strategies and tactical plans, and execute on them.

The go-go mentality puts trees in front of the forest. As a result, clients keep saying they don’t see strategies. Agencies stay confused as they feel they do so much work and are not being recognized for it.

Stopping to breathe is what some agencies need before the crazy-pace sprint turns into a disaster. In the end, starting to run slowly, building running strategies and applying right tactics helps one to finish a marathon.


Agencies live in a world where acquiring new clients is more exciting than retaining the current ones. But client retention is cheaper and more profitable. Sometimes, it takes only a couple of minor course corrections to keep clients happy.

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By Nick

Nick is a seasoned search specialist with 10+ years of hands-on experience in both paid and organic search campaigns. Nick has managed both multi-million ad budgets and small-budget SEO campaigns.

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