When Marketing Fails: The Real Costs of Switching Agencies

Digital Marketing
By Janet Lee | April 14, 2022 | 13 min read

Thinking about breaking up with your marketing agency? We see and hear you. It’s hard to find the right agency and even harder to fire the wrong one.

Whether you’re set on calling it quits or trying to suss things out with your agency, one thing is for sure—the time to make the right decision is now.


  1. If your marketing efforts fail, go on pause, or stay stagnant, your competitors will pass you by. In today’s digital age, your online presence plays a critical role in your brand. In fact, did you know that 85% of consumers conduct research online before purchasing?
  2. Picking the wrong agency will cost you, and we mean A LOT. In fact, we spent the last month researching what exactly the costs are for switching marketing agencies. It’s a lot heftier and more complex than we originally thought.

Of the 100+ people we talked to, here are the top four costs of switching agencies:

  1. Time
  2. Performance
  3. Morale
  4. Money

A Hard Look at the Top 4 Costs of Switching Agencies

For this piece, the Big Leap team is putting the spotlight on professionals who’ve endured their fair share of agency hopping. We tapped into HARO, email, and social media surveys to pull insights.

We encourage you to use this information to nurture better and smarter marketing choices this year. With that said, let’s take a hard look at the top four costs of switching agencies.


How long it takes for SEO to work is no secret. SEO is a long-term strategy that requires consistent effort to win results. A part of this effort entails building a holistic marketing strategy that’s customized to your business’ needs and goals.

When you hire the wrong agency, the time you invest in digital marketing campaigns can double—the first half being the time you spend with your current/wrong agency and the latter half being the time you spend with your future/new agency.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that 46.7% of our respondents expressed time was the biggest cost of hiring the wrong agency.

Among those respondents, here’s how long it took to earn results:

  • 60% said it takes 1-3 months.
  • 33.3% said it takes 4-6 months.
  • 6.7% said it takes 7-9 months.

To factor in the time you spend with your future/new agency, take the time frames above and double them—is your business willing and able to make room for that extra time? You may need to be prepared to put some campaigns on pause to accommodate these timeline changes.

What the Experts Say…

Here’s what our research respondents have to say regarding their experience with time:

“Whenever we change our agency, the hassle and the stress of handing over documents and ongoing projects is really time-consuming and, of course, tiring. It is also disappointing that we could not get the result that we wanted right away, but it’s okay because there’s no instant way to success.” Connor Brown, After School Finance

“There is a hidden cost in switching to a marketing agency, which is your time cost because, with a new marketing agency, you must spend time pitching them on your marketing needs, target audience, and 4P’s of marketing.” Anthony Mixides, The London Vape Company

“No matter how good the agency’s onboarding process is, that is still a very time-consuming process.” James Lazar, Oakwoods Outlet

“Switching agencies for us was difficult because while it was frustrating to see the time and money wasted, it was especially hard to come to terms with the fact that we were back to square one after what we initially expected would be a productive partnership.” Kathleen Ahmmed, USCarJunker

Going back to square one isn’t ideal when time plays such a large role in your campaign progress. But no matter how time-consuming the agency hunt, onboarding, and campaign might be, sometimes agency hopping is worth it, especially when your marketing performance starts to decline.


What the Research Says…

When we dove deeper into time, our research unveiled several layers. The span of timelines can be attributed to an agency’s performances and expertise. In other words:

  • Does my agency possess the right experience and expertise to not only strategize but also execute on our company’s goals and needs?
  • Depending on the results of the marketing campaign, do the outcomes justify the amount of time and costs we’ve invested in them?
  • Does the agency’s perspective of good performance align with ours?

What the Experts Say…

26.7% of our survey respondents have used, on average, three different marketing agencies. The reasons for this involved various performance-related factors we believe are worth considering as you make your decision.

“Every time we’ve moved agencies it has been for performance-related reasons. Mostly it was as simple as too much money being spent with not enough conversions to justify it. Other problems for us have been with wastage – lots of irrelevant keywords with Google Ads for instance.” James Lazar, Oakwoods Outlet

“You can’t expect an agency to deliver before the day ends. Hence, patience should be practiced when dealing with a marketing company. However, too much patience is also a bad idea. I recommend asking for weekly progress reports. If they show no promising results, it’s time to kick them off the boat before they sink the ship.” (Carl Panepinto, Storm Internet)

“It is important to find a marketing agency that has the right balance of experience, expertise, and size. If an agency is serving too many customers simultaneously, they may not give the required attention to your product because they have too much on their plate.” Krittin Kalra, Writecream

Performance is what ultimately makes or breaks your business’ online viability. Take the time to track and evaluate your metrics to see whether your agency investments have been worth it. This will not only give you a sense of control over your company’s online performance but will also help you feel confident that your business is headed in the right direction.


What the Research Says…

People tend to stay focused on the bottom line during big transitions like these, yet they fail to look at those who are responsible for pushing that needle—the employees.

Research illustrates switching agencies can hurt your team members’ morale, especially if that agency doesn’t turn out to be a good fit. Partnering with an agency involves building relationships and trust—two areas that are at the heart of human connection.

So if things aren’t working out, it isn’t just your budget that’s hurting, it’s your entire team.

What the Experts Say…

When Sherry Morgan from Petsolino noticed a lack of transparency with her agency, it hurt morale among her team:

“When they [an agency] started working for us, everything went smoothly during the onboarding and planning stages but red flags started to appear when our marketing campaigns started.

The agency was not that transparent when it came to their processes and also wouldn’t share access to tools in tracking our marketing metrics. We were basically kept in the dark, and the projects they launched did not really improve our online presence.

At this time, the morale of the internal team was significantly affected because we weren’t sure what we were doing wrong. Not to mention, we already paid a non-refundable retainer to the agency so we thought that switching agencies might just be a waste of money.“ Sherry Morgan, Petsolino

Transparency is key to any agency relationship. Check in on your team to see how your agency’s actions affect them. If your team is hurting, it’s likely your bottom line is too.


What the Research Says…

6.7% of our respondents said the biggest cost of hiring the wrong agency is money. Even though our research participants did not choose money as the greatest cost, most, if not all of them, recognized money is still a pain point in agency hopping.

Here are some key areas in hiring and firing agencies:

  • Costs of finding new agencies: The time and money spent on research and resources during the agency search process
  • Onboarding costs: Learning about the agency’s process, streamlining tools and resources between the two parties, discussing/negotiating contracts, etc.
  • Exit costs: Breach of contract, cancellation, and sunk costs

What the Experts Say…

When costs add up, it can make the agency-switching process discouraging. But as Kathleen Ahmmed points out, if it’s money being spent on ensuring your team is choosing the right agency, then the costs can be worthwhile in the long run:

It took us almost 10 months and tens of thousands of dollars spent on research and review, before we were finally able to find an agency that fit our standards, both strategically, culturally, and financially over the long term.

However, we also saw this as a worthwhile investment, because ultimately, taking the time to offer a number of agencies the chance to prove their commitment is what saved us the trouble of having to waste even more time and resources trying to find a new agency again.” Kathleen Ahmmed,USCarJunker

It’s also helpful to stay attuned to the various pricing models agencies offer:

“Determining a budget for any digital marketing campaign can be difficult. You could meet with 2 SEO agencies and ask for the same services and get a budget that ranges from $500 per month from one agency and $5,000 per month from another agency.

In addition to wild pricing variations, you also have agencies with different pricing models. Most agencies typically sell retainer models where you pay a certain fee each month but there are agencies that are built on a performance model where you may only have to pay for results.” Bryan Phelps, Big Leap

Use this calculator tool to help determine the best digital marketing budget for your business. Getting your budget sorted first can help your team assess what you can and can’t afford and identify an agency that can meet those needs.

Is It Worth It?

Oof. Tough question. Whether it’s worth it or not to switch agencies depends on several things:

  1. Alignment of business goals and values. Do you meet eye-to-eye on these areas?
  2. Momentum. If your business has grown, has the agency grown with you? Can they deliver within your timelines and budget?
  3. Personality. Do you like working with them? Sometimes, personality clashes can make conducting business challenging.

Identify Why You Want to Switch

Use the points above to assess why you’re thinking about making the switch and how to move forward. Sam Cohen from MyFreeOCR explains this best:

“It is not easy to switch marketing agencies but it is a necessary step if you are looking to take your startup to the next level.

The main reason we changed agencies was that our previous agency simply couldn’t keep up with the increasing demands of marketing campaigns. We were at a point where we were constantly asking them to deliver but they were not able to deliver. This was a bad situation for both of us and so we decided to change agencies. We had this gut feeling that they might be wrong for us and they were.

The new agency has been amazing and we have seen a dramatic increase in traffic and revenue. We are so happy with our new digital marketing agency.”

Don’t Switch Too Soon

It’s also vital to keep in mind when you should switch. Results take time. In fact, 50% of those surveyed said it takes 4-6 months to see results. While 24% said it takes 7-9 months.

According to Cohen, calling it quits too soon with your agency can present new repercussions and those nagging what if questions:

“There are a few reasons why you should wait before switching agencies:

First, it’s important to build a relationship of trust with your agency. They need to understand your business and your goals in order to be effective in representing you.

Second, given that PR is all about relationships, it can take some time for the agency to really get started and see results. So if you switch too soon, you might not give them a chance to succeed and you could miss out on potential benefits.

Finally, switching agencies can be expensive and time-consuming – so make sure you’re really confident that the new agency is going to be a better fit for you.”

Tips for Finding “The One”

Breakups, no matter the circumstances, are hard. If your team does decide it’s best to switch agencies, below are some guiding tips to help you identify “the one” that offers the support you need during this journey.

Feel free to also reach out to our team if you’re having trouble finding the right fit. We can tap into our network to point you in the right direction.

[Switching agencies] was also difficult to accept that in some way, the experience was in part our fault because we were the ones who made the mistake of failing to take into consideration the lack of collaborative and cultural fit in the partnership.

In this respect, I would recommend to other business leaders to always take their time before making such a long-term decision, because the setback that comes with making the wrong choice will always be more impactful than being patient enough to find the perfect partner.” Kathleen Ahmmed, USCarJunker

“There are a few things I would do differently when it comes to hiring decisions in my agency.

First, I would make sure that we have a more defined job description for each position before starting the hiring process. This would help us to better assess which candidates are a good fit for the role and weed out those who may not be a good fit.

Second, I would put more emphasis on cultural fit when making hiring decisions. It’s important that all team members share the same values and work ethic in order to create a cohesive team.

Finally, I would make sure to properly vet candidates before making any offers. By doing so, we can avoid making any hasty decisions that may end up costing us down the road.” Sam Cohen, MyFreeOCR

Eventually, we took a big step and decided that we have to let them go and switch to a new one. This time, we learned our lesson and carefully interviewed the next agency we hired. We looked at their previous results, testimonies, and set expectations about how we wanted them to be transparent with us.

Thankfully, they listened to our concerns and did their best to meet our expectations. Even though we had some setbacks regarding the timeline of the campaign launches, we were glad that we switched before it was too late.” Sherry Morgan, Petsolino

“Ask them for a free trial or check their previous records to evaluate their performance and reliability before making a decision and making sure that we are on the same page in terms of pricing.” Gerrid Smith, Joy Organics

“Make sure you get along with their employees. You may not have employed these people, but you still have to interact with them on a regular basis. Having a good working relationship is difficult if your personalities don’t complement one another.” Henry Bell, Vendorland

“I would first make a list of the agencies that are in your area. Then, evaluate each one with a checklist. The checklist should include factors such as how much work they have done, their experience and their past work.” Scott Steward, HiCollectors

“I would extensively research the marketing agency before allocating my funds. However, research in hindsight is crucial only when coupled with client testimonials. I would go thoroughly through the agency’s website and review the remarks left by the clients. I would make an informed decision through this measure, inevitably leading to a successful collaboration.” Carl Panepinto, Storm Internet

Stay Grounded during Your Agency Hunt

Agency hopping isn’t a simple switch. So if you’re ready to shop around or want to sit with your current agency to see how circumstances flesh out, we’ve got a helpful guide to help you think ahead—How to Find Your Match: Ultimate Guide to Hiring the Right Marketing Agency.

This ultimate guide offers questions to ask your next potential marketing agency and six things to look for in the right one. The results? Understanding how to find a marketing team whose values and expectations align with yours to create a lasting partnership. If this isn’t love, we don’t know what is.

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