Should I Invite My Incumbent To Participate In The Agency Review?

Hello and welcome back to another agency search quick tip from AAR Partners. AAR Partners is an agency search consultancy managing agency reviews for marketers since 1980.

This week we had a question from a marketer at a technology company asking a very specific question:

“I’m about to start an agency review and am not sure if I should invite my incumbent to participate in the agency search?”

This is a timeless question. Let’s start with first things first. Be very transparent with the incumbent agency about why you’re calling the review. Is it mandated? Then that’s a totally different story than a review for gaps with the current agency. If there are gaps in service, then tell them. These conversations are always a bit uneasy, but the agency has a right to know where they’ve fallen short and if they have a fair chance at retaining the business.

With that said, ask yourself this one question: “Does the incumbent have an equal and fair chance at maintaining the business and if so, how?” If the answer is a short no, then cut the cord.

If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:

  • Has the agency become complacent
  • Has a sense of entitlement set in
  • Is the incumbent investing in its people and resources to stay cutting edge?

Again, if the answers are negative then let them go.

Incumbents retain the business less than 10% of the time and partially because there is relationship baggage that can’t be corrected. Severing ties is never easy, but inviting incumbents into reviews out of nothing more than respect or obligation is neither advantageous nor beneficial for the agency or the client. What’s worse than dragging out the inevitable? Spending more time and resources on it than necessary on a review process.

There you have it. If you have a burning question about your agency search, AskAAR by posting your question on Twitter or LinkedIn but be sure to hashtag it with #AskAAR. Every other week I’m right here answering your questions.

Good luck with your agency search and if you need any guidance, think of AAR Partners! We’ve been managing agency review since 1980, and we’d be happy to help you too.