Managing Large Scale Transitions Across Complex Marketing Organizations (Part 1 of 3)
POSTED : June 13, 2012

You are the Chief Marketing Officer at a large corporation. You’ve evaluated your agency partnership and decided to make a change. Now what?

The task of an agency review is often time-consuming and challenging, but it is well worth it if you believe that a change will benefit the organization. The motivation to make an agency change can be based on any number of expectations – more innovative and insightful deliverables, deeper industry expertise or more cost-effective execution. Although reviews are difficult, the hard work doesn’t end when a decision is made. When a large business makes the decision to disengage with one agency and onboard a new one there are many factors to consider, issues to address and roadblocks to avoid. It can be a bumpy road if the transition is not well planned and thoughtfully executed.

Key considerations when you’ve made the decision to change

Hopefully you notified your current agency that you were conducting a review when it began! Now that you’ve decided to discontinue your partnership with them, you should provide concrete metrics and tangible support for your decision to make a change. The agency deserves honest feedback about how they served your company well, as well as how they failed to meet your expectations. Relay stories you’ve heard from your marketing directors and provide real-life examples of work product that didn’t meet the needs of your business.

Now that you’ve broken the news to your old agency, you need to begin focusing on the relationship you want to build with the new agency. The first step, after announcing they’ve won your business, is to explicitly communicate why you are making the change and the value you anticipate they will bring to your business. Success metrics should be very transparent and well-known to all – those within your own company and those at the agency. There should be no mystery about what you value from your agency partner or how their work will be evaluated.

Before we can even begin to think about the agency’s work product and evaluating it, we must transition them onto the business. Hopefully this was discussed during the evaluation to avoid learning now that they’ve never been involved in a transition with global implications or with a highly matrixed company! Reach an agreed-upon approach for management of the transition. Some agencies are very capable of driving it themselves, saving you and your organization a lot of time and money, while others will fail miserably at transition management. If the benefits of hiring them outweigh the fact that they lack this skill set be prepared to do the heavy lifting during the transition.

One last thing to keep in mind – it’s a small, small world. Word spreads quickly in the agency ecosphere and you don’t want to tarnish your own reputation as you approach the agency change. Great clients are coveted, difficult or disrespectful clients are infamous and avoided.

“People hate change. They hate the uncertainty of it, they hate the unknown. If you can tackle a transition with transparency, honesty and a well-laid plan you can alleviate a lot of push back by your employees.” – Senior Marketing Executive tasked with the management of a global agency transition at a Fortune 500 company

Next week, we’ll continue this post with insights on how the change may impact your organization and an example plan for managing the transition.