5 Steps to Get Out of a Bad Marketing Contract

We’ve all done it...signed up for something on a contract and regretted it later.

Maybe it was a cell phone contract. Maybe it was a car lease.

Or maybe you signed a contract with a digital marketing company for services which sounded good at the time but now has you wondering what you’re paying for.

Unfortunately, many high end business owners find themselves in this boat. They signed a 12 month contract but the services haven’t performed quite as well as the original sales pitch promised.

The problem isn’t so much the bad contract, but rather the lack of productivity for money you’ve budgeted towards marketing.

If this is you, don’t worry. There’s hope!

When you’re in this situation, here are 5 steps you can take to get out of a bad contract.

#1 - Get Educated

It’s actually pretty common...business owners aren’t quite sure what’s included in the services they bought. Many times when I get a chance to review the paperwork, I can understand why.

I’ve seen contracts with major service providers which are handwritten on a single piece of paper. They’re totally devoid of contract details, yet somehow it still holds you hostage.

I’ve seen contracts so complicated and bundled with other services that even a seasoned professional can’t understand what’s included.

That’s why your only choice in this scenario is to dedicate the time to figuring out what you’re paying for and why.

If you’re one of those people who just don’t understand digital, then it’s time to get your feet under you. Ask a friend or a colleague for help. Pay a consultant for a 2nd look or take an online course.

And while you don’t have to learn how to “do” the marketing, you need to understand conceptually what these things are so you can better supervise them.

Don’t proceed to step #2 until you’re clear on what you’re paying for and how it fits in with your business goals.

#2 - Be the Squeaky Wheel

Most of these vendors want to retain your business and eventually roll you into a new contract, so a good dose of posturing usually helps get their attention.

If you don’t voice your concerns, chances are they’ll assume you’re just another happy camper.


One thing which almost always works is to jump on the telephone or meet in person. Make sure to request that supervisors or senior management get involved.

I’ve seen plenty of situations where people had been emailing back and forth with no luck. But once they finally got on the phone or met in person, everyone got on the same page rather quickly.

Another good strategy is to ask for additional services which will potentially improve results. You might be shocked at what else they’ll throw in to try and make you happy.

And finally, you can always threaten not to renew if things don’t get any better.

#3 - Start Paying Attention

If you’re going to ask for extra services and attention from a vendor, you have to make a change yourself and start paying closer attention to the details.

As tempting as it is to shift focus to solving other problems, you’ve got to stay engaged with the vendor if you hope to see lasting changes.


A good strategy which results in joint accountability is to ask for regular status meetings with key players. This might be a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to recap results and activities.

If they’ve got to report back to you regularly, one of two things will happen (or if you’re lucky, both).

One, you’ll become more comfortable with the terminology and services so at least you don’t make the same mistakes next time.

And second, you’ll get their best efforts to deliver what they’ve sold. That doesn’t mean the results will be what you want, but you’ll at least be getting what you paid for.

#4 - Increase Your Budget

Sometimes the contract is so bad you have no choice but to get out your checkbook and invest with another vendor or a different strategy.

While this might seem painful in the short term, I’ve seen cases where this saved the day.

If a new vendor or strategy is able to produce enough leads for you to hit your goals, that will help you more easily stomach the poor return from the bad contract.

Last year we started working with an auto repair shop that was stuck in a bad contract with their current vendor. The owner made the decision to invest another $650 a month into pay per click to get the necessary number of leads they needed to grow their business.

The extra 30 or so leads per month made his numbers work. So while he had to spend more to make more, this was a better option than completely missing his goals.

#5 - Start Preparing for the End

If you’ve done everything above and are still not seeing the results you want, it’s time to evaluate your options for the future.

You may need to start building a new website or finding a new way to fulfill these services.

Planning ahead means that when your contract is up you can seamlessly transition into the next phase without missing a beat.

It also makes it easier to live with the consequences and just cancel your contract.

Who knows, you may get lucky. Sometimes the vendor doesn’t follow through on their contract terms or make good on their threats.

I had a client recently whose vendor told them that if they cancelled services, they would pull their products from his store. After going through the process outlined in this guide, the client decided that the contact was unbearable and cancelled the contract. The client was fully prepared to lose the vendor’s products.

However, the vendor wound up letting them out of the contract and kept the products where they were.

And because the client had already started their transition planning, they had their new services up and running the same day. Win for the client all around!

Before You Sign on the Dotted Line...

If you find yourself discussing services with a vendor asking for a long term contract, ask yourself (and them) what value you’re getting from the long term arrangement. And look hard at alternative solutions which don’t require the same contract.

I’m willing to bet you can find a similar service without the same contract risk to you!

About The Author
Andre’ Savoie is a Digital Marketing Transition Specialist here at High Level Thinkers. He’s used the exact strategies outlined in this guide more often than you’d believe over 10 years to help people get out of bad marketing contracts and transition into digital marketing.

If you have any questions please drop us a line andre@highlevelthinkers.com

Training & Affiliations

TOP