Vendasta’s Janessa Yeomans shares a two-week action plan to become a lean agency (with templates!)

Are you a digital agency owner looking to cut costs in this tough economic climate? Our Vice President of Platform Operations, Janessa Yeomans, has created a free Excel sheet to help agencies identify all of their software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other subscription expenses, and provided tangible steps on how to examine what to keep, what to cut, and what to renegotiate to become a lean agency — all within two weeks.

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“Agencies may be surprised to know that businesses with under 50 employees typically have 40 to 50 SaaS subscriptions and their employees only use 9.5 of those. There is plenty of opportunity to reduce or consolidate the number of vendors you’re using and save money in the process,” Yeomans says, citing research from Blissfully.

By carefully analyzing all costs and identifying areas where costs can be reduced or eliminated, digital agencies can save on operational expenses and reduce the number of unnecessary SaaS subscriptions. As a result, your lean agency will operate more sustainably and emerge from tough economic times in a stronger position than competitors.

Ready for your two-week challenge on the path to becoming a lean agency? Let’s get started!

Day 1: Download this spreadsheet, gather your team and nominate two champions

On the first day of your SaaS detox journey, you’ll need to gather some essential resources and volunteers from your organizations … and possibly do some volun-telling.

  • The first resource is to download Yeomans' Software Vendor Analysis spreadsheet. This will help you identify all of your agency’s SaaS subscriptions, their owners, and other relevant information.
  • The second resource is to assign a detail-oriented employee who has the ability to ask the right questions to complete the spreadsheet and liaise with the owners of the subscriptions. This employee will obtain all the necessary information required to make informed decisions. They will then make recommendations to the agency owner and broader team(s) on what to cut and/or consolidate.
  • The third resource is to empower someone on your team with strong negotiating skills to cancel contracts or renegotiate prices for subscriptions that are no longer necessary or that can be obtained at a lower cost. This will help you become a lean agency.

“While it depends on your agency’s size, I believe that the identification and negotiation exercises are two different skills. The former, I think, sits best with a project manager, while the latter can be performed by someone who is good at deals like a finance or sales person,” Yeomans says.

Plan for potential pushback from employees

You may face some hesitation from team members to take on additional responsibilities on top of their existing workload. That’s why you should ensure that:

  • Whoever is assigned to complete the Software Vendor Analysis spreadsheet has time carved out for them in order to complete the task efficiently.
  • All employees are aware of the activity and are willing to provide the necessary support in order to gather all the relevant information.
  • You’re providing incentives to motivate team members and show your appreciation for their hard work.

Establish a framework and boundaries for vendor cost-cutting

It's important for digital agencies to approach vendor cost-cutting in a strategic and thoughtful way. You shouldn’t simply make decisions about which vendors to let go without considering the potential impact on employees or the overall operations of the agency.

According to Yeomans, cost-cutting should be conducted within the context of the lean principle, which suggests that businesses should be constantly reducing waste and maximizing value in order to operate efficiently and effectively.

“Even the biggest and best companies in the world regularly review their operations to cut waste. That way, when a recession does occur, they’re not scrambling to cut costs dramatically and rapidly because they were spending too much needlessly in the first place,” she says.

For example, agencies may decide to review all of their SaaS subscriptions and commit to cutting or consolidating only those that are not being used or providing sufficient value to employees. That means your staff can relax that the office Spotify account and workplace vibes are safe so long as it’s being used.

What if you don’t have employees?

If you don’t have the people power to do this work, you can still follow all these tips. You’ll just need to ensure you carve out sufficient time for yourself to complete the spreadsheet and make decisions on which contracts to cancel or renegotiate.

Days 2 & 3: Identify all your vendors and ascertain their value

Once your agency has committed to conducting a thorough audit of its expenses, the next step is to identify all your vendors and list them on the excel sheet provided. Your expense-identification champion should also be provided with a list of all SaaS subscriptions.

“The person in your team who is completing this needs to reach out to the business owner of each expense to gain an understanding of what it is, what value it’s bringing to the table, and whether the service is being used effectively,” Yeomans says.

In the spreadsheet, your expense-identification detective should be mindful of three particular fields:

  • Cost benefit: This should help the business understand the return on investment being generated from every SaaS subscription. For example, what value is that stock image subscription providing? How much time is that transcription service saving? The owner of each expense should be able to justify the value of the service being paid for to the person completing the sheet.
  • Continue or stop: The expense owner should be able to indicate whether they want to retain the service in question or not.
  • Seats: Often, businesses pay for more seats or licenses than they actually use. Identifying actual usage versus what’s being paid for provides an easy cost-reduction opportunity.

Day 4: Let your champion make recommendations

So the champion responsible for completing the spreadsheet has done their job. Great, that was the easy part! Now it’s time for them to take a deep dive into the data and make some recommendations about which SaaS subscriptions to:

  • Eliminate from your agency’s expense line
  • Renegotiate to a different tier or usage level
  • Consolidate tech into other vendors

This will entail examining the cost benefit of each service and whether the expense owner has recommended that the subscription in question be retained or not.

However, to become a lean agency, you and your champion should keep in mind that just because the owner of a certain SaaS service wants to keep that subscription doesn’t mean you should. You may find you’re paying for overlapping services or not extracting enough value from certain vendors who can provide multiple solutions.

“As an example, you may be paying for email marketing, customer relationship management, and task management tools from separate SaaS vendors. But you may have another vendor offering all those three solutions. So you’ve just discovered a consolidation opportunity that helps you become leaner,” Yeomans says.

Your champion should spend the day making written recommendations for you and the team based on their analysis of the sheet, qualitative feedback/discussions from expense owners, and research of SaaS vendors your agency is paying.

Day 5: Present recommendations and loop in the team

Hopefully the fifth day you do this is on a Friday and your eyes pop at how many cost-saving opportunities your employee outlined for you. You as the agency owner should take the time to review the recommendations carefully and make final decisions about what to implement.

“It's important for the business owner to involve the team in this process and to explain the reasons behind the decisions that are made. By involving the team and keeping them informed, you can ensure that everyone is on board and committed to achieving the cost-cutting goals. You’ll also ensure that your agency’s operations and clients aren’t inadvertently impacted,” Yeomans says.

Once your team is in agreement, it’s time to hand the torch over to your next champion.

Days 6-10: Unleash your negotiator-in-chief

Armed with your list of recommendations, the next part of the journey to becoming a lean agency involves bringing in the champion who you’ve nominated that has the ability to haggle and renegotiate contracts or cancel subscriptions.

Yeomans recommends that this exercise be divided into two phases.

1. The “easy sweep”

The first phase is to conduct an "easy sweep" where termination letters are sent to SaaS vendors that the agency knows it no longer wants subscriptions with. This is a straightforward process that can quickly result in cost savings. And don’t worry, we've got your termination letter covered below!

Sample vendor termination email template

Subject: Canceling subscription

Dear [SaaS Vendor],

We regret to inform you that we will no longer be needing your subscription service. Please cancel our account effective immediately.

Thank you for your service up until this point.


[Insert Name]

[Insert Digital Agency Name]

2. The “complex sweep”

The second phase is to conduct a more “complex sweep” where the focus is on contacting SaaS vendors who the agency wants to move to a different price tier or consolidate services into.

It's worth noting that SaaS vendors are generally open to negotiating and are often willing to help agencies understand more about their services and retain their business.

Here’s an email you can send to request a meeting to renegotiate an existing contract.

Sample vendor renegotiation email template

Subject: Requesting subscription renegotiation

Dear [SaaS Vendor],

We are writing to request a renegotiation of our current subscription. We have been happy with the services provided by your company, but in light of the current economic climate, we are looking for ways to reduce expenses.

We would like to explore the possibility of moving to a different subscription tier or consolidating other services into our current subscription. We believe that this would provide value for both our agency and your company, and we would be grateful for the opportunity to discuss it further.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Insert Name]

[Insert Digital Agency Name]

In the course of her job, Yeomans prefers sitting down with vendors, telling them about the other services she wants to get rid of, and letting them propose a solution.

“If you’re dealing with a vendor who can offer an ecosystem of tools you’d like, I would tell them which services you want to get rid of and ask them what they can do for you,” she says.

“A lot of the time, they want you to have a deeper integration with them, a better understanding of their ecosystem, and they’re going to work harder because they want you to use more of their services. They’ll often sweeten the deal to get more of your business.”

Your mission should be to lock in these meetings on days 6 through 10, but bear in mind that changing tiers and consolidating vendors could take days and potentially weeks as it may involve signing contracts and approval from other decision makers. The important thing is to get the ball rolling to become a lean agency.

“Going through this process will help you understand the full potential of your other vendors, understand the cost synergies you may be able to achieve, and simplify your tech stack overall, helping your agency become far leaner,” Yeomans says.

Your path to becoming a lean agency

Cost-cutting and reducing vendor clutter is an important part of managing a digital agency in today's tough economic climate. By following the lean principle and involving the entire team in the process, digital agencies can improve their operations and run more efficiently.

“By conducting a thorough audit of all subscriptions, assigning a capable individual to review and make recommendations, and empowering someone to take action, agencies can take control of their costs and drive more profit to their bottom line,” Yeomans says.

And with that being said, don’t forget to celebrate the cost savings you’ve achieved and recognize your champions for the hard work they put in on your path to becoming a lean agency.

About the Author

Vishal Teckchandani is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta. A newcomer to Canada, he spent the last 14 years of his career in Australia as a financial services reporter and TV host. He has written extensively about how technology companies are transforming business processes and lives, and interviewed the CEOs of global banking, payments, SAAS, and cloud storage providers including Afterpay, ELMO Software, Macquarie Group, National Australia Bank, NextDC, and Zip Co. When he’s not creating content, Vishal loves to cook, explore Saskatchewan with his family, and volunteer for his community.

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