February 28

How to Effectively Manage Your Marketing Agency Retainer

Maura Marziano

What Is a Retainer?

You’ve charted the course to your growth goals – hopefully with a creative agency who knows your business – and now it’s time to execute your strategic marketing plan and create content and branded assets. Your agency presents you with a retainer agreement; a monthly fee you pay to retain the services of your agency.


Wait a second, you say. What’s this?

The notion of committing to a more binding agreement seems a bit daunting at first. But rest assured retainers exist to make projects run more smoothly and strategically for both your business and the agency.

In fact, knowing how use your retainer can be key to maximizing both short- and long-term ROI.


The Purpose of a Retainer

Retainers solidify your relationship with an experienced team of people and wide-ranging resources without having to build, manage, and pay for a new department. A strategic retainer will reduce time wasted seeking pricing per project, bring stability to your budget, and mollify doubts about what’s next on the marketing agenda.

Most importantly, you gain a team of people committed to learning your business and carrying out your marketing strategy over a longer period of time (usually 6 months to one year). It may seem scary to commit to, but a retainer has real benefits. Once you’re past the fear of signing on, the hardest part becomes managing your team and your agency to achieve your goals.


Make Introductions

When you establish a retainer relationship, make sure others in your company understand the agency’s role, the relationship’s expectations, and offer people an outlet for their own design needs. Requests for access to your new agency relationship are almost inevitable. The trick is not to be too guarded without sacrificing focus on your big goals. If you spend most of your time filling smaller requests as they come up, you diminish your ability to fulfill your major marketing objectives.


Strategy and Focus

Retainers should be strategic. If you don’t have a plan, don’t sign up for a retainer. You’ll end up spending a lot of money on offhand and hasty projects that become almost impossible to measure the success of. If your agency has been asking you the right questions and has taken the time to get to know your business, listen to their advice on marketing strategically and with purpose. Stay focused on your goals and your plan and learn how to siphon distractions.

A good retainer can be structured to do this. At Common Giant, we base monthly inbound retainers on pace and discuss deliverables we aim to produce month-to-month. The more aggressive your pace, the larger the retainer. It should yield an understood target for specific deliverables such as blog posts, content offers, or social posts. It’s great to target results and KPIs as part of your agreement; however spelling out the path to reaching those sets clear expectations. Instead of speaking in terms of time or hours, discuss meaningful production with your agency. Within these parameters, a wealth of creativity can be realized. Remain flexible enough to react to opportunities yet commit to the structure of your retainer.


Stay the Course

If there’s one thing to remember when using your retainer, it’s that inbound efforts aren’t usually felt for six months or even longer. Stick with the plan and share results on a regular basis with your agency so they can understand what’s working and what’s not. While it can be frustrating to not feel the results of your input immediately, you need enough time to build your unique data leads, conversions, and ultimately revenue. Then you need time to apply your learning and continually improve.

In today’s business climate, so much emphasis is put on quick returns and immediate gratification, that many companies lose sight of the big picture and miss out on exponential growth. Avoid the constant cycle of starting, stopping, and starting again from square one by committing to a strategic plan and using your retainer to its fullest potential.


Learn more fundamental tactics for managing change and staying focused with The Pull of Change.

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