Signing up for a content marketing retainer package offers plenty of advantages over per-project pricing. Here are a few reasons why.
For as long as my agency’s been in business, we’ve offered two main pricing models: Ad-hoc projects, and monthly content marketing retainers.
Project-based pricing can work great for short-term projects with a defined end date: For instance, if you’re planning to launch a new website and need to partner with an agency for 30 pages of copy to be completed within the next three months. In this case, the deliverables, pricing, and time frame can be easily defined, and we know how to plan our team’s resources.
But for brands that know they need ongoing support with marketing services, the marketing retainer model is ideal — both for our agency, and for your company. And while it’s true that your needs may vary from month to month, our marketing retainer model provides the flexibility to fit with your marketing strategy.
Signing up for a content marketing retainer package offers plenty of advantages over per-project pricing.
When it comes to content marketing, it’s important for agencies to be flexible to accommodate clients’ needs. Unlike some other marketing campaigns, such as display or pay-per-click search marketing, clients don’t always set a strict monthly budget for inbound marketing services: They may wish to produce blog posts a few times a week, but develop new white papers just several times a year.
We’ve structured our own content marketing agency to accommodate those needs. We can offer services based on a range of structures, including hourly rates, per-project rates, and retainer-based fees. And while we are always happy to accommodate clients who want to add extra projects to their service packages without any ongoing commitment, we feel that choosing a retainer-based package, in which clients pre-pay on a monthly or quarterly basis for a set number of services, provides the best quality and value for everyone.
While we pride ourselves on being able to accommodate last-minute project requests as often as possible, we prioritize work for our retainer clients. Companies who have developed and committed to a regular scope of services have reserved our best resources, ensuring that they will have the opportunity to work with consultants who have extensive experience in their industry and have received detailed instructions regarding their content strategy plan. We invest time upfront into onboarding and discovery, taking the time to interview key stakeholders and learn about your product in detail — empowering us with the tools we need to help you tell your story.
When you’re one of our retainer clients, we’re focused on building a long-term relationship with you, rather than simply fulfilling the needs of a single project. It’s about serving as your partner, instead of a mere service provider. When we're working on a retainer contract, we're thinking long-term about how we can best support your company with marketing services on an ongoing basis, instead of just optimizing results for a single project. You'll most likely find that this results in a more thoughtful and sustainable use of your marketing budget.
Clients’ needs are always changing, which means that in order to ensure a predictable income stream, we need to spend a percentage of our time and funds in marketing efforts to help us attract new clients. When we know we have a predictable income stream from our retainer clients, we are able to provide a discount on our per-project pricing when a client signs up for a long-term retainer agreement. It’s just a little thank-you for helping us alleviate the stress of constant pitching.
Likewise, retainers can take some of the stress off of clients. When you know you’re spending a predictable amount each month on content marketing services, you can better define what tasks you want to accomplish each month and know how much you have left to spend on other budget items. Rather than simply contracting with a service provider for a particular project, you can develop a strategy for incorporating the agency’s work into your comprehensive marketing plan.
Sure, you could hire an SEO strategist and a group of freelance writers for a one-time project, and then never talk to them again—but then when the time comes to review your quarterly metrics, you're on your own with no one to help you understand the context of what's been done or whether there are improvements that could be made. When we sign on new clients for retainer services, it also means that we're working with them as an ongoing partner, by building a strategy for success and regularly checking in to optimize our plan. We can look at metrics such as SEO rankings, site traffic, social shares, and more to understand what content is most successful, and continually optimize our efforts to achieve better results.
Committing to a monthly fee for your service provider helps you plan out your annual budget and may replace the cost of numerous full-time hires, as an agency is far more likely to bring a broad range of skill sets to the mix. At Eucalypt, our typical marketing retainers range between $5,000 and $20,000+ per month, and our team can include a combination of support with writing, editing, design, SEO, project management, social media, and PR. That’s a far more versatile skill set than you’d find in a single employee, and we can track our costs directly to deliverables, ensuring that you’re maximizing the value of your investment.
When choosing a service provider, look for companies that offer a more flexible retainer package: You don't want to be committed to a highly specific set of deliverables a full year in advance when you don't know how much your business model or industry landscape could change in that time.
Instead, focus on finding an agency that will allow you to shift gears when needed—we've switched to a "credit" based system that allows us to price out our services without forcing clients to commit to specific deliverables up front. That means we can modify our game plan to focus on what's performing best for our clients.
We attach most of our deliverables, such as email marketing campaigns, web copy, blog posts, and ebooks, to specific credit amounts. In one month, you might need 10 blog posts; in another, you might want to swap out 6 of those for an ebook. Or, if you’re revising your messaging and aren’t ready to launch new deliverables, we can roll credits over from one month to the next.
Company layoffs can be brutal — both for the employees you need to let go, and the morale of those left behind.
By choosing to partner with a content marketing agency on retainer, rather than growing your team’s headcount beyond what you know you can sustain, you’ll have set timelines in place for reviewing your contract: We typically work on either a 6-month or a 12-month term.
When we work on retainer with clients, we know there’s a chance it may not last beyond the contract term, and that’s no big deal. Many of our clients use us to supplement their in-house team until they have the profits or funding to support more headcount, or they’ll use us to support their marketing function up until an acquisition.
While we often have long-term retainers with our clients — and have worked with many companies on multi-year contracts — we understand the business case for our services, and can offboard just as easily as we can onboard with your company.
In my eyes, one of the key advantages of the marketing retainer model is that it allows us the bandwidth to grow a true partnership with our clients.
Our customers often say that we feel just like part of their team, and that doesn’t happen when we’re simply handling ad-hoc projects every now and then. By investing in an ongoing retainer, you can feel confident that you’re able to grow a collaborative relationship with a team of marketing experts who are invested in helping you take your business to the next level.
Interested in learning about our retainer package options? Get in touch for a free consultation.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.
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