Everything You Need To Know About Marketing Retainers

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What is a marketing retainer?

A marketing retainer is an ongoing service provided to a business by a marketing agency. This usually involves the business paying the marketing agency a monthly fee in return for outsourced marketing support.

This is often a long-term agreement set over a minimum of 6 to 12 months, during which time both parties will work on a variety of marketing projects together. In a nutshell, the marketing agency becomes an extension of the businesses’ marketing team.

Marketing retainers enable businesses to gain access to skills and expertise that they typically don’t have in-house. It’s also a great solution for small marketing teams with a limited skill set. A marketing retainer with an agency gives a business access to a wide variety of skills that simply cannot be found in a single person!

There are a number of different types of marketing retainer a business might choose:

Fixed Price

Fixed price retainers mean a business will pay a set price for marketing agency services each month. Goals and objectives will be agreed upfront and the marketing agency will create a plan to help the business meet those objectives. The marketing agency will then produce a set of deliverables in-line with those objectives. The monthly price for a fixed retainer is usually informed by the objectives the business would like to meet and the budget available to do this.

Value-Based

Value-based retainers are very similar but the price a business pays is often linked more closely to objectives and may vary month to month depending on how well those objectives are met. These retainers are often priced in line with the value/ROI generated by hitting those targets. For example, a business with lead generation goals and an average customer lifetime value of £1,000,000 is likely to pay more for services than a business with an average customer lifetime value of £1,000.

Single campaign

Short-term retainers are most suitable for campaigns that need a specific set of skills or have an end date. For example, if a businesses wanted help to run a campaign to get prospects to attend a specific event – a short term retainer may be suitable for this. Usually, deliverables and a price are agreed upfront and the costs are split over a number of months. There is usually less flexibility with this kind of retainer

5 benefits of a marketing retainer

There are many reasons a business would choose to use a marketing retainer. They’re great for organisations that need additional marketing support and want a focused approach to their marketing strategy. These are just a few of the many benefits of investing in a marketing retainer:

1.     You’ll get access to a range of skills that you can’t find in one person

A marketing retainer gives you immediate access to a range of experts with a wide variety of different skills. This may include strategists, graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, data analysts and more. Each of these people has a very specialised set of skills and together, they have knowledge that you simply cannot find in a single person. Usually with a marketing retainer, you will also have access to a project or account manager who is responsible for pulling the resources needed for your marketing retainer together. They will act as your main point of contact and will do all the heavy-lifting for you. This often means you can communicate with one person but have access to the skills of many.

2.     Consistent support

Having consistent support with your marketing is invaluable. Even if a business does have a marketing team, it’s inevitable that they are pulled into the day-to-day running of the sales and marketing function. This might include creating proposals, answering employee questions, data management, etc. This obviously takes focus away from crucial campaigns and marketing activity that will help the business meet its goals. Having a marketing retainer means you have a group of experts to focus on your marketing while you cannot. Being somewhat removed from the day-to-day of your business, a marketing agency is able to offer you support and focus to ensure you are consistently working towards your marketing goals.

3.     Better results

This consistent support and focus means you are much more likely to have a strong marketing strategy and stick to it. Having this long-term strategy means you’ll be able to achieve better results that are more in line with your objectives. Some of the results we have generated for clients through marketing retainers include:

  • 179% increase in online leads within six months
  • £5 million lead acquisition
  • 448% increase in website conversion rate.

4.     An outside-in perspective

When you’ve worked for a business day-in and day-out for a while, you become blind to what we often refer to as ‘the stains on the carpet’. These are often small areas of the business that hold progress back. Examples of this might include:

  • spotting an internal process that needs changing up from ‘the way it’s always been done’
  • noticing that sales conversion rates are lower than they should be
  • identifying an opportunity to use a new piece of tech for better results.

Often, these opportunities can only be spotted by someone that’s a degree removed from the business. Having an outsourced team work on your marketing is a great opportunity to identify small areas of improvement that could have a big difference. You’ll gain that outside-in perspective that’s difficult to achieve when you can no longer see ‘the stains in the carpet’.

5.     Better value for money

If you’re looking for marketing support, you often have three options to choose from:

  1. Hire someone in-house
  2. Use a freelancer (an individual who provides marketing services on a project basis. They typically have a specific set of skills and focus on a specific area of marketing
  3. Hire a marketing agency on a retainer.

Let’s look at the differences in investment for each of these solutions:

Option

Cost

Pros

Cons

Hire someone in-house

The average marketing manager salary in the UK is £40,000/year. This does not include additional employment costs such as employee benefits and overheads.

They have a deeper understanding of the business and its goals as they’re always in the business.

 

They can work more closely with other departments within the business for example, your sales team.

 

They can be more cost effective in the long run.

It’s unlikely you will find a single person with all the knowledge and expertise of a marketing agency.

 

They may not have access to the same resources and tools as a marketing agency.

 

They may not have the same level of support and collaboration as a marketing agency.

 

Overheads tend to be higher for an in-house hire once you consider employment costs.

Use a freelancer

With an average hourly rate of around £50, you’d be looking at a monthly cost of around £4,000 if you hired a freelancer for 20 hours/week. That’s £48,000 per year.

A freelancer can be more affordable than a marketing agency.

 

They often have a specialised skillset and can provide expert-level services.

 

They can be more flexible in terms of availability and project scope.

 

Freelancers don’t have the associated employment costs of an in-house employee and they often aren’t full-time.

They may have limited resources and access to technology compared to an agency.

 

They may not have the same level of experience or expertise as a marketing agency.

 

They may have limited availability or be more difficult to manage.

 

You’re not guaranteed to have someone working on your marketing retainer all the time. I.e. if your freelancer is sick or goes on holiday.

 

Freelancers can’t be in the office when you need them like an in-house hire.

Use a marketing retainer

Monthly retainers with a marketing agency usually cost anything between £2,000 - £5,000+ per month depending on your objectives and timeframe.

A marketing retainer will give you access to a team of professionals with diverse skills and experience.

 

These professionals often have access to the latest marketing tools and technologies.

 

A marketing retainer will provide you with a more comprehensive, focused approach to marketing.

 

A marketing agency will have established processes and systems for delivering marketing services.

Using a marketing retainer can be perceived as being more expensive than other options.

 

 

There is often a perceived lack of communication with a marketing retainer as agency staff work with other clients and can’t be on-site to drive marketing activity from your business location.

How does a retainer work?

Marketing retainers are a lot less scary than people think! A business and a marketing agency will agree on a set of objectives and a budget. These are then used to inform the deliverables the agency will produce. This might include services such as:

  • campaign and strategy planning
  • copywriting
  • graphic design
  • videography
  • digital advertising
  • social media marketing
  • SEO

The objectives set at the start of the process will usually determine which services are used. At Intergage, we group objectives into one of the following categories which will help us determine what kinds of services you might need:

Growth

These services are geared towards helping companies that want to achieve a greater level of growth or are experiencing stifled growth. This might mean you have aspirations to acquire new customers, increase market share or understand why your growth is stifled. Learn more about our growth services here.

Optimise

These services look to help businesses make incremental changes in their sales and marketing efforts to produce enhanced results. This might include improving sales and marketing efficiencies, increasing customer lifetime value, increasing profits or increasing the volume of new sales. Learn more about our optimise services here.

Launch

Our launch services are aimed towards businesses looking to launch a new product/service or expand into a new market. Learn more about out launch services here.

Delight

The delight package focuses on thinking beyond lead generation and focus on providing the customers you already have with the best experience possible. We strongly believe that most businesses can reach their growth and revenue goals by focusing on delighting their existing customers time and time again.

Find out more about our approach here.

Once the agency and business have agreed on a set of objectives, the agency will produce a list of deliverables to meet those objectives. At this stage, communication methods will also be discussed as well as timeframes. This is usually done in a kick-off meeting including the key stakeholders from both parties.

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4 reasons why marketing retainers fail

You’ve tried marketing retainers in the past and have been stung. We get it. You didn’t get the results you needed. You feel like you didn’t get a return on your investment. Maybe, you’d even go as far as to say the marketing agency you worked with was a complete disappointment.

Marketing retainers should be an investment. Your company invests money in expert marketing skills and (should) receive a return on that investment in the form of new sales leads, optimised conversion rates and the like.

There are lots of reasons a marketing retainer may not have worked for you in the past. This guide will outline what those reasons are and how you can avoid them to make future marketing retainers a roaring success.

1.     Lack of clear objectives

One reason previous marketing retainers may have failed is because of a lack of clear marketing objectives and goals. Without these, it’s really difficult for you to measure the success of a retainer and provide your chosen agency with the focus they need.

This can often lead to frustration on your part when you feel you aren’t getting value – especially when you need to justify using said agency to other members of your team.

Ensure you’re clear on your marketing objectives from the start, making your agency aware of what you want to achieve and by when. It’s best practice to ensure these objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

For example, perhaps you want to generate 50 new business leads within the next 6 months, or maybe you need help with improving your sales conversion rate by 10% using a tool like HubSpot.

Whatever your objectives are, ensure your agency has sight of them. They should then ensure all efforts are spent gathering momentum towards your objectives.

Reporting is a huge part of aligning with your agency on what success looks like. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) for each objective. KPIs are specific metrics that will be used to measure progress and determine whether the objectives are being achieved. For example, for the objective to increase website traffic by 25%, the KPI could be website sessions or unique visitors.

Your agency should then report on these KPIs regularly, so you can clearly see if their efforts are successful or not. This makes it really easy for you to justify the need to continue working with them.

At Intergage, we work with clients to adopt a measurable scorecard. The scorecard outlines all of the KPIs agreed at the start of the retainer and we use it to report on these KPIs weekly. These tend to reflect a rolling 13-week performance and provides us and you with a clear idea how close we are to meeting your objectives and where improvements can be made.

2.     Poor communication

Effective communication is critical in any business relationship, and a marketing retainer is no exception. If there is a breakdown in communication between you and your chosen agency, the retainer you’re paying for may not deliver the results you expect.

This is something we (unfortunately) hear about all too often. Communication at the start of the relationship is often good, but perhaps your agency has grown complacent, weekly calls turn into monthly calls until eventually, the only communication you have with them is a disappointing report at the end of each month.

Setting expectations for communication upfront is really important. Let your agency know how often you want to be communicated with, which channels of communication you want to use and who needs to be involved in those conversations. For some people, that might be a weekly or bi-weekly call, for others, it’s a monthly meeting and for some it might just be a weekly video round-up. Whatever communication you need to make the marketing retainer a success, make sure this is clear to your marketing agency.

It's also really important that you know who will be working on your retainer and who you should communicate with on a daily basis. At Intergage, you will have multiple experts working on your retainer depending on what your objectives are. You will also have access to a senior marketing strategist who will oversee the strategy of your retainer and work with you and the team to ensure we are working towards the right objectives.

That said, on a day-to-day basis you will communicate with your dedicated project manager who is responsible for pulling together the resources needed to work towards your objectives. They’ll communicate with you on a monthly or weekly basis so you’re always in the loop with what we’re delivering and when.

You’ll be completely surrounded with care from start to finish.

3.     Inadequate resources

Inadequate resources can be a significant factor in the effectiveness of a marketing retainer. A marketing retainer requires resources from both you and your chosen agency, including time, staff, and skills. If either party lacks these resources, it can be challenging to deliver effective marketing services under the retainer.

The biggest cause of this is usually when your chosen agency doesn’t have the skills you need to meet your objectives. Perhaps they have minimal experience in your sector or are only good at defining the strategy but not so good at delivering against it.

This is why it’s so important to vet your chosen marketing agency thoroughly before committing to a marketing retainer. Ask to see evidence of case studies, example work and what results they’ve generated for businesses like yours to be sure they have the resources to make your retainer work.

Likewise, however, not having the resources you need in house can also cause issues with marketing success. To work effectively, marketing agencies need to have regular communication with someone that’s responsible for marketing. That might be a marketing manager, or someone who has multiple jobs within a business but is ultimately responsible for marketing.

That key point of contact needs to act as a conduit between the agency and business. Without that, it’s difficult to make a marketing retainer work.

4.     A lack of data and insights

Another crucial reason a marketing retainer may not work is because of a lack of data and insights. Often, marketing agencies lack insight into the likes of a business’ sales process, conversion rates and customer lifetime value. Often because they are pigeonholed into only helping with lead generation. These insights are crucial to help make your marketing retainer a success. Here’s why:

Provide information on your sales process

It’s important to give your marketing agency access to information on your sales process because it allows them to better understand how your business operates and how the marketing retainer can support the sales process. This means you can enjoy:

  1. Better targeting: By understanding the sales process, your marketing agency can better target potential customers and develop messaging that resonates with them. This can result in more effective marketing efforts and a higher ROI.
  2. Improved lead generation: The marketing agency can develop strategies and tactics that align with the sales process to generate more high-quality leads. By understanding the customer journey and the touchpoints where marketing can have the most impact, the agency can develop strategies that drive more leads and sales within your retainer.
  3. Enhanced lead nurturing: By understanding the sales process, the marketing agency can develop lead nurturing strategies that align with the sales funnel. This can include developing content and messaging that addresses the customer's needs and pain points at each stage of the funnel.

Access to your sales conversion rate information

Giving your marketing agency insight into your conversion rates allows them to measure the effectiveness of the marketing retainer and make data-driven decisions to optimise output. For example:

  1. Measure marketing effectiveness: By understanding the conversion rates, the marketing agency can measure the effectiveness of the marketing retainer and determine which strategies and tactics are generating the best results. This can help to optimise marketing strategies and maximise ROI.
  2. Identify areas for improvement: By analysing the conversion rates, your marketing agency can identify areas where efforts may be falling short and make data-driven decisions to improve the performance. For example, the agency may identify that certain landing pages or ad campaigns are not converting as well as others and make adjustments to improve performance.
  3. Optimise marketing strategies: By understanding the conversion rates, the marketing agency can tweak the focus of the retainer to improve them. This can include adjusting messaging, targeting, or timing of marketing efforts to better align with your needs and preferences.

Insight into customer lifetime value

Providing your marketing agency with insight into average customer lifetime value can really enhance the results you get from a marketing retainer. Here are some reasons why:

  1. It helps them develop more effective targeting: By understanding the CLV, your marketing agency can develop more effective targeting strategies that focus on acquiring customers with higher lifetime value meaning you get more bang for your buck and a higher ROI.
  2. Prioritise marketing efforts: By knowing the CLV, the marketing agency can prioritise marketing efforts towards customers with higher lifetime value. This can help to optimise marketing budgets and resources, which will generate higher returns.

Do I need a marketing retainer?

How do you know when you need a marketing retainer?

  • You don’t have the skills you need in-house to achieve your marketing goals.
  • You require powerful marketing campaigns that deliver results quickly.
  • Your marketing team needs support from experienced creatives with industry experience.
  • You need support creating lots of content across different mediums.
  • You need help with a specific skill set such as HubSpot or digital advertising.
  • You need support generating more leads.
  • You want to improve sales and marketing conversion rates to get more from your marketing spend.

When should you not invest in a marketing retainer?

  • You don’t have clear business or marketing objective.
  • You have a marketing budget of less than £1,000/ month.
  • You’re not willing to work collaboratively on your marketing.

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What services are included in a marketing retainer?

The beauty of a marketing retainer is the breadth and depth of skills you will have access to. Marketing retainers offer businesses a wide range of services that range from strategic planning through to video creation and analytics and reporting. This means you can create a bespoke retainer to fill the gaps you have in your in-house marketing team, or have a completely outsourced marketing solution.

Let’s delve into some of the services commonly found in a marketing retainer here:

Strategic planning

A marketing retainer typically includes strategic planning services, where the agency works with you to define your marketing goals, target audience and messaging. The agency then creates a comprehensive marketing plan that outlines the tactics and activities required to achieve these goals.

At Intergage, this would include our sales messaging, sales enablement and to some extent, our account-based marketing services too!

Creative services

Marketing retainers also typically include creative services such as graphic design, branding and video. These services help ensure that your marketing materials are visually appealing, consistent, and effectively communicate your brand message. These services would typically be included as part of our GOLD retainers.

Content creation

Content creation is a crucial aspect of marketing, and marketing retainers often include services such as blog writing, social media content creation and video production. These services help create a consistent stream of high-quality content that engages the target audience and builds brand awareness. Again, this would be included in our GOLD retainers.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an essential aspect of modern marketing, and marketing retainers often include digital marketing services such as search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and email marketing. These services help increase website traffic, generate leads and drive conversions.

Copywriting

Copywriting is a crucial component of many marketing strategies and is often the key to making you magnetic to your target audience.

Here are some of the copywriting services that may be included in a marketing retainer:

  • Website copy: Copywriters can create or update website copy to ensure that it's engaging, informative and persuasive. This can include writing product descriptions, landing page content and calls-to-action that encourage visitors to take a desired action.
  • Blogging: Copywriters can create blog content that is helpful and positions your business as an industry thought leader. This can include writing articles, how-to guides and other types of content that can help establish a business as an authority in its industry.
  • Social media content: Copywriters can create social media content that is attention-grabbing, informative and engaging. This can include writing social media posts, captions,and headlines that are optimized for each social media platform.
  • Email marketing: This might include writing subject lines, email copy and calls-to-action that encourage recipients to take a desired action.
  • Advertising copy: The ability to write compelling ad copy is both a science and an art. An experienced agency will be able to offer you copywriting services that take your ads to the next level and increase click through and conversion rates so you get the most from your budget.

Analysis services

Analysis services are an important component of a marketing retainer, as they provide insights into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and help you make data-driven decisions. Our full Marketing Opportunity Analysis and mini analysis packages are the perfect way for you to keep your hand on the pulse and understand how your marketing is performing.

Any good marketing retainer will include analysis services which allow you to take the temperature on how you marketing is performing and where the gaps and opportunities lie. In the past, our analysis packages have saved businesses from wasting money on ineffective digital advertising, identified key opportunities to improve website conversion rates and provided insights into what the online landscape really looks like.

Consultancy

A marketing retainer shouldn’t just be about delivering tangible assets and marketing campaigns. It should be about guiding a business through its journey to meeting its growth objectives. Often, this requires more of a consultancy-led approach to help a business identify its ICP, review its sales messaging, better align its sales and marketing team or even identify why prospects aren’t buying.

These services often take on a workshop format with the marketing agency guiding you to help solve marketing challenges and get you closer to meeting your objectives. Examples of Intergage consultancy-led services include our sales messaging, sales enablement and HubSpot consulting services.

Lead generation services

Lead generation services are a common component of a marketing retainer, particularly for B2B companies that rely on sales leads to grow their business. Lead generation services would likely include a mixture of the services outlined in this section as well as email marketing, digital advertising and lead nurturing.

How much does a marketing retainer cost?

The cost of a marketing retainer can vary depending on a number of factors including:

  • how ambitious your goals are
  • the level of support you need to achieve those goals
  • how your marketing is currently performing
  • the marketing budget you’re working with.

There’s no one-size-fits all. But it’s important to see a marketing retainer as an investment, rather than a cost. The efforts in your marketing retainer should provide a return be that in a greater number of sales leads, better conversion rates or higher levels of efficiency in sales and marketing.

For reference, our retainers range between £2,000 - £5,000+ per month.

If you need help with setting your marketing budget for a retainer – take a look at our marketing budget guide.

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Alex Elborn

Alex Elborn

Alex is part of the senior management team and is responsible for running Intergage's own marketing. She develops and manages the marketing strategy and budget to connect with businesses in the manufacturing sector. Alex is also a HubSpot expert and has been using the software for clients and Intergage for more than five years.

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