3 min read

Dear Agency: What’s the value in setting up a retainer agreement?

Dear Agency:

My digital marketing agency is asking for a retainer. How is that a valuable thing for me? When can it be a good idea?

Dear CMO:

If you’re talking about a retainer then chances are you’ve got a big outcome on your mind. You know the challenges you face, but may not know the best solution(s) to overcome those challenges…You’re not looking for a one and done project, you have some larger initiatives and you need to be sure that action and attention is given. That’s ultimately what a retainer buys you.

It’s actually a lot like charitable giving. The North Texas region (where Rogue is headquartered) continues to break world records with the annual  Giving Day campaign running this week. Now, one-time gifts are great, but if you ask any charity they’ll tell you that monthly (or regular) giving is much more effective because it permits ongoing and focused work to see that money go further in the long run. That thinking is also why agency retainers are valuable.

$250 might fund a much-needed tool or one-time service, but $50 a month for the foreseeable future feeds a kid for the long term… Which has the more lasting impact? When you enter into a retainer, you’re doing something similar for your business. More than a shot in the arm or checking off a need from your checklist, you’re funding ongoing work and ensuring a team that will be present and active in your business. Actually invested in making things better and on the same team rowing you toward your stated goals. By letting the agency know you are invested in them, they can invest in you with ongoing planning that leads to activity that is more strategic and effective.

Here are a couple reasons that Rogue believes a retainer actually benefits both parties:


Aside from actually doing the “Work” that would normally be completed in a project-type situation, the retainer allows for a more in depth look at your business and a deeper agency relationship. Perhaps on previous projects you’ve signed the dotted line and then heard crickets once your project is done. With a retainer, you will be on your agency’s mind all the time.

Agencies will also be more inclined to do a great job for you to show ongoing value and keep the relationship going successfully. They won’t be trying to “sell” you on more work, and then disappear if you don’t bite. You also are less likely to be passed on to a junior level associate with limited oversight. The value the agency brings to your business will be their chief goal, and guarantees that everyone will be paying very close attention to you.

Service/ Experience:

One of the hardest parts for any business is finding and retaining the best people. The nature of the retainer creates a more steady income level which allows the agency to hire the best talent AND KEEP THEM.

Great example: You ever thought you were buying the head honchos at an agency, only to have Brittani (yes, with an i) fresh out of college show up when it came time to work on the nuts and bolts of your account? There’s one reason this happens. Junior people are more profitable and senior people are expensive and the account hasn’t been funded to sustain a senior person on it day-to-day. (Of course, we’d argue that paying for the experience is completely worth it.)

When you engage in project-only work, you should absolutely expect that if you don’t fit into the existing staff’s workload, you will be outsourced to a freelancer with less of an investment in your success, and who is less familiar with your business. Sound ineffective? It often is. When an agency has a more predictable financial situation, you’ll find that they can then spend less time searching for new clients to keep themselves in the green, and focus more attention on your results.

Projects and retainers each have their proper place, and can certainly be used effectively in a variety of scenarios. The choice should always be based on your desired outcomes, and yes, in many scenarios a retainer can be a very valuable thing to move your business forward faster.

If you’re ready to work with a team that takes greater focus in your account then reach out today. And, if you’ve had experience working on retainer with an agency, would you share your experience concerning what worked… or didn’t work… by leaving a comment below?

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