An Introduction to Monthly Retainers for Marketers

Eric Kazda  |   January 24, 2018   |  Posted in Marketing

How large is your internal marketing team? Do you ever feel stretched thin, or unable to fully take advantage of all promising digital marketing strategies? If so, then working with an outside agency on a monthly retainer could be the perfect solution. What is a monthly retainer? How could it specifically benefit your company and help you take full advantage of the latest digital marketing strategies? Read on to find out.

What is a monthly retainer?

A monthly retainer is an ongoing contractual agreement where one business dedicates a set number of hours per month to one specific client at a set rate. A growing number of companies are working with outside marketing agencies on a monthly retainer rather than a project-by-project basis.

What’s included in a monthly retainer agreement?

If you’re new to using monthly retainers, make sure your contract covers these details.

  • Scope of work – the exact services or nature of work that will be routinely completed within the designated hours
  • Designated hours – how many hours does the client want to pay for on a monthly basis
  • Payment terms – the amount the client will pay for the retainer and what timeframe they are expected to pay it (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.)
  • Reporting methods – the specific communication pathways that will be utilized by the business and client, whether that be phone and/or email
  • Overages – what will happen if the client requests work that goes above the designated monthly hours or the designated scope of work within the agreement
  • Rollovers – what will happen if not all hours designated for the month have been used

What services fall under the ‘scope of work’ in a monthly retainer?

Really any type of service could be included as long as both parties agree to it in the upfront retainer contract. However, there are certain types of ongoing tasks that are more popular within monthly retainers. Here are a few ideas of what services you could include within the agreement.

  • Routine website maintenance, including technical support and updates
  • Minor changes and enhancements to the design and/or content of a website based on user feedback
  • Monthly reports on website analytics and recommendations based on those reports
  • Server hosting and support
  • Help via phone and/or email to use the website content management system (CMS)
  • Ongoing digital marketing campaigns, like email campaigns and/or social media campaigns
  • Content creation, including a specified number of blog posts, landing pages, or CTAs per month

Why should a business use a monthly retainer for digital marketing services?

There are many benefits to a client entering into a monthly retainer agreement with a digital marketing agency. Here are just a few.

1. Stronger relationships

The more time an agency works with a brand, the better their work will be. A monthly retainer will not only develop a stronger working relationship between an agency and client, but it will also allow them to reach a greater understanding of the brand over time. That greater understanding will lead to more effective campaigns and better ROI.

2. Less time researching agencies

It can be hard to find an agency or outside team that clicks with your company. It can be hard to find an agency that develops excellent work, communicates effectively, and charges a rate you can afford. Once you find that unicorn agency, why would you give them up? Spend less energy researching agencies for future projects and stick with an agency you’ve been happy with in the past. Lock them down with a monthly retainer agreement!

3. A result-driven, rather than task-driven approach

When a monthly retainer is set up, there is usually a specific goal a company is trying to reach. The digital marketing agency can tailor their specific services around achieving that goal. Rather than short-term tasks, they can develop a result-driven approach. Every hour they spend on your company will be working towards a specific goal.

4. Continuous improvement through analytics and tracking

One of the standard services offered by most digital marketing agencies within a monthly retainer are analytic reports. The agency can set up advanced tracking on your website and campaigns. That tracking results in detailed analytic reports provided and explained to you on a routine basis. These reports can show where improvements can be made. Constant tweaking and improvement is the bedrock of a smart digital marketing strategy.

5. Discounts on services when bundled together

Since a monthly retainer is guaranteed cash flow for a digital marketing agency, they often give a discount on their standard hourly rate. By paying for a monthly retainer, you could save more money than if you requested the same tasks on an hourly project basis.

6. Less ‘nickel and diming’

If you don’t have a specified, paid number of hours per month with your website vendor, how do they charge when you need help? Say you want a simple change made to a page, or you’re confused about how to use one tool within the CMS. Do you have to worry about being nickeled and dimed if you call them for help? Having a monthly retainer eliminates the worry of calling when you have a simple request or question.

7. Use inbound marketing strategies to their fullest potential

Inbound marketing is a marathon – not a sprint. In order to see returns, you have to stay dedicated to a strategy for many months. Using continuous, retained services helps you stay on top of managing that strategy so you can reach that elusive ROI.

To Recap:

  • Monthly retainers are set agreements between a company and an outside agency for continuous services.
  • They have many benefits, from bundle discounts to improved ROI.
  • Retainer agreements have worked for many businesses just like yours.

A monthly retainer could be a great solution for a company that wants to grow their digital marketing efforts but doesn’t have the time or capability to commit to these strategies internally.

If you think a monthly retainer could be a good solution for you, talk to your current digital marketing agency partner. If you’re happy with the work they’ve done for you in the past, see if you can take the relationship to the next level!

Read ‘An Introduction to Growth-Driven Design!

Just like a monthly digital marketing retainer, growth-driven website design focuses on continuous improvement and long-term ROI. If you think you may need a website redesign this year, read our eBook to see if this style of partnership with a website designer is the right choice for your business. Download the eBook here.


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Eric Kazda

Eric Kazda is a leading expert in the interactive development industry with over fifteen years of experience. With a mastery of critical development technologies, Eric has crafted innovative award-winning work for clients both large and small. Coupling this knowledge with a real world understanding of usability and technological feasibility, his work is developed to be accessible by every user.