About 2 years ago, we went to go meet with a potential client that was a well-established organization with a lot of “agency needs.” They were a great prospect for us, as we had experience in their industry which we very much enjoyed. They asked us to come meet with a few members of the marketing team to give a capabilities presentation. A very friendly and competent group, they seemed like they could be great clients. After our presentation, their COO said “I am really impressed with you all…really impressed. You certainly seem to understand our business and your approach and creativity is exactly what we are looking for.” I am smiling from ear to ear thinking “We got it, they like us, they really like us!” Then he says, “but do we have to sign a retainer agreement to work with you?” and I paused.
This was clearly not a reflection on their organization but on the advertising industry as a whole. I thought to myself, “you only asked that question because you have been burned BADLY in the past.” That is, in fact what happened to them. They were very excited to hear that we bill in a variety of ways including project basis, or monthly plans over the course of a larger project. Of course, we have retainer agreements with clients (which work very nicely), but not every client is set up for retainers, especially out of the gate.
This client has now been with us for over 2 years, and turned out to be the wonderful clients I thought they would be at the very first meeting; however, I continue to wonder…how many companies have this same concern? More than you think.
It’s true, agencies get a bad rap. Not completely unfair since some have gained a reputation for being slow to respond, too expensive, and set in their ways. Every client is different, and an agency is only as valuable as they are flexible.
- Retainers – many of our larger clients work with a retainer agreement. They have an allocated number of hours each month that we set aside for them – and at a discount (their favorite part). They don’t have to wait on an estimate or formal write up. We can move quickly, be even more responsive and ultimately save them hours.
- Project Billing – small-to-mid-size companies typically prefer project basis billing. They can budget per project and know exactly what it is going to cost. This works well for our clients that have fluctuating marketing needs. They may have a set number of large projects each year, or projects may come from different departments and various budgets.
- Phased billing – for larger projects, we are always happy to spread billing out over the span of the project. This could be broken down by months, or phases of the project such as strategy, creative, and production. We often work with the client to figure out what works best for them and their budget cycle.
A lot of companies are SCARED of jumping in with an agency, because they are worried about getting locked in to a retainer; or they wonder if it’s worth the money for one or two projects. My advice? Start slow and find your comfort zone. That is how we started with our friends described in this blog. After a few small projects, they saw the value we could bring to their team and now they trust us, know how we will work to make sure they are happy, and have seen significant increase in their business.
There is a place for agencies. But it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” An agency can bring a whole new perspective, inspiration and creativity to your company. They can truly impact your business and your revenue, but make sure it is with an agency that is flexible and willing to build up over time.
Please don’t be scared of the agency monster. Some agencies are sweet and cuddly, like us! They can not only make your job A LOT easier, but also expand your marketing efforts in amazing ways.