How To Transition Clients to Retainer-Based Services: Crossing the Digital Marketing Agency Chasm
As many of you already know, we work with a lot of digital marketing agencies. I make it a point to understand their core business challenges and then make sure the entire Optify team does as well. If we can address one or more of those challenges, we should be pretty darn good partners.
Having run a services business myself, I understand first-hand one of the most common challenges in any small or mid-sized agency: predictable cash flow.
The classic dilemma of any services business is the large swings in revenue as a big new client project is landed and carved up (big upswing in billable services and cash flow), pulling in many resources at peak. With so many resources allocated to the new project(s), fewer other client projects are brought on, creating lean times and big drops in cash flow as the project runs its course.
The large majority of our agency partners are therefore always looking for ideas and enablers to transition more clients to more predictable cash flow from retainer-based services.
The Common Client Entry Project
Of course, the first challenge is to bring on a new client. And that client needs to have a marketing business problem before they need a digital marketing agency in the first place. The most common entry point project we see from our partners servicing clients? Website development or website redesign wins by a landslide – at least 75% of the time in my informal polling when I talk to our agency owners and presidents.
Transitioning to Retainer-Based Services
So letâ€™s focus on that most common client entry point of WebDev, and think about how to transition that project into an ongoing client relationship with retainer-based services.
If the client wants a new website, they should be pre-disposed to reaching their customers via digital channels. It is most effective to socialize one or a few of the ideas on retainer-based services below during the initial project rather than as the project is wrapping up.
- Search Engine Optimization: This service is the most natural segue from a WebDev project, because pages can be optimized for different search terms at a few per month clip or more. We have a number of good posts on guidance to operationalize SEO for your clients.
- Content management – blog: The most common content management service is blog posts and editorial calendar coordination, committing to a few posts per month. This type of content management is an evergreen piece of the overall SEO work. It is quite easy to find contractors at reasonable rates that can support blog content writing. One of my favorite posts on content creation might be helpful.
- Content management â€“ case studies: Case study creation is another high ROI service for clients, since case studies can be coordinated with SEO efforts and be published on the website as well as in PDF format for sales tools.
- Customer marketing and communication: So many companies overlook their most accessible asset for increased revenue and referrals: their own customer base. Suggest to a client that you will create and coordinate a customer marketing program that might include a monthly customer newsletter, specific product update communications, customer successes, etc. You can show your client ongoing customer engagement via reporting on email open rates, click-thrus to special promotions, etc.
- Lead Generation: Oh boy, this one is worth a whole post in itself. The basics are that many clients really want new leads, and if you can coordinate campaigns to drive them, your firmâ€™s retainer will become a baked-in part of budget planning for your clients. Most effective lead generation campaigns today are very focused, and focus means whatever digital channel you select for the campaign (email, Twitter, pay-per-click, etc) start with a customized landing page for every campaign to increase conversion rates.
I hope it is clear that we work very hard to provide an integrated Digital Marketing Software Suite in order to enable any or all of the retainer-based services above. Along with the workflows required for retainer-based services, we focus especially on a platform that provides:
- Fast white label reporting for clients across any digital channel.
- CMS plugins for your agencyâ€™s CMS of choice for client engagements â€“ WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.
- Administrative tools enabling simple multi-client and multi-site management.
Iâ€™m always interested in talking to more agency partners, so please reach out and tell me what your agency is doing differently to increase retainer-based engagements. Rob
PS. Footnote to Geoffrey Moore on the title, as he published a seminal work in technology marketing â€śCrossing The Chasmâ€ť back in 1991.