Nov 14, 2017

The Benefits Of A Retainer-Based B2B Marketing Agency Relationship

As companies experience a remarkable increase in capital flows, we witness the revival and need for integrated solution providers and retainer-based relationships.

business to business marketThe Multichannel Maturity Mandate” study by Forrester revealed 77 percent of those surveyed agreed that successfully integrating multiple channels under a single integrated B2B marketing strategy is crucial to their long-term success.

The improved economy is spurring an uptick in retainer-based relationships within the B2B marketing and advertising space. Businesses are slowly recovering from America’s 2008 economic downturn and no longer face the same extraordinary budget pressures that drove them to shift away from retainer-based relationships in favor of project-based relationships.

With limited budgets, most companies were forced to focus efforts on only one key marketing decision, henceforth the resulting rise of specialist agencies and project-based contracts. However, as budgets deepen, companies are once again embracing a multichannel approach and retainer-based relationships for good reason.

According to the “4th Annual Consumer Insights Survey” by the E-tailing Group, “72 percent of consumers want an integrated marketing approach.”



Retainers are best utilized when continuity is a must. While one single brochure design might deliver great customer acquisition results, it will not retain those customers for the long haul.

In fact, “71 percent of customers say they don’t take well to inconsistent cross-channel messaging — and one in 10 even went so far as to say that inconsistencies in the brand experience from device to device would make them stop interacting with a brand altogether,” according to new Forrester research.

In marketing, consistency establishes your reputation and generates genuine momentum. A brand must execute consistency among all their messages and the channels driving those messages to build trust with buyers.

Consistency maintains your message; a retainer allows a B2B marketing agency to allocate the same staff each time a marketing component is produced. With repeated exposure to your company pain points and target buyer behaviors, these individuals can think long-term and plan for projects.

Maintaining continuity between B2B marketing campaigns births unprecedented industry knowledge and unique perspectives that add significant value. That consistency and synergy drives the best results.


B2B marketing agencies will put their best people on key retainers knowing those individuals need to drive the expected results that come with a long-term agency relationship. Having a dedicated staff working on your projects will ensure your receive better turn times for those projects that need to be fast tracked through the agency.


Agencies tend to be more proactive in retainer-based relationships. When you share a long-term commitment with an agency, that agency is more inclined to invest heavily in competitive tracking and generating new ideas for moving your business forward over time. In most cases, retainer-based clients get first crack at new technologies and new techniques. Most agencies will do this at no charge because they know the client has a dedicated budget and they want to become your Agency of Record.

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If a client knows they need to spend $180,000 a year on marketing and they want to manage that spend over a 12 month cycle, then a $15,000 monthly retainer is easy for all parties to manage. This allows a B2B agency to plan upfront with a client for their projected needs (and projects) for the year and build out a plan to execute on those needs month by month.


Depending on the level of engagement it is easier to set out goals for an agency at the beginning of the year that correlates with leads, growth and sales. That’s especially true if you are asking the agency to generate a strategy and tactics that they will execute to hit specific goals. For instance, if a client is willing to spend $350,000 over 12 months to generate 4,000 qualified leads for a product then give the agency the autonomy to execute against planned goals, but hold them to specific benchmarks and budget parameters. Performance-based budgeting is a great way to set and manage ROI, while still maintaining commitment continuity.


As previously mentioned, an agency on retainer typically allocates time and resources to the same internal staff each time they do work for that client. In a full service, business-to-business agency that may translate across strategy, account services, project management, public relations, digital, content, trade shows, video, radio, print, commercials, graphic design, lead generation and media purchases.    Having the same people touching an account month after month tends to generate better ensuring a consistent brand experience.


Most retainers either offer up discounted rates in exchange for a signed long-term commitment or the agency may not charge for certain services or overages as a way to provide additional incentive to a client. Savings also comes in terms of time a client has to spend educating an agency prior to execution of their projects.

Retainers have also changed in how they are executed inside agencies. Typically, a client allocates a certain dollar amount each month called a “soft retainer,” to the agency to spend, but the agency is required to provide estimates and a list of projects they will execute against the budget before the month starts. At the end of each month, the agency will reconcile what was spent and carry over any unused budget into the next month. Gone are the days when agencies set up retainers like Mad Men and worked like lawyers where every hour and every three-martini lunch went against a retainer. Clients now get fixed project pricing and full accountability inside most agency retainers.

If a client is looking for an agency relationship that offers effective pricing, unparalleled knowledge management, consistent access to the best agency talent, proactive thinking and access to industry-leading ideas for long-term growth, then an agency retainer is the way to go.

Ensure you’re receiving maximum ROI from your investment. Grab our complimentary Agency Evaluation Guide with more than 100 questions to consider when evaluating your agency-client partnership.

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