The Value of Retainers

For PRISM’s 25th anniversary, founder Michelle Adams looks back through the years with stories, tips, and lessons to help new businesses grow and industry veterans thrive. Keep up with all of our posts on LinkedIn.

When I first got into this business 30 years ago there was something called retainers.  They were an agreement that led to greater quality of work, as clients would commit a certain dollar amount every month to an agency and, in turn, the agency would set up a dedicated team to ensure the client’s every need was filled.

Right up until they disappeared.

Being a smaller firm, we always wanted a retainer-like relationship but had assumed them to be gone.  Then, an interesting thing happened this past year. We had three clients, two existing and one new, who approached us about a retainer relationship.

They were savvy businesses. All had come from either larger agencies or sophisticated D2C companies. They must have known the retainer was dead, right?

So what gives?

In part, it has to do with the quality of these marketers. Experience had shown them that investment and loyalty to one firm pays dividends. I know they also valued our integrated approach.

Clients see the value of every deliverable being connected to a greater goal, simplified coordination, and ease of contact between those on the team.

So are retainers coming back? It’s hard to say.

These clients see the value of our work and our team. They want a genuine partner and are willing to pay for it, and we ultimately feel better about our work on retainers – less blocking and tackling and more strategy, more focus, more results.

If it makes sense for your situation, whether you’re an in-house marketing leader or an agency leader, retainers are still useful in 2020 as a way to solidify extraordinary marketing partnerships. Maybe more than ever before.