What Is A Marketing Retainer and Do You Need One?

Shaun Boden
April 14, 2022

What Is A Marketing Retainer and Do You Need One?

Marketing retainers have been around for a while now and remain a popular choice among many businesses and brands. What exactly is a marketing retainer I hear you ask? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Marketing retainers have been around for a few years now.

It’s hard to place exactly where or how they started but they have quickly become a go-to solution for a lot of companies and brands.

It’s not too hard to see why.

Marketing retainers essentially provide you with your own marketing department without the added stress of staffing costs, holiday pay and pension payments. 

This is not to say that they are perfect.

A marketing retainer will not be the best option for every business. For example, a startup with a low monthly marketing budget would find a retainer model quite inconvenient.

So, what exactly is a marketing retainer model and do you need one?

The answers lie below.

What is a marketing retainer?

Put simply, a marketing retainer is an agreement between a business and a marketing company whereby the marketing company will produce regular content for the business for a set monthly fee.

Retainers tend to be over a long-term period and are not specific to individual projects. The marketing company for all intents and purposes will become your on-hand marketing department, just without the stress of hiring and keeping staff. 

The idea with a retainer model is to establish a long-term relationship between the two parties. Once both parties have an understanding of one another, the trust will be there to drive both businesses forward and achieve your goals. 

Now, what exactly the marketing company is producing and how much it will cost will vary depending upon the business and the marketing company itself. There are plenty of different variations of marketing retainer, ranging from video production to data analytics.

How does a marketing retainer work?

Marketing retainers are actually a lot simpler than a lot of people probably think.

Essentially, you’ll agree on a set budget per month and in return the marketing/production company will create a full-service content plan for your marketing channels.

This can be over a time period of your choosing however, the most common time-frame is usually six months to one year.

Put simply, you pay a set fee and in return you get a set service.

What is the process?

Before you sign up to a retainer plan, you will likely be invited to sit down with the company and go through what your goals are and what you aim to achieve from the retainer.

This could be anything but to give you some idea of what kind of goals these could be:

- Increase sales

- Increase brand awareness and reach

- Increase traffic and leads

Once you’ve both established goals, you’ll most likely talk through tailoring your plan so that you can achieve them together. 

When you’re all happy and agreed, the company will then begin to put their strategies into action. At this point, they should have set out a solid plan for how they are going to proceed with your deliverables (service) and when you can expect to see them. Obviously, this will vary completely depending upon what service you’re after.

That’s it. From this point onwards, you’ll have open lines of communication with your company and you will begin your retainer together.


What are the pros?

There are many benefits to using a retainer model, here are a few that you might find interesting:

- Fixed-rate costs

With most retainers there are no hidden costs, no administration fees, no sneaky last minute add ons. The agreed upon price is exactly that - the agreed price. The fixed-rates can almost certainly save you money in the long run. 

- Value for money

The company you’re working with won’t need staff training. They won’t need holiday days or sick pay. They won’t need you to pay into their pension. All they do is what you pay them to do - work on your business. The longer you both work together, the more fluid and efficient your relationship will become. You’ll be saving money and increasing content output at the same time!

- Save money

Buying in bulk saves you time and money in the long run. The same applies with a retainer model. Let’s say you wanted 30 videos this year - if you commissioned these all as individual projects, you’re going to be paying more money per project and spending more time planning each one individually. With a retainer model however, all of these videos will be pre-planned beforehand and fully cost for at a discounted rate.

- Save time

This one is a no-brainer with a retainer model. Outsourcing a service to an external company as part of a retainer will undoubtedly save you time from trying to perform the service yourself. This will allow you to focus on other areas of your business with the comfort of knowing that particular service is being taken care of. 

- Service on demand

Being on a retainer means that you’re not just a client, you’re a priority. What does this actually mean? Well if you need something urgently, they’ll be there to respond. Think of it as a fast pass, you can go right to the front of the queue.

- Consistent high level service

If you partner with a reputable company, you’ll have the comfort of being able to trust them with any piece of work. This is invaluable and will save you time trying to micromanage and get involved yourself. This will require some research beforehand and we’d urge you to only partner with a company that you have faith in.

- Trust and support

You need to trust who you’re working with, that much is obvious and it goes without saying that working together over a long period of time is going to build exactly that. It may take a little bit of time to understand each other but once that trust is established it can run like clockwork for your business.

- Integration

One of the biggest advantages of signing onto a retainer is that your service will be much more integrated with your marketing strategy. Your chosen company will uphold your brand within everything they produce, ensuring that there is never any clash or disruption of style. Keeping your desired service with one sole producer will make integration much easier and will develop a much cleaner representation of your brand.

What are the cons?

As good as retainer models are, it’s worth stating that they are not for everyone. Here’s some points as to why a retainer model may not be the right option for you:

- Financial obligation

With reputable retainer models you will sign a contract agreeing to pay a fixed-rate fee across a long period of time. This is quite an obligation financially and you’ll be contractually obligated to pay - unless either partner violates their end of the deal. This means that whilst it will save you money in the long run, you should only sign up to a retainer if you’re completely happy parting with the funds.

- Expectations

Nothing makes a working relationship more awkward than altering expectations of each other. This can easily happen in a retainer agreement if they aren’t solidly predetermined beforehand. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and what you end up with is one party frustrated with the other as they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

- Relationship

Retainers can be the best thing since sliced bread when you and your partnered company get along but when it goes the other way, it can quickly become a nightmare. We’ve all fallen out with colleagues from time to time and working situations can quickly become awkward. This is no different with a retainer model, except you’re contractually bound to that company for a considerable period of time. The company will likely not want to terminate the contract either as it will be a loss of revenue for them. 

- Dependency

Dependency is great when you’re working with a reputable company who constantly produces top level work. It can become a problem however, when that’s not the case. If you aren’t happy with what’s being produced or you wish for a change of direction, it can become very difficult for you and your business. Solely depending on another company can become a big problem which is why extensive research is needed before you sign up to anything.

Who is a marketing retainer good for?

A marketing retainer is good for a growing business who wants to outsource a service to a specialised company. 

The business will have some set goals or targets that they aim to achieve and they will research companies extensively to find the right match.

The size of the business doesn’t really matter here as long as they can meet the requirements of the retainer deal. 

A good partnership will provide them with the best results and save them time and money in the long run.

Who is a marketing retainer bad for?

A marketing retainer is a bad choice for a business who has no predefined goals and/or lacks the necessary funding to meet the contract obligations.

It is also a bad option if the business only wants to achieve some short term goals. It wouldn’t make sense to sign up for a year-long retainer when you wish to work on a project by project basis. 

Depending upon your goals and timescales, working on project by project basis could actually turn out to be the more cost effective method.

So, what’s the verdict?

The verdict here is - it depends. 

What position is your business currently in? Do you have some set goals that you wish to achieve over a period of 1-2 years? What are your current finances like?

All of these questions will ultimately give you your answer on a marketing retainer.

What we will say is that if you’re in a financially stable position with an aim to grow your business, a marketing retainer can be one of the best decisions you can make.

Key takeaways

The key takeaway here is that you need to be realistic about your business and your ambitions.

A marketing retainer can be an amazing thing that will propel your business to the next level as long as you have done your research and are partnering with a reputable company. 

At the same time, retainers can also have a negative impact on your business if you aren’t in a stable position and haven’t done the needed leg work prior.

It all depends on you!

Here at Capture It Media, we offer a range of video production retainer packages. We produce creative videos that get results! We believe that no video, regardless of its quality, can be classified as successful unless it actually achieves what it’s set out to do in the first place. That’s where we differ from others, we love creating content and we won’t stop until you are completely happy!

We offer a whole host of video production and animation services and are always interested in ideas that go against the grain. There is no idea too big or too small. Let’s get creative!

Get in touch with us today at hello@captureitmedia.co.uk or call us on 01782 901113