Expert Advice: Why You Need Retainers

How Working on Retainer Creates Serious Growth

24-Jul 2017
phill burrows
Phill Burrows FOUNDER OF THE BLUE CUBE

Over 12 years experience proves to me that the traditional website design process is broken. It's becoming harder to demonstrate value to clients who are trying to achieve two things:

  • Increase business growth

  • Reduce their costs

Fixed client budgets drive down agency cost, and end up with a rush at the end of the project to try and launch a website on time and within budget.

This is one of my frustrations - the client/agency engagement dynamic. What’s best for us, and what is best for our clients needs to be the same thing. Only then can we produce our best work, wow our clients and ultimately contribute to their success.

This is why I am moving The Blue Cube away from fixed cost projects and introducing the benefits of a retainer agreement for companies who are serious about growth. It will enable us to get right alongside our clients and help drive them forward.

In this blog post, I discuss the benefits of a retainer relationship and why it is more valuable than a one-off fixed cost.

  1. Your website is a growth platform and not simply a 'website'
  2. You gain from a process of continual improvement
  3. You reduce risk and focus on rapid improvement
  4. You can plan ongoing budget
  5. We learn more about your business and invest into your customer success strategy
  6. Make decisions on real user research and feedback

1) Your website is a growth platform and not simply a 'website'

Your website is your number one marketing asset. You need a documented digital strategy that aligns with your business goals. Once you’ve done this, it’s easy to measure progress towards your business goals with KPIs. With a measurable growth plan in place, you can view the website as a growth platform and not simply a ‘website’.

2) You gain from a process of continual improvement

It’s impossible to build a website using the traditional approach to website design and expect that every decision made during the design process was correct.

The average lifecycle for traditional website projects is 3-5 months. Sometimes even longer. It's too long, the digital world moves quickly. By the time the website launches, it’s already out of date.

Only with the cycle of Plan, Build, Learn, Transfer (an agile approach to planning) will any updates to your website help move you towards your improvement goals.

Making regular improvements based on real data will get you ahead of the growth curve when comparing to the traditional web design process.

Traditional Web Design vs Growth Driven Design

Traditional Web Design vs Growth Driven Design

Traditional Web Design vs Growth Driven Design

3) You reduce risk and focus on rapid improvement

Identifying the 20% of requirements that will bring 80% of the value will help define the launchpad website. By aiming to launch a simple site quickly (within 45 - 60 days), you cut-out all of the risks and guesswork that is associated with traditional design.

The fast launch website will avoid assumptions that are made by a designer who is working with limited knowledge and trying to make best-guesses. Instead, you will launch with a website that will start gathering user data from day 1 and put you very quickly into a process of rapid improvement.

4) You can plan ongoing budget

You won’t need to find additional budget for unplanned updates. Remember - we are focusing each month on making the updates that bring you maximum value, and validating these against a hypothesis. This is how we learn.

Workload becomes more manageable and the design agency will not limit you to a pre-defined amount of requirements. Instead, we welcome wish list ideas that we can validate and implement when the time is right to do so.

5) We learn more about your business and invest into your customer success strategy

The retainer based relationship is a longer-term commitment through which we will gain a deep understanding of your business and sector. We will learn about the needs of your customers.

Our activity will be measured each month and your ROI will be highly visible. KPIs will be set early on and our progress will be reported regularly.

Traditional agencies who are still doing outdated 'SEO' will find it impossible to demonstrate real value. You will receive reports on keyword rankings, the number of blog posts written, the number of visitors shown in Google Analytics or similar statistics. But none of these help you to understand where your budget is being spent, and if it is returning value for money.

A website retainer based on growth driven strategy rooted with customer success can bring true value to a company's marketing budget. Anything else is likely to be a waste of time and money.

6) Make decisions on real user research and feedback

There’s no getting around the cold hard facts that data provides. Analytics software installed on your website will measure how much traffic your site’s getting, or how many users are converting into customers. Once you have an overview of your user data you can make a decision about how to improve your website.

Talking to your customers is another way of validating decision making. You’ll find that their feedback is one of the most valuable things available to you. Use your customers to learn what’s working well on your site, and what additional items would make your site more effective for them.


 Phill is a Hubspot certified inbound professional and is passionate about helping people in all aspects of digital marketing. Phill provides advice on SEO, growth driven design and digital strategy.

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