Anyone here working with clients on an ongoing retainer structure for all online marketing initiatives beyond just Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
I've been consulting for many years working with clients on very specific one-off tasks (Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC), Audits, Keyword/Competition Research, Analytics, etc), and also then ongoing retainers where it is a mixture of many skill sets and acting more as a marketing manager or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to help with high level strategy, managing people/hiring, helping establish goals, tracking, measuring, reporting, and beyond.
Anyone else here working as a consultant in this capacity? I'm hoping to sync up with a few people working in a similar capacity to trade ideas, ask questions, share knowledge, bounce ideas off of, and more.
I'm a consultant, and first shifted to that role back in I think '98. I switched when the kind of clients I was moving into dealing with had already invested into their own web team, often had several writers, and you were never, ever, going to be given free access to 'mess around' with the live site of a company of that scale. Instead, the role was to advise and consult with their in-house teams and people.
Personally though I don't tend to do retainers except where that has a specific value to the client – e.g. if they want me to NOT take work from any rivals in their market then they need to put me on a retainer for that kind of exclusivity. Typically those retainers will be a certain amount of hours per month based on opportunity cost, payable whether or not they use those hours, and no carry-overs to the next month.
I don't do retainers otherwise because honestly, one of the things I love the most about my job is the fact I'm not doing the same thing for the same business over and over. I love the diversity, and really massively enjoy getting to know how different businesses run in a huge range of markets. My goal is to do projects and move on to new exciting projects, and I get bored of the same thing for years on end.
Thanks for the feedback and experience. Yes, I too have been working in the same capacity as you for about 20 years now and have had my fair share of work in different capacities over the years. While I too have enjoyed the challenge new projects bring and like the idea of one-off work, I have a client I've really enjoyed working with and he wants more of my time, a lot more. So exclusivity in some respects, and also he's seen my work and have proven my worth so he wants me to up the time to work on a lot of things simultaneously and help lead his marketing strategy as a whole. I suppose you can call it an agreed amount per month vs a retainer since I will be utilizing all the time I expect to use in any given month and there will be no pour over, so maybe retainer isn't the proper word here. I just need to firm a number I want monthly, and then go at it and since tasks will be pouring over and simultaneous I will receive my requested amount in any given month.
I've enjoyed the new excitement new projects bring the same way, I normally will get bogged down and tired of the same job over and over. However, this project has so much that needs to be done to bring them up to speed that the challenge in that alone could keep me busy for many many months, so its a really solid opportunity since the client trusts me completely, and I have free reign to steer the overall marketing strategy exactly how I hope it should go. His only request is to drive more leads, so there's lots of work to keep me excited for a good while on this one.
The hard part is estimating truly how much time I'll need to move at the pace I'm hoping to move at. I think I'll decide on 2 numbers on this one and will fall within that given range based on what I have going on in any given month of efforts.
Petter » Siano
Why not just scope it as a massive long term project then?
Define timelines, milestones, mandate, resource-availability, spend etc. with the client. Build slides/ppt on top of working routines that you document what you do (and why it was done in that way), so that governance, routines and understanding of how and why is maintained for whomever takes over (perhaps onboarding will be the next project).
Siano ✍️ » Petter
I absolutely do lots of this as standard practice in my work flow. This clients wants me personally to stick around for the long haul so I'll need to figure out the balance between tasks I'll be working on vs delegating or hiring for. He's gone the agency route and hiring internally route more than once and was not pleased with the results and is happy with what I'm doing. He would hiring me as an employee if I was willing but I am not willing to, so this is a compromise of a long term possible project for me.
Ammon Johns 🎓
I think, Siano, that maybe I misunderstood how you're operating to this point. Are you saying you sell every single consultation as a separate thing? No ongoing contracts to spread a project out over months?
Petter is absolutely right in saying that you scope it out as a whole thing – a campaign, with an objective. Then spread that campaign out over time according to the limits of implementation and of budget.
With my clients, one of the things I include in my initial audit is their working practices, how their internal pipelines work, what kind of sign-offs, queues, and delivery times to expect on getting stuff done. There's no point having a schedule where every week you're giving them a fresh task if each task is taking 2-3 months to actually implement.
Siano ✍️ » Ammon
Thanks again. I'm working in the same flow as Hans suggested and do similar processes of planning, determining timelines, set expectations of deliverables, dependencies to get the work done, and ultimate efforts and goals of the campaign as a whole. So the timeline of work will be set out early on and is measurable.
The difference here is this client wants me to play my part, but then also help in other areas that are either being handled in house, or I will need to help hire for. I've been in this role before so this isn't my first time walking this path.
I realize there's a group FULL of great people here, and tons who are doing the exact same thing and its great to get feedback and input and that's awesome. Many generalists, and probably even more specialists than any of us can count.
I suppose the point of my post was to just hear how some of your all are going about how you are handing your work, and how you are charging for it when it goes well beyond Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and is incorporating an entire marketing strategy from the top down. I have a recipe that's worked and has carried me this far in my consulting career about 20 years successfully, but you always wonder how others are doing it. Its also nice to connect on a personal level with a specific person or two to bounce ideas off of and be a resource for each other.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Siano
I put those down as 'General Consulting' hours and include them in the contract proposal. Time that can be allocated as needed or wanted at the time from discussion of new ideas to doing audits and reports, whatever.
Yeah, I've been doing this for 15 years. Usually a client hires you for an immediate need.
If you're like me, you find a million different things that could improve and mention them on calls. Like planting seeds….
If they begin to trust you, they open up to the idea of letting you do it.
In other words, it's only natural.
Yes, exactly the same here also. I normally appreciate the challenge new projects bring but this one needs a LOT of work/fixing, so I could easily work many months and not get bored on this one. How are you normally billing/charging for your services when it becomes multiple tasks simultaneously, helping with hiring for any specialized services, etc. I normally decide on an estimate of time and will then find a lower/higher range of it and land in that and the client knows that it may fluctuate slightly based on what's happening. Would like to hear how you've structured your ongoing work if you don't mind sharing insight.
Lenny » Siano
Same boat – former agency head, left took some clients and ended up being their AOR. Now I shifted to getting a piece of their company so it helps me stay engaged for the long term. Have you asked for performance + retainer or % of sales + retainer?
Thanks for the info. Definitely interested in picking your brain a bit if willing to. I haven't yet but its on the table. The company is well established but their sales cycle is really odd ball and their tracking is a mess so they are open to it, but my gut tells me to first get my general pay to get things up to speed and once they/I have a better idea of what the numbers truly are then I can broach that discussion and they are open to it.
Keith L Evans 🎓
Of course. This is the only way to fly. To be successful in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you must go beyond ranking. Your client must be banking.
In 2020 I had zero clients cancel. But I lost 2 last year. Many of the top guns are getting together in April for a mastermind in New Orleans.
Great point, we must be a jack of many trades in this game. Share some details on that get together.
I think it's better doubling down at what you're good at and not losing focus of that.
For example I run a search marketing agency and within the past two years we've cut 80% of our services to focus purely on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) for D2C brands.
As a result, we've
– doubled revenue
– kept our team focused and aligned on the core offering
– become BETTER at what we do by creating Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)s, systems & frameworks
Offering too many services to clients can dilute effectiveness due to lack of focus and generally lack of expertise due to too much diversification.
My advice is pick ONE or maximum two things that you're really great at and stick to it.
For any other specialist areas you can bring in other experts – and earn commissions by referring business.
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