The decision to enter into a retainer agreement with an agency should not be taken lightly. After all, you’re committing to spend a set amount of your revenue each and every month for services you may or may not utilize. It can be an extremely useful arrangement that provides your business with a valuable and reliable resource; or it can be a money-wasting endeavor that leaves your business underserved and consistently in need of additional resources. The difference between a successful and unsuccessful retainer relationship can hinge on your expectations for the arrangement and your ability to communicate those expectations to the agency.
Below are the top mistakes that businesses make when working with agencies on retainer and steps you can take to get your money’s worth.
Mistake #1: Not knowing exactly what you want before signing an agreement
You should always have specific objectives and expectations before entering a retainer agreement. Besides, if you don’t know what you want, how can you effectively communicate your expectations to the agency? Take the time to thoughtfully consider what your business needs and how the agency can best meet those requirements. Then, take these steps to get your money’s worth:
- Don’t send random tasks for the agency to complete. Have specific objectives with success metrics that you can both track. For the best results, you should have a clearly defined outcome for each assignment.
- Prepare a work plan at least a month in advance and share it with the agency.
- Identify “evergreen” tasks that the agency can work on when there’s nothing pending. These are tasks such as changing out old graphics with new ones, creating email marketing templates, setting up pop ups, and the administrative stuff that takes time to complete, but isn’t urgent.
- Don’t change content and directions in the middle of a project. Once you set your expectations and direction, commit to them. Random changes and indecision waste time and money.
Mistake #2: Failure to communicate clearly
It’s not enough to just identify your expectations. You also need to communicate them plainly. Poor communication can lead to costly and time-wasting misunderstandings. Use these tips to keep the lines of communication open and clear:
- Separate the “Here’s what I’m thinking” conversation from the “Here’s what I want” conversation. It’s the difference between an abstract direction with a bunch of possible interpretations and a clear direction that puts everyone on the same page. If you aren’t sure and you need to figure out some stuff, schedule a meeting with the agency to come to a conclusion about appropriate next steps.
- Use clear, concise language to explain what you want done.
- Use video effectively by limiting it to exemplifying something specific. Avoid rambling about various points, so you don’t lose track of tasks.
- Use the communication channel designated by the agency for support. Avoid personal emails, texts and private messages – especially for non-urgent communication. If it is urgent, use the channel designated for such matters.
- Know when to ask for a meeting vs. sending an email. Not every concern or question requires a meeting. To get the most out of your monthly retainer, avoid unnecessary meetings that waste time and money. If an email is sufficient to address the issue, send the email.
- Don’t use ASAP, !!!!, WTH or HELP in subject lines if it is NOT actually an urgent situation.
Mistake #3: Not respecting the hierarchy
Just like your business, the retainer agency also works within a hierarchy with specific individuals and departments designated to handle specific tasks. By ignoring this established hierarchy and escalating matters that don’t require escalating, you are essentially wasting the agency’s time and your money. Respect the hierarchy by taking the following steps:
- Work with your point of contact first. Only escalate the situation if there’s an issue your point of contact cannot help you with.
- Don’t waste the CEO’s time on things that don’t require that level of insight.
Mistake #4: Micro-managing the experts
You hired the agency for a reason. Why not allow the professionals to do the work you hired them to do? This doesn’t mean following blindly without insight, but it also doesn’t mean micromanaging. Once you set your expectations and clearly communicate them, step aside and let the experts complete their tasks. You can put this into practice by:
- Asking for a high level view of the process. If there’s something you think needs to be done a different way, ask them why they chose that approach (they likely have a good reason).
- Communicating any concerns at the time you assign the project to the agency. For example, if there’s a known flaw in your system or an extremely sensitive aspect of the process, let the team know during the initial conversation so they can take it into consideration.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance your retainer relationship and get your money’s worth from the service agency.
At PressFixer, we offer a project-based service. Each month, you know exactly what you’re getting done, starting with a monthly planning session and ending with a monthly progress review. Even as a project-focused service, we make ourselves available to assist with urgent requests like broken pages, as well as regular maintenance needs.
When you work with us, you can feel confident that each of your projects will have focus – and that moves your business forward. If you have tech tasks that you’ve been putting off because you just didn’t have the team, let’s talk about how your business can benefit from the retainer services of PressFixer. Click here to schedule a call with us.