Is a retainer with a Digital Agency right for you?

5 min read
Jonny Pathan
A person writing

As your business grows and you become the latest Surrey based business success, you’ll notice you need more time spent on your online presence. New content for your website, calls-to-actions, landing pages, pay per click campaigns, social media updates are all things that change often. So you can keep on top of things, you’ll most likely need a monthly retainer with a digital agency.

So, what’s a retainer anyway!?

Depending on who you speak to, retainers vary slightly from agency to agency, but the core principles apply. A monthly fee paid by your business for a predetermined amount of agency hours every month. Some digital agencies require you to come up with hours for your retainer, at Watb we work differently: with monthly strategy meetings, we’ll work with you to work out how best to grow your business month on month, and how much time we’ll need to do it. Once we have a plan, goals and strategy in place, we’ll schedule in all the work we need to do across the month.

What does a retainer cover?

Again, depends on the agency. To give you an idea of ours, it could include any of the following:

  • Support: on-going telephone, email support and regular strategy meetings
  • Analytics: monthly reporting on marketing statistics, including insight and recommendations
  • Marketing Research, Strategy, Planning & Workshops
  • Content Strategy & Creation
  • Creative Direction, Graphic & Print Design
  • UI & UX Design
  • Web Design & Development
  • Social Media Strategy, Planning, Content Creation & Analytics
  • Influencer Marketing
  • SEO, PPC & Bid Media, Conversion Rate Optimisation
  • Newsletter Campaigns

The good, and the bad.

The good: Money saving

One of the most common benefits is money – A retainer will usually get you a lower fixed hourly rate, depending on the agency. We base our discounts on how many months you’re with us. The more time, the cheaper it gets. As you’re guaranteeing time to an agency, and they don’t have to scramble for their work, there should be some cost savings in place.

The bad: It’s a monthly investment

Whilst that is true, and you should certainly think about whether or not your business is at that stage in its lifecycle, employing your own team of creatives, marketeers and developers is no cheap exercise; having those talents in-house costs a small fortune. Being able to scale up and down the team and services you need at the right time is a flexibility you can achieve by using an agency retainer.

The good: The agency are experts in their field, and spend all day doing the things you don’t have time for

Getting through all of the tasks that quality digital marketing entails is a hefty order. You’ve got more important things to be doing than fine-tooth combing Google Analytics. Many of our clients are too busy maintaining relationships, running their business and just need things to get done. That’s the beauty of guaranteed hours. You have the comfort of knowing the work will get done.

The bad: You’re not using up your time each month

From time to time this can happen, you suddenly run out of things to get done. Why bother with an agency? Well, a good agency would be meeting with you, finding out your goals, aspirations, and offering ways to help achieve them. A good way to avoid this being a problem is to create a list of projects you’ve been wanting to get done, but you just haven’t had the time to do. That way, if there’s ever a lull, your agency can crack on with those. There are so many ways to market your business, and a good agency can start attacking them one by one. After all, their goal should be getting paid to help you grow, right?!

The good: Your agency knows you oh so well

If you’ve used your agency for a project before, they should by this point have a deep understanding of your business. If learning about your business wasn’t on their list of things to do at that start, ask them why.

Knowing your business through and through means you’ve effectively got your own in-house team working on your side. Presenting your brand as it should be, understanding your audience, your potential, your core ethos and message.

The bad: You don’t know what the agency is up to all the time

Whilst I’d like to think trust is a key factor in any relationship, at the end of the day, you’re still paying for a service, and you need to know what that service is. Transparency should be a top priority in the agency you use. They should be happy to provide a breakdown of time usage, and should be using the right tools to track their time, progress and results.

We use a bunch of tools to do achieve this and even give our clients access to a real-time dashboard so they can see results and data at any time. Some of the other tools we use are:

So, is it right for you?

A retainer might seem like a big commitment, but, partnering up with the right agency could yield you fantastic results. As long as transparency is in place, contracts are clear, and times are tracked correctly, you’re on to a winner. Over time your relationship will get stronger, your agency will be more efficient and you’ll love having a team on your side, helping grow your business every day.

Further Reading
Here’s a more detailed look at our relationship with Chickidee Homeware, one of our retainer clients.

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.


Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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