Most of the work that a marketer handles is on a project basis. What that means is that a client needs one or two things done and he or she hires a marketing consultant to advise them.
Or if consultation is required, the marketing consultant provides limited consulting for a set fee. Perhaps you just need a sales letter or two or a brochure, perhaps a radio commercial or television commercial. After that’s done, the relationship ends in most cases. Of course, the client often returns for other work later. But they usually return on a project basis. This sort of transaction works for a majority of clients.
If you fall under one of the following categories, you probably should hire a marketing consultant on a one-time project basis:
You just need a sales letter or one or two items.
You know exactly what you want.
You don’t need more than two or three items written.
You don’t need or want a lot of consultation and marketing help or copywriting on a regular basis.
Now if you don’t fit into the above categories, you may be a candidate for a retainer relationship. But keep in mind that most professional marketers, myself included, accept a very limited number of regular (retainer) clients because our time is limited and valuable. We want to do the best job we can for our clients. So you can get turned down. It is my desire to do the best job possible for each client. To do that, the number of clients I accept must be limited. Most professional and popular marketing consultants have this requirement.
You may be a candidate for a retainer if:
You have a lot of work that needs to be done.
You have an on-going need for marketing consultation.
You can budget an amount each month required to pay a professional consultant (my minimum fee is $10,000 per month, for example.)
You want to get the most for your marketing dollars.
You understand that it takes time to build a good working relationship and to get your marketing to the level that you want.
You’re willing to listen to suggestions from the expert consultant and take advise. While you are hiring the consultant, you understand they are the professionals in marketing and that’s why you are hiring them.
Different marketing consultants write their retainer contracts in different ways. But the bottom line is that you pay a certain amount of money each month for either so many hours provided to you by the marketing consultant or you pay one set amount over a period of time. But it is common for the consultant to have an hourly fee. Some consultants will lower the fee in return for a longer term agreement or other trade-offs. Others won’t. And, of course, the fees charged differ from one marketing consultant to another. The average is about $500 per hour. More experienced senior copywriters charge between $1000 – $2000 per hour and up. Be cautious when paying much less than that. You may be getting an inexperienced consultant who will end up costing you more in the long run. As I describe below, I charge on the value-based fee system.
A few people don’t know what’s included in the fee. What do you pay for when you pay a marketing consultant on retainer? Simply put, everything. Any time the consultant spends on your behalf, you pay for it. In addition, you pay expenses. You don’t just pay for the time the consultant spends consulting. That would be ludicrous. In short, any time the consultant spends on your behalf, whether on the phone, writing an email or anything else is billable time. If a marketing consultant has to hire outside help, that’s extra.
It’s hard to believe that anyone would actually think that we only charge for the time spent consulting. But a prospective client actually asked me, “Now you only charge for the time you spend working on my project right? You don’t charge for the time we spend on the phone do you?”
Let the record show–I charge if I’m just thinking about how to increase your business. I charge when I talk to you on the phone. I charge when I type you an email or read your email or do research. Just like your lawyer. Just like any professional. Anything I do on your behalf that I would not normally do, I charge for. My time is valuable. It’s for sale. It’s not a gift that I grant to others. I own a business, not a welfare office. Many folks seems to think consultants should work for a pittance and be grateful for work. Those folks got stinkin’ thinkin’. It’s the consultant who makes the client rich. It’s seldom the other way around.
My minimum fee for a monthly retainer is $10,000. A few clients pay $30,000 plus per month.
I generally prefer to make my retainers month to month. I don’t like to take on a client for a long period of time without knowing more about them. I have, however, had retainers for 6-12 months. I accept only those people as retainer clients who will listen to me and accept my advice and who I feel I can help the most.
So there you have a general idea of how a consultant retainer works. You get the services of a consultant over a longer period of time for a set amount of money each month or, in some cases, annually. It can prove to be a very value relationship to you if you want to get big returns over a long period of time.
If you’re interested in a retainer relationship, contact my offices using one of methods here, and let me know what sort of retainer agreement interests you. I’ll see if there is time available and we’ll go from there. Remember, professional marketing is not a discretionary expense–it’s a necessary investment.