Reasons why digital marketing retainers work better for both clients and agencies.

Why pay your agency a monthly retainer?

Retainers are normally used for ongoing tasks where there is no defined start or end to the service provided. Commonly used for ongoing marketing, advertising or support, etc. A little bit like engaging a specialist employee but you also don’t need to worry about office space, a salary, bonuses, training, absence, superannuation or work safety.

There are many advantages to using a retainer that may not first meet the eye, reliability, affordability, accountability, knowledge, specialization. Digital marketing agencies are already making your competition money, and are much more creative than an employee.  Making it a popular and fruitful compensation method for professional services.

What is a digital marketing retainer?

A marketing retainer is an agreement between a client and an agency to work together for a set period of time on an ongoing basis. The agency reserves a set amount of time for the client per month at a set rate or defined budget.

Retainers are normally prepaid. Major benefits for the client are lower costs, priority treatment, intimate knowledge, a trusted partner, expertise, accountability and buy in. The agency will have an invested interest in the success of the business which encourages them to be proactive and often work beyond the expected scope of the project. Agencies like us at QDS DIGITAL see it as an opportunity to not sell a client on a list of products that can end up being so costly that it completely dissuades the client, instead it gives us creative free reign to do our best work and put our name on it.  The end result is the client ends up paying much less for excellent work.

digital marketing retainers

Why marketing retainers work?

A retainer agreement is focused on achieving long term business goals and should outline the work required to get there. They are often based off a strategy and a plan that have defined milestones and targets that need to be reached.

Online marketing requires a long term commitment which typically starts to deliver a return on investment after 6-9 months and continues to grow from there, so you need a partner who can be accountable and committed for the longer term.

In this fast-paced world of digital communication, you need to keep up with the technology and react fast to trends. Your chosen agency will become an expert on your business and your industry so you need to make sure you get the most out of them and not your competitors. As spend priority, and researching your competitors and then out bidding them is key to financial success, but only if the creative and business side works.

  • Update 2019
  • Client’s hate ads being shoved down their throats
  • Client’s dislike pushy sales tactics
  • Client’s want authenticity
  • Client’s want to be part of something special
  • The majority of clients are all on social media and mobile devices. The numbers are proven over and over again and climbing.

Why clients should use retainers:

  • Intimate understanding of your brand, business, and industry sector
  • Build a long-term relationship and trust
  • Priority treatment and quick response when needed
  • Good value for money. Lower hourly rate
  • No surprise costs and no lump sum cost. Easier to budget
  • Commitment to getting a return on your marketing investment
  • Clients benefit from proactive thinking from the agency
  • Keep ahead of the competition in the fast-moving digital space 

Why agencies should offer retainers:

  • Get a deeper understanding of a client’s long-term goals and needs
  • Easier to work to a clear long-term roadmap (adaptability is also key here to make fast changes as needed)
  • Tap into years of marketing experience
  • Save valuable time. Easier to focus & control the outcome
  • No need to constantly pitch to new clients
  • Predictable resources and income
  • A solid partnership allows an agency to take risks and to be an expert rather than a service provider

Differences of Retainer vs Project Work

To help you decide between using a retainer agreement or project-based services, you need to know what your big picture goals are. Are you wanting a single task carried out to address one item such as website, brochure and email marketing, or are you looking to take a more long term and holistic approach that could benefit the whole business?


  • A broader scope of services delivered
  • More accountability to ROI
  • Long term engagement (typically 6+months)
  • More focus on ongoing needs
  • Proactive service
  • Trusted partner
  • Priority treatment


  • Well defined scope and services
  • Quoted or estimated
  • Clear short term deliverables
  • Short timeline
  • One-off needs
  • Projects are always limited by finances and time

If you are interested in learning more about how QDS DIGITAL can help you grow your business feel free to contact us for a chat via any DM, PM or email.

+27 44 696 6643

Albert Nel

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