Clients do not respond well to the word retainer. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate for that type of relationship. It’s more about how you say it than what you say!

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute, this week coming to you from Louisville, Kentucky. So I was with an agency group today, and we were chatting about that they wanted less project work and more ongoing work. And we kept using the R word – retainer. And one of the things that we talked about was that clients, agency clients do not love the word retainer. It sounds like a long term obligation. It has connotations of just being billed randomly for things, but it’s not a word that most clients in our world warm up to. So, what I told them was that several agencies have had great success lately using the word ‘subscription’. And this idea is that this is an ongoing monthly subscription, and that here’s the laundry list of things that we’re going to do for you over the course of your year subscription, which by the way auto-renews at the end of every year. And in the beginning of the subscription, I get a marketing plan with tactics and all of that. And out of that, based on my subscription level, the dollar amount I’m spending, I’m going to get a list of deliverables. And I can either keep using that list and keep sort of churning through that list, or at any point in time, if I decide that I, as the client, want something that’s not on the list, I can swap out things on the list. But I just know that I’m going to get a certain amount of service in time for my monthly subscription. And if I exceed my monthly subscription, then I can decide to either buy something à la carte, or I can wait and do it next month when my subscription dollars kick back in again. But lots of my agencies are having really remarkable success simply by changing the word retainer to the word subscription. Works exactly the same way. The contract is the same, the sort of dollars for time for deliverables is the same. the sort of dollars for time for deliverables is the same. But clients seem to like that word better, because it feels, number one like they can cancel a subscription at any time, which they could, and you handle that in provisions in the contract of what that means in terms of your deliverables and the promises you made. So they can cancel at any time. It feels far less like “lawyer ask” or sort of binding. And it’s something they’re very used to. We all have lots of subscriptions today. And so, it doesn’t seem like a word that’s coming out of left field. It doesn’t seem overly onerous. It doesn’t seem like it’s living in a different industry. It’s a concept that they’re super comfortable with. So, if you are also trying to move away from more project work and get into more ongoing work, you might think about changing the language up a little bit in your proposals, and leaving the retainer word behind, and substituting with subscription. All right? Give it a try. I’ll see you next week.

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