How to grow your agency without relying on the ‘retainer’

As more clients favor projects over yearly contracts, agencies must adapt to adroitly forecast their earnings and grow their operations. Consider these tips.

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There is one thing lots of PR agencies have in common in 2019: Clients are consistently hiring out projects, but retainers seem to be few and far between.

It’s great, of course, that clients are still outsourcing their marketing and communications needs, but it’s terribly difficult to run an agency when you don’t have consistent cash flow.

Betsy Cooper likes to tease me about this (mostly because she’s the same way). She always says, “It’s because you can’t control when the cash comes in that drives you crazy.”

Well, yes—it should drive me crazy—and you crazy—and all of us crazy.

You can’t make strategic decisions, such as hiring or, invest in new technology or software, if you can’t predict your cash flow for the year.

Here are some ideas to wean yourself for the dependency on retainers:

1. Propose multiple projects.

Some clients don’t like the sound of a retainer. They think it locks them into something that multiple projects does not. (Whether or not that’s true is another story for another time.)

They’re more than happy to keep working with you, year-over-year, assuming you continue to provide great work. Find out what their budget is for the year—and ask them how they’d like to use it.

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