Project-Based vs. Retainer Engagements: Finding the Best Model for B2B Needs


Project VS Retainer, Web Design San Jose

B2B businesses like yours are balancing a long list of digital initiatives to remain competitive. It can be tough to find the hours in the day to get everything accomplished. But whether you’re thinking about a site redesign or a visual landing page to promote a new product, the work you need has exceeded your available resources.

When you’re seeking support from a web design agency, you need guidance toward the most cost-effective solution for your problem. And while the type of work may vary, marketing teams seeking web design assistance typically fall into one of two scenarios: A project-based relationship, or a maintenance retainer agreement.

From the moment your company recognizes the need for outside expertise, the right agency will help you identify the clearest path toward completing your project in a way that’s efficient and, above all, easy to manage. In examining the pros and cons of both, your firm can ensure the projects you need are completed on time and to your specifications.

A Project Relationship Conforms to Your Company’s Deadlines

The most clearly defined arrangement with an agency and its clients, a project-based model is the right structure if your company already has an outcome in mind.

Whether planning to revamp your website or design a new digital marketing initiative, your organization has approved a budget for this project and established a deadline for launch. The agency, in turn, supplies the expertise to ensure the project is completed within your time frame.

While this exchange sounds straightforward, projects can go off track without proper planning. At WebEnertia, we host velocity workshops to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Functioning as a live-action brief, these workshops involve stakeholders from the agency and client to ensure that all the details are aligned in terms of goals and expectations. From there, we collaborate on a roadmap toward its completion.

A project-based model is the right structure if your company already has an outcome in mind.

Advantages of a Project-Based Agency Relationship

  • OUTCOMES ARE CLEARLY DEFINED:Before work on your project begins, you and your agency establish a budget and timeline for its completion. As long as no variables are introduced, your organization has the assurance your project will arrive on schedule.
  • YOUR AGENCY TAKES ON THE RISK IN A SET BUDGET:Once a project is defined, your agency must then also uphold its terms. In the case of WebEnertia, we are transparent about the time and effort a project requires so your costs stay predictable. But once an agency defines those terms, it’s their responsibility to stick to them. Any overruns are then up to the agency to cover.
  • PROJECTS HELP ESTABLISH TRUST BETWEEN THE AGENCY AND CLIENT:By definition project relationships exist within a specific timeframe, but there is a possibility for that relationship to continue. Should another digital project arise for your business, you now have a relationship with a firm you trust. Not only are you familiar with their workflow, but the agency also better understands your brand than a prospective newcomer.

Project Based Relationship, Web Strategy San Jose

Downsides of a Project-Based Agency Relationship

  • COST CAN BE AN ISSUE:A project arrangement requires that its budget has already been approved by your organization. A significant amount of work often requires a considerable investment, which can be difficult for some organizations to secure.
  • TERMS OF A PROJECT AGREEMENT ARE RIGID:With the right agency partner, the time and resources required to reach your deadline are decided in advance. However, sticking to those terms requires a commitment on both sides. Additional recommendations or changes to a given project can disrupt timelines with your agency and affect your project’s resources. In some cases, a contract amendment or a new contract may be required to allow for these changes.

Project Agreement, Web Design San Jose

Maintenance Retainer Plans Allow for Flexibility in the Client-Agency Relationship

If your organization’s digital marketing goals are less deadline-driven or smaller in scope, a maintenance retainer model offers real benefits. Based on a monthly or quarterly fee in exchange for a set amount of hours of work from your agency, a maintenance retainer allows for multiple, smaller projects to be completed while not placing as great a strain on your budget as the project model.

Additionally, after a large project like a website redesign is completed, clients can opt to retain additional ongoing support from their web design agency. This can be especially helpful for firms without in-house resources who want to avoid reinventing the wheel by bringing on a new agency.

With a strong relationship with your agency already in place, the transition from project to maintenance retainer is easy.

A maintenance retainer allows for multiple, smaller projects to be completed while not placing as great a strain on your budget as the project model.

Advantages of a Maintenance Retainer Web Design Model

  • SMALLER PROJECTS YIELD QUICK WINS FOR CLIENTS: The size of your project doesn’t diminish its urgency. If you’re short on resources for time-sensitive website improvements, these smaller projects can be scheduled and completed through a retainer agreement to generate the results you need in the timeframe that’s required.
  • RETAINER AGREEMENTS BUILD RELATIONSHIPS:Maybe you have a large project in mind but not the corresponding budget. By establishing a maintenance retainer relationship, you can gain insights into how well an agency fits in with your workflow before trusting them with the sizable investment a large project can require. Similarly, this agreement also benefits an agency by allowing them to get to know the way you work as well. By the time the budget for a project is approved, both sides know one another better. This developing partnership fuels strategic conversations between the agency and its client to identify upcoming goals. Through consistent communication that includes quarterly business reports, these priorities can then be put into action.
  • AN AGENCY ACCOUNT MANAGER RELIEVES PRESSURE ON YOUR FIRM:In a maintenance retainer model, your agency also provides organizational support. At WebEnertia, we have an account manager that helps to establish expectations and provide support for our clients through reporting on hours and project status updates. If budgets are tight, an agency can provide real value by taking on the headaches of project management.

Organizational Support, Web Consulting San Jose

Downsides of a Maintenance Retainer Relationship

  • LARGE PROJECTS ARE DIFFICULT TO SCHEDULE:Comprehensive digital projects like a website redesign can be completed through the set number of hours per month in a retainer relationship. But this can be inefficient from a budget perspective and difficult to manage.
  • YOUR DIGITAL NEEDS MAY NOT BE CONSISTENT:Depending on your organization, the amount of work for an agency can fluctuate. This can lead to periods where you are paying the same fee for less work to be completed or, during busier periods, the work you need could exceed your allotted number of hours. In those cases, you may need to pause work until the following month, which can be frustrating. However, your agency partner can identify situations like these where a supplemental project model can be scoped out as your needs demand.

The Right Agency Can Identify the Best Working Arrangement for You

Whether your organization has a large-scale, long overdue project whose time has come, or multiple, loosely defined needs that are crowding your digital wish list, what you need is support. And while there are two paths toward working with an agency to meet your goals, each one also offers a level of flexibility if you’re working with the right partner.

To bring out the best in your projects, you need to work with an agency you can trust that will understand your needs. Contact us when you’re ready to find out more.

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