High quality graphics are essential in modern business. The ability to put together excellent imagery that conveys your business to a T is invaluable in our visual world of online and offline marketing.
And as we’ve already covered on this blog, the most important way to maintain your brand’s inherent value is to implement it consistently across all touchpoints. Arguably one of the best ways to do this is to use the same agency or designer time and time again.
However, do you ever find that your agency of choice doesn’t have the capacity to complete ad-hoc projects as and when you need? Or do you find yourself frequently sourcing different agencies and weighing up quotes? Maybe you don’t have an agency in the wings ready to take up the slack, so your marketing team are always bogged down with time consuming design tasks – which prevents them from coming up with fresh new ideas that will benefit your business?
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then chances are that regardless of your company’s size, you could benefit from contracting with a design agency on retainer.
What is a Graphic Design Retainer?
It’s likely that all businesses will need to outsource creative services from time to time. Needing to design and print ad-hoc items such as flyers or business cards is fairly typical, but maintaining a constant flow of visually engaging digital content can be instrumental to your online brand awareness.
If your needs for graphic design services are starting to become less of an ad-hoc investment and more of a constant reality, then you may benefit from a graphic design retainer of some sort.
Many creative agencies (OLCO Design included) provide retainer options. For a set, regular payment (usually monthly), you get access to a fixed amount of that agency’s time every month. For marketing efforts that need a constant influx of new, fresh graphics (like content marketing and social media), working with an agency on a long-term basis like this is ideal.
Additionally, if you work with multiple different agencies on multiple different ad-hoc tasks, that’s a lot of Ts & Cs, project briefs, quotes, and invoices to potentially juggle. Working with a designer on retainer means that you’re building an ongoing rapport with a firm who are invested in your business in a very similar way to how an in-house member of staff would be.
How Do Design Retainers Work?
Different agencies have different ways of working when it comes to retainers, but it’s generally a case of paying a set fee per month to access a given amount of the designers’ time. You may enter a design retainer agreement with a set list of design tasks that need to be ticked off each and every month, or simply with a rough idea of how much help you need on various, disparate tasks.
Though retainers work well with design tasks that need constant “topping up” (like infographics, e-books, social media campaigns, etc.), they can still be very valuable for businesses who frequently need large amounts of ad-hoc design.
Benefits of Having a Design Agency on Retainer
An Ongoing Relationship Benefits Your Design
Working with multiple different agencies can result in widely varying standards of quality and consistency. Because there is no “right or wrong way” to design, different agencies can have very different ideas about what looks professional or presentable.
But when you work closely with a single agency over time, their creatives become increasingly familiar with your company and your general preferences when it comes to how you like to visually represent your brand. Similarly, they’re more likely to get a deeper understanding of your company’s goals and overall ethos as time goes by.
These are skilled marketing professionals, so they may even spot opportunities to market your company more effectively. And when you provide feedback on how a piece of creative work performs, they can also start to build a picture of how your market behaves and what kinds of visual communication work well for you. This two-way, ongoing rapport can therefore be strategically much more beneficial.
Provides Excellent Consistency
Working with multiple different designers over time can become very jumbled. Varying ideas and methods of execution between designers can produce disjointed results – and as we’ve already mentioned, visual consistency is essential to retaining a brand’s value. But working with a designer on retainer will likely yield very consistent results in both style and quality.
Retainers also allow you to plan around a reliable frequency – for example, if you know your retainer is likely to result in around two infographics, three social media graphics, and one PDF brochure a month, you can plan your content marketing and promotional schedules around the quantity your retainer package is able to output.
Outsourcing Can Be Simpler Than Employing In-House Talent
Don’t get us wrong – the ability to employ in-house staff is a real achievement in business. However, if you only require a designer for a few days a month, setting up payroll and HR records for an internal designer might not seem worthwhile.
However working with a creative or agency on retainer means that you get all of the familiarity and consistency that you would with in-house designer without having to worry about sick pay, holiday pay, or HR considerations.
Takes Time-Consuming Design Tasks Away from Your In-House Team
If you already employ in-house marketing talent, you may feel like you’re doing them a disservice by investing in an agency retainer. But seeing as your internal teams are most familiar with your company’s offering and audience, it may be best to use their time doing high-level marketing work – ideating, strategising, analysing, and generally coming up with striking marketing ideas that move the needle for your company.
So if your marketing team spend a lot of their time with their heads in laborious graphic design work, it may be time to outsource that time-consuming work to a graphic design agency.
Budgeting is Simpler with Retainers
Because retainers cost a set amount each month, accounts and budgeting are remarkably simple. You can ringfence that figure each month rather than dealing with wildly differing invoices for ad-hoc projects.
This simplicity can also make it easier for you to calculate ROI, conversion costs, and generally to tie expenses to specific campaigns. You may also experience less paperwork, fewer project briefs, and reduced administrative to-ing and fro-ing.
Straightforward monthly agreements also benefit the agency – they can rely on your regular retainer fee and know to set aside your time slot(s) each month.
Priority Access to Talented Designers
When you have an ongoing retainer agreed, the agency will prioritise your work in a way that they may not be able to do with an ad-hoc project. From the agency’s perspective, ad-hoc work generally has to be slotted in around projects that have already been agreed. To the client, this may mean being placed on a waiting list and having to move their promotional schedule around to accommodate the agency’s availability.
Put bluntly, retainer clients get the VIP pass – ad-hoc clients have to wait in line!
Two Teams are Better than One
When your in-house marketing talent works closely with a design agency on an ongoing basis, you encourage an exchange of new ideas between the two teams; potentially unearthing fresh, innovative ideas that may not have otherwise come to the surface.
Because you’ve got two groups of marketing experts getting their heads together, it’s also likely that they’ll be able to innovate in terms of strategy, optimisation, and experimentation. You’re effectively paying for a team of outsourced marketing and visual branding experts to enhance your internal marketing know-how.
Are Retainers Right for All Businesses?
In a word; no. Though retainers are great for ongoing support, we concede that some businesses will only ever need design support for individual, one-off projects that may be few and far between. If this sounds familiar, then a retainer probably isn’t the right route for you.
However if your internal marketing teams find themselves snowed under with regular design work, or you’re getting tired of the lack of consistency between different providers, then it may be time to consider contracting with a single graphic design agency on retainer.
If any of these benefits resound with you, then working with an agency on retainer is likely to be useful. To find out how a retainer could benefit your business, book a free consultation with the award-winning team at OLCO Design today!