Subscription billing models for your digital marketing agency

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“Of all the pricing methods a consultant can operate by, there's one that provides professional serenity better than any other — implementing a consulting retainer.” — Jay Fuchs What a Retainer-Based Approach Can Do for a Consulting Business

Making a subscription billing model for your clients’ billing rates removes the complications for the client and the agency. Clients who bring single projects come and go and the agency can’t accurately forecast their profitability.

In the words of Ian Servin, Videographer at Animus Studios

“These shallow relationships didn’t give me a lot of creative freedom. And because they were centered around individual projects, there weren’t opportunities to grow the relationships and do better, more effective work over time. I wasn’t happy, and my clients weren’t getting the full value of my expertise.” You can read more of his article 10 Reasons Why Retainers Work Better for the Agency and the Client to get his take on retainer work.

Jay Fuchs also shared in his Hubspot article, “Operating on a short-term or project-to-project basis can often be unpredictable, unreliable, and exhausting. Retainers offer an element of security to consultants' financial well-being. And being able to charge clients upfront in exchange for work can be a more even, less stressful alternative to handling issues as they arise and charging as you go.”

A digital marketing company can leverage subscription billing for its clients in several ways. Here are some examples:

  1. Service Retainers: Digital marketing agencies often work with clients on an ongoing basis, providing services such as social media management, content creation, SEO optimization, and paid advertising. By implementing a subscription billing model, the agency can set up service retainers with clients, charging a fixed monthly fee for the agreed-upon services. This provides predictability for both the agency and the client, ensuring a steady revenue stream for the agency and a consistent level of service for the client.
  2. Subscription-Based Reporting and Analytics: A digital marketing agency can offer subscription-based reporting and analytics services to clients. This can include regular reports on website traffic, campaign performance, lead generation, conversion rates, and other key metrics. Clients can subscribe to these reporting services, paying a recurring fee to receive timely insights and analysis on their digital marketing efforts.
  3. Marketing Automation and CRM Services: Some digital marketing agencies provide marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to their clients. They can offer subscription-based access to these platforms, allowing clients to manage their marketing campaigns, track customer interactions, and automate various marketing processes. Subscription billing ensures that clients pay for the ongoing use of these tools and receive updates and support as part of their subscription package.
  4. Training and Education Subscriptions: Digital marketing is an ever-evolving field, and clients may require ongoing training and education to stay up to date with the latest strategies and techniques. A digital marketing agency can offer subscription-based access to webinars, courses, workshops, or an online learning platform. Clients can subscribe to these educational resources, gaining continuous access to valuable marketing knowledge and expertise.
  5. Marketing Content Subscriptions: Digital marketing agencies can curate and provide valuable marketing content to clients on a regular basis. This can include newsletters, industry insights, case studies, and marketing tips. Clients can subscribe to receive these content resources on a recurring basis, allowing them to stay informed and leverage the agency's expertise.

By incorporating subscription billing into their service offerings, a digital marketing company can establish long-term relationships with clients, ensure a consistent revenue stream, and provide ongoing value and support. It also allows the agency to scale its services and deliver a higher level of personalized attention and expertise to clients on a continuous basis.

An area of administrative work that gets overlooked—until it’s too late—is billing. Arguably, the reason to have a retainer client is to have a payment that is continuously coming in. However, when the work comes first it’s easy to put logistics on the back burner. Some agencies have been doing the process manually for years and haven’t thought about improving their process. At the same time, other businesses are losing their old-school bookkeepers to retirement and are suddenly in a position to see the mountain of labor that person was doing by hand.

Kate Lewis, Content Manager at Accelo wrote,

“Some months you’re riding the cash wave, and some months you’re scrambling to make sure all client payments are coming in on time. This is familiar to many in the professional service business, as you frequently rely on project-based income. When one project ends, you’re thrown back into the cycle of searching for your next client, and your next paycheck.” In her recent post about why retainer clients are truly the best option for businesses, she continued to write, “Managing multiple retainers can be extremely demanding when done manually. Searching through emails, balancing client needs, and managing multiple agreements can require a lot of time, and will ultimately distract you from the work your clients are paying you to do.

Finding a tool that can automate the administrative work lets you focus on providing value to your clients and building the trust you’ll need to maintain those relationships.”

Admin tools including Hubspot, Salesforce, Accelo, Asana, Avalara, Mailchimp, and ChargeOver (among hundreds of others) improve your accuracy, your credibility, and your ability to deliver excellent services to your clients. Finding the perfect combination of tools is made easier with integrations among the tools. (ie: ChargeOver has over 60+ integrations and partnerships to make your workflow efficient!)

How to get started? Start with one client who has already had a completed project and has more work that can be done. That client already has a relationship with your team and has formed an opinion about working with your agency. Offer that client a service that they can receive over and over or build out a model where the client can request different services within a specified amount of hours.

With consistent revenue coming into your agency, you have more opportunities to grow!

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