There is no one-size-fits-all agency business model. 20 agency owners share the pros and cons of their pricing models.
Agencies | Oct 26
Kevin Kononenko on October 22, 2018 • 7 minute read
That is the problem that Tyler Pigott of Lone Fir Creative faced last year.
To make a long story short, he recovered this year and was even able to speak about it at HubSpot’s Partner Day. But, he made some permanent changes at his agency to ensure that it would never happen again.
One of the biggest changes was diversifying revenue streams so that one client would not determine the health of his business. So, he now has 4 types of offerings–inbound retainers, projects, support contracts, and analytics coaching calls.
He began offering the analytics coaching calls, or “analytics as a service”, as a way to continue to work with prospects that may not be ready for one of his higher-ticket items.
For example, a prospect might feel that they are happy with the current output of their marketing team, so they do not need an inbound marketing retainer. Tyler can then offer “analytics as a service” as a way to help them with their entire digital marketing strategy at a much lower price.
Or, a prospect might ask for some help with web design and building buyer personas. When Tyler digs a little deeper, he will learn that the marketing team is composed of an army of freelancers or contractors. He can use “analytics as a service” to build a relationship that will go beyond a small project.
In the 4 months since he launched the program, Tyler has started running monthly analytics calls with 6 clients. Here is what he has learned along the way.
Lone Fir’s analytics coaching service is a monthly or bi-monthly call that usually lasts 75-90 minutes. Tyler will walk through the client’s marketing data from the past month, and offer recommendations based on the campaigns themselves and trends within the data.
Although Tyler will prepare for about 15 minutes before the call, most of the value comes from the question-and-answer format. Tyler will notice a trend in the data or see something from a campaign and ask the client about their decision-making. After that, he can advise on strategies or tactics to test in the following month.
The client is mainly paying for Tyler’s 15+ years of marketing experience. “This could possibly turn into a funnel that drives retainer revenue in the future, but today, it is just high-margin work that allows Lone Fir to help clients that may not fit into any of our other services,” says Tyler.
Tyler generally offers this service to clients who have at least one in-house, tactical marketer. That means they have one person that is creating content all day, whether its email, blog, social content or something else.
He has found that these marketers still need help on strategy, even if they have a CMO. “They know they have Google Analytics and Facebook Ads set up, for example. And they know how to track basic metrics, like visitors. But if you ask them where they look for insights to drive future campaigns, they won’t have a great answer.”
These marketers know that the data is at their fingertips, but don’t know how to convert data points into a strategy. They don’t have processes set up to include data in their decisions. For example, they aren’t reviewing their Google Analytics account at a weekly meeting, nor do they have a TV dashboard in the office to remind their team about the importance of data.
Also, these in-house marketers can’t “bounce ideas” off of anyone or receive feedback on their planned tactics for the upcoming month. So, even if they did create a data-driven strategy, they wouldn’t have a way to see if they were on the right track.
Tyler presents the service in two separate situations:
In the project scenario, the client will inquire about project work that can be completed over 30-60 days. That could be a small website re-design, advice on buyer personas or something else. Tyler knows they may have underlying marketing problems, but they are not yet willing to consider a higher ticket item like a retainer.
“A small project is not a good use of our agency’s resources, but if we can do strategy coaching in the following months, then we can start to solve some of the bigger problems in the client’s marketing strategy.”
This allows Lone Fir to become a trusted advisor. For example, clients turn to him to evaluate pitches from SEO/link building firms when they are uncertain if the opportunity is legitimate or not. They also come to him when they need services. In one case, a client hired him to do a $4,000 design/printing project.
He can also offer analytics-as-a-service when the prospect is not quite ready for a full-blown retainer. They may not be ready for inbound marketing, but he knows that Lone Fir still might be able to help them. With this coaching service, he can help each side figure out if the relationship is a cultural fit. If Tyler makes suggestions every month, but the client never implements them, then they may not be a fit. But, if they seem eager to implement changes and show that they are serious about improving their marketing, they become more interested in outsourcing some of the work to him.
Tyler uses three tools to fulfill the service:
He spends 75 minutes per month on a call with the clients. He charges $350 per hour, which is a significant increase from his agency’s normal hourly rate. A few clients have asked for two calls per month. He will spend 30 minutes on the call in the middle of the month with those clients. He records the call so clients can view it later.
Here’s how he spends his time. Thirty minutes before the call, he will review the client’s data in Databox and come up with a few questions that he wants to discuss. In the first 45 minutes of the call, he will review the trends in the data and ask them about campaigns they ran over the course of the month. In the next 15 minutes, he will ask them about their plans for the following month. He will take detailed notes so that he can review these plans at the next meeting. The final 15 minutes are open for strategy questions. Throughout the call, he advises on anything from small tweaks to larger strategic positioning.
Since he has only been offering it for 4 months, Tyler does not know exactly how much his agency will benefit from “analytics as a service.” At the very least, it is high-margin work at the moment. The client is paying for his 15+ years of digital marketing experience.
One day, Tyler hopes to have 25 of these clients and use the revenue to hire 1-2 strategists that can support the program. But, he is unsure how long it will take to grow the program by 4x.
In the meantime, he is happy with the high margins and his agency’s status as a trusted advisor to these clients. That relationship means that he will get the news first when they are interested in growing their marketing spend.
This could potentially be a funnel for future retainers. He can use “analytics as a service” to stay engaged with “near miss” clients- ones that were considering a retainer but were not ready yet.
This also allows him to create a stronger relationship with his project-based clients too. “In the past, I would struggle to find a reason to reach back out to our web design clients. I didn’t want to just ask them if they needed more design work.”
With “analytics as a service”, he can show that he is invested in their entire marketing operation and give valuable advice that will show results far beyond the next month’s results.
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