Why do we say no to retainers at times and go for projects instead?

Like any other business Verbly’s journey has not been without its share of changes, experiments, failures and more importantly, learnings. All these experiences have allowed us to develop an intuition to say ‘NO’ to certain leads or new biz.

When you are starting up and chasing business leads, you are willing to put in the hours, and bring in the best minds or ideas; but do we stop and think, does this business/customer/lead make sense to my brand in the long term?

The question we often ask ourselves is – “Are we being penny wise, pound foolish?”

This brings us to why we as a company have said more ‘nos’ than ‘yes’ even when we were not doing great in terms of growth numbers. One of the key things that drove us to start Verbly was to be able to genuinely add value to clients, even if it meant turning down their business or giving them brutally honest feedback.

A business that considers and starts thinking of branding, narrative, and messaging from day 1 is every agency’s dream client. Getting your comms strategy in place is critical before you start marketing your product or service.

But, does that mean you need an agency on retainer from the get-go? The answer is not that straightforward. The decision depends on many factors such as 

  • the nature of your business 
  • is your product at a beta stage or market-ready 
  • markets targeted
  • government or policy regulations and so on

Based on your needs, looking at brand building in a phased manner might be the best route. This is why we feel working with certain brands on projects allows both parties to work towards targeted short-term goals. This also allows either party to pause the engagement if in case the brand is looking to pivot, focus on product development or just want to wait till they reach certain milestones.

Therefore, when potential leads come our way, we drill down to the details and assess how we can truly add value. At times, we have convinced the client to go for a retainer instead of a project because their communications required consistent long-term engagement.

So, here is when you are better off going for a project than a retainer:

  1. Your product isn’t ready but you want to make some noise
  2. You are yet to enter India as a market and want to test the waters 
  3. You are on a fund crunch and looking for a one-off announcement
  4. You have very specific quarter goals such as building visibility for a spokesperson
  5. You are in stealth mode and have just one announcement to make

As for the nature of the project, again, it differs from brand to brand. A press release is not always going to work for you. Projects mean less time and often more effort. Therefore, exploring a customised and integrated route when working on projects is KEY! – Owned, Earned, Paid and Social. 

Start with what is within your control, yet critical like your website. The game changer here would be how you can best leverage your website. This can be in the form of having thought leadership blogs, customer impact showcase videos or a CEO’s office blog/mailer to break important news such as funding. This then needs to be amplified through paid and social media. 

The goal is to achieve optimum results within a short period, therefore looking at multiple touch points that focus on quality over quantity is the way to go.

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