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The Two Ways to Work With a Marketing Agency

Have you ever sat down at a restaurant and been given a choice between ordering from the menu or choosing the buffet? Sure, you’ll be fed either way—but what was the value of your dinner? Did you enjoy the options you had? What about the price?

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Similarly, there are two ways to work with Mighty Citizen.

The first way, known as a “fixed-bid project,” is how we operated for the first 17-ish years of our existence as an agency. In a fixed-bid project, our client says to us, “We’d like Mighty Citizen to do X and Y.” To which we reply, “Great, we will. That will cost Z.” The full scope of the project, including a budget, is established at the outset. If the scope changes somewhere along the way to making X and Y, then we stop, re-estimate, and carry on.

But there’s a second way we work with clients that’s gaining popularity.

Several years ago, our agency grew quickly and we added a buffet of new service offerings. With an acquisition, we went from being a website design agency to a full-service marketing agency—including offering marketing strategy, digital and social media advertising, content governance, copywriting, etc. With this change came a host of new clients who said, “We know we need help and we want to work with you, Mighty Citizen, but we’re not quite sure what all we might need or how to prioritize those needs right now.”

So we developed the Mighty Citizen Partner Program.

In essence, it’s like a retainer. As a member of the Partner Program, a client says, “We want you to help us tackle all sorts of challenges—big and small. But our priorities and needs are fluid and ever-changing” To which we reply, “Awesome. In that case, here’s a flexible block of hours for each month. Together, we’ll figure out how to spend them, and next month, a new set of hours appears. And so on.”

Partner Program Wheel - Step one is strategize, two is select, three is execute, four is report, and five is repeat
So the question becomes: If you know you need to hire a marketing agency, which is the best way to work with them—in a fixed-bid or a retainer-style arrangement?

As is the answer for many questions we pose around here: It depends.

The One Big Question to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Marketing Agency

Do we know precisely what we want the agency to do?

If you do, a fixed-bid project is probably your best bet. For example, if you know you want a new website, you’ll (almost certainly) save time and money with the fixed-bid approach because there will never be any surprises. You pay to get the end result you ask for, not for the hours spent making it. Overages in our time become our problem, not yours.

But if, instead, you have either (a) a long list of things you’d like us to help with, or (b) no list at all, but rather some challenges you want to address, then the Partner Program is ideal. This is because, with a long list, estimating cost at the outset is tricky and necessarily involves a bunch of unknowns, which could end up costing you more than you need to spend.

The Partner Program is made for organizations who want an established, long-term partnership—an agency of record they can turn to for everything from deep thought, imagination, and strategic insights to more nuts-and-bolts deliverables, like campaign materials, SEO support, and copywriting.

If you’re interested in digging into the details of these two approaches to marketing, design, and branding work, please drop us a line and we’d be happy to discuss further.

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