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If you’re looking to grow your business you may consider hiring an agency. Whether you need a new website, want to rank higher in Google or need content to guide your users through the sales funnel, you’ll be faced with the question: Do I hire a project-based agency or an agency on retainer?

It’s easy to settle for a quick fix for your marketing efforts. Need a new website? Hire someone to create it. Need higher SEO rankings? Hire an agency to build links and directory entries. Need to revamp your branding? Hire a graphic design studio.

But every time you hire a new agency, you’re playing the guessing game of whether or not they’ll understand your business’s culture needs. There’s a lot of information to cover in a few short meetings.

Project-Based Agency: An agency you hire for one specific project, covering a fairly short period of time.

Agency On Retainer: An agency you pay monthly to continuously work on your marketing strategy. Contracts are typically six months or longer.

As an agency owner that’s handled both project-based and client retainers, I’ve coined the term “abandonment marketing.” Abandonment marketing is when an agency only solves one of your marketing problems and doesn’t look at your overall marketing strategy, then leaves you hanging in the wind.

If you’re looking for a growth strategy that considers your business as a whole and its improvement over time, you may want to consider going on retainer for an agency. Your marketing strategy should continuously push your business to reach its full potential.

Here are five reasons project-based marketing will never help your company reach its full potential.

1. The agency doesn’t understand your branding and marketing needs.

Agencies on retainer will work with you for years. There’s no need to brief them every time you update your marketing strategy or start a new project. They understand your buyer personas, industry, competitors, problems you’ve had in the past, your brand’s voice and more. Every time you hire a new agency for a project, you have to play catchup and hope you don’t forget anything, which often results in them missing the mark.

2. The agency doesn’t meet the needs of your company as a whole.

Sometimes what you think you need isn’t what you really need. If you’re working with an agency on retainer, they become your marketing strategist and consultant. They advise you on making smart marketing decisions that help your business where it needs it most.

For example, you may be ready to start video marketing. But if you don’t have a social media presence, you may need to focus on that first. An agency you hire for a video project won’t tell you that, though. They often won’t review any parts of your business except for your videos.

3. The agency doesn’t make continuous improvements to your marketing strategy or keep up with industry trends.

This is probably the biggest problem with project-based agencies. You only get them for a few months maximum. And although your website may be up-to-date now, what about in a few years? You have to hire an agency again to make changes, which can get pretty expensive.

If you have an agency on retainer, they’ll continuously analyze marketing trends and make tailored improvements to your strategy. This not only saves you money but ensures your company remains relevant (not just when you have the time and money to start a new project).

4. The agency doesn’t create a healthy marketing lifestyle, just a quick fix.

Want your marketing efforts to produce long-term results? A project runs the risk of a short-term fix with the potential to require more work in the long run.

Think of it like dieting. You see all the advertisements boasting that this new pill will help you lose 20 pounds. That may be true, but you haven’t solved the root of the problem. UCLA found that dieters will lose 5% to 10% of their starting weight and one- to two-thirds of people will gain it right back, plus some. Nutritionists recommend skipping quick fixes and working on creating a healthy lifestyle instead.

If you want lasting marketing results, you need a healthy marketing lifestyle, not a quick fix.

5. The agency’s strategy doesn’t allow for experimentation and optimization.

Every business is unique and has different needs. If you’re working with a project agency and aren’t getting the results you want, they have no obligation to stick around and help you improve your strategy.

Agencies on retainer will continuously optimize your marketing strategies with A/B testing and experimentation. What works for other businesses may not work for yours. So, it’s important to monitor your ROI and create a marketing strategy that perfectly fits your business’s needs.

Agencies should be prepared to partner with you for life — not a quick fix, but a long-term growth strategist.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
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