Group of Business People in the OfficeThe economy has recovered a bit, but it’s still a very competitive environment for marketing agencies, with thin margins … and thinner client loyalties. An increasing number of agencies are turning to marketing automation to gain a strategic advantage in both areas.

There are many different ways marketing agencies can package and price marketing automation services to increase client loyalty and improve overall profitability. Here are three types of marketing automation engagements for agencies that can help you define how you can add marketing automation to your technology + process + creativity = profit equation.

1. Provide Design and Development Services

Several key traditional agency services can fit neatly under the marketing automation umbrella, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Emails and landing page design
  • Social media management and creative
  • Database and systems integration support

You gain several advantages when you move these types of engagements to a marketing automation platform. For one thing, creating certain types of assets (e.g. landing pages and emails messages) gets easier. Next, marketing automation makes it easy to optimize the performance of email campaigns and landing pages by trying out creative variations through A/B testing.

In addition, much of the creative work you do will be able to be tied to ROI, which means you’ll be better able to prove the value of your work to your customers. You can use the marketing automation database for sophisticated list segmentation, supporting targeted email campaigns and nurture programs; and you can integrate it with a CRM system.

A design and development services engagement could be long-term or short-term. In either case, it should provide some opportunities for growth. You can upsell high-use customers to your marketing automation environment and ensure their loyalty by delivering measurable, repeatable results. You can add on ongoing services like deployment, A/B testing, list management, automated programs, and trigger emails as well, making your agency a de facto team member and very, very sticky.

2. Become a Special Forces Team

Group of students in business trainingThese limited engagements (often program kick-offs) are usually instigated to accomplish a specific task or solve a business problem for your clients who use their own marketing automation:

  • Set up the marketing automation platform and oversee the systems integration
  • Plan and build automated programs, including all the moving pieces, and content
  • Build and execute lead-scoring programs
  • Create editorial calendars, map content, schedule production, and upload assets

By serving as a “special forces” team for your clients, you can develop in-depth knowledge of your client’s systems and objectives, which can often lead to new opportunities to expand your relationship. You also have the opportunity to interact with multiple teams across the company, and those new contacts might mean you could end up working with a whole new division of the organization.

Suggest a quarterly check-in to identify opportunities to optimize your client’s programs. (Learn more about how regular check-in meetings can improve agency/client relationships.) You can use the insights you gain from performance reports to demonstrate the ROI of your limited engagement. As you move through the project, you can identify additional business areas that need attention and perhaps get the opportunity to lend your expertise to these areas as well. You can also shift from a one-time project to an ongoing retainer so you can manage and maintain the program for the long-term. Which leads to the third type of engagement…

3. Move to a Monthly Retainer

Happy Business People In MeetingOn a retainer, you’re basically extending your client’s marketing department and providing monthly marketing support at an agreed-on price. This commonly includes:

  • Ongoing landing page and email design
  • Social channel management
  • Lead nurturing and scoring program management
  • Content mapping, production, and uploading assets
  • Blogging and additional content development

The number one hurdle for getting clients to adopt marketing automation is that they lack the time and resources to implement and set up the platform. And that’s where you, as the agency expert, can come in – your clients can depend on you to get it done – and then keep it going.

Retainer packages can be structured in several different ways:

  • Capped by hours within each area
  • Limited to a number of deliverables with capped revision rounds
  • Pay-per-lead or pay-per-acquisition

No matter which approach you choose when it comes to structuring your retainer package, the benefits for both you and your client are abundant. Your agency has the opportunity to become a valuable part of the client marketing team as you work together on a regular basis. You have a stable, predictable source of revenue, which makes it easier to plan for the future and invest in new resources. It means you can spend less time developing pitches (that generate a lot of work for sometimes no payoff) and you can spend more time actually brainstorming and executing creative campaigns.

To grow this type of engagement, you can increase the retainer by adding channels to the package. If you’re doing email campaigns, you can pitch social media, for example. And once again, you can demonstrate your value in one area in order to validate your expansion into another, thanks to the insights you gain from marketing automation.

Proving value and ROI

No matter what type of engagement you manage for your customers, just about everything you do can be tied to ROI when you’re using marketing automation. It’s easy to demonstrate results using customized reporting; your clients will see very clearly how their investments are paying off. That’s why it’s important to develop a reporting plan as part of every client engagement.

By creating a report card with clearly outlined objectives, your agency staff will also be able to develop a clear, metrics-driven roadmap to achieving them. Plus, you can make sure that your goals and your clients’ goals are the same, which is an important part of every business engagement.

Want more tips for selling your marketing services in innovative ways? Check out this agency toolkit to get an in-depth guide to structuring your services offerings. It includes tips for packaging and pricing that can help your agency acquire more customers, retain more clients, and make every relationship more profitable. Plus, there are innovative ideas for pricing and an Excel-based calculator you can use to create a baseline for building a retainer package.