Is Your Agency's Pricing Model Fit For Purpose?.


For a long time, agencies have worked on a fixed price or have been engaged on an ad-hoc project-by-project basis. Brands are however changing the way they like to work with agencies, so agencies need to respond to that. At Sagittarius, for example, we increasingly see brands wanting to work in a more collaborative way, where the agency is supplementing and upskilling in-house talent to create the best team possible in a cost-efficient way.

We’ve also had to look at how we can combine UK-based services with off-shore services to create a more competitive edge. We also see this in many of the RFPs that we receive and now often find ourselves ‘pitching’ our services and pricing model in a variety of different formats.

Matching the right model to the right client can be a crucial factor in the development of ongoing relations between the agency and client, so it’s best for both parties to put some serious thought into the pricing model to be used. Here are three formats to consider:

Time & Materials Pricing Model

If you opt for a T&M based project you naturally have full transparency on how your budget is being spent. There is no guessing as to how many hours a task cost: it’s all right there in the invoice!

A major misconception, however, is that a time and materials based project is like having a blank cheque for the agency. At Sagittarius, for example, our initial estimate is our project budget. We develop in one-or two-week iterations, and at the end of each iteration, the project is in a working, testable state. We repeat this process until the project is ready for final testing and release.

This allows us to have meaningful conversations with our clients around features, budget and time. We have the flexibility to adjust features as priorities shift or as allowed by the budget. We have the flexibility to make adjustments that are the best for the project and stay within budget.

Firm fixed price projects work best when the deliverables are well-known and understood up front, when there is little need for flexibility and changes to the deliverable. Invariably when building complex websites there is often a perception this is the case by the prospective customer but the reverse is often true. We believe in a flexible process, which allows for change. We believe in a fully transparent process. We believe that with the rights checks and balances, a time and materials based pricing model allows for this.

Target Price Model

The target-price model can be used to assist clients when the available budget is the main constraint or when it is genuinely difficult to define the scope of the work in the specification of requirements. Some avoid T&M based costings as they are worried the project will continue on without any real pressure to bring the project to a closure all the while funds are available. In order to avoid exceeding the available budget, one simple solution is to make the agency aware of the available budget (the ‘target price’) and then let the agency use this as the guide for defining the scope of the services, spelling out exactly what can or cannot be delivered for that price. The focus then is usually on the quality, quantity and outcomes of the services to be provided rather than price.

Managed Resource Team Retainer Model

A managed resource team retainer model enables the client to buy into a a team of people or as we call it, a ‘Pod’ whose starting structure typically includes a minimum of four key roles: e.g. account manager; project manager; client-side developer; and server-side developer. This team can then be adjusted or augmented by additional members if the client size warrants it or there is a need for additional capacity at certain times.

This pricing model is typically suited to clients with a minimum six month programme of work or ongoing BAU/Sitecore development whereby a dedicated team would be invaluable to achieving their digital aspirations and transformational goals. As this is great for longer term engagements and provides a mutually beneficial guarantee of a 'programme of work' for both the agency and also for the customer, it allows the agency to be competitive in it’s costings. For example, in the case of Sagittarius, foreknowledge of an ongoing programme of work allows us to offer a blended rate between our UK, Ukranian and Sri Lankan Sitecore certified staff.

With agency relationships increasingly in the spotlight, and in many cases, under review, finding the right pricing model (balancing the client’s needs and expectations alongside the agency’s resources and specialisms) has never been more important.

If you would like to take a fresh approach to working with an agency we would love to hear from you!

This blog was originally posted via The Drum Network on 9th July 2018.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.


Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

Paul Stephen
Paul Stephen
Co-Founder & Joint CEO
With over 25 years in marketing, Paul is one of the UK's leading experts on digital marketing. He oversees the agency and often lectures and consults within the industry on digital and marketing related subjects and has a particular interest and skills in the travel and tourism sectors.

Paul operates nationally and internationally, helping brands to think outside the traditional horizontal and vertical channels and transform their business with creative multi-channel marketing and digital re-invention.
Paul Stephen

Paul Stephen

12 Jul 2018 - 5 minute read
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