If you are looking for assistance maintaining your online presence, you have probably noticed it can be very challenging to compare pricing and plans from one company to another. Some plans are measured by goals, others hours, or still others are determined by services provided. How much you will pay and when can be even more confusing.
We’ve observed others in our industry and tested out a few different methods for plans and pricing on our own. There are three scenarios that are the most common, but for our clients, one of them is clearly the best choice.
Flat rate billing -
With Flat Rate billing, clients pay a fixed amount each month in exchange for specific services agreed on regardless of how much time was actually spent.
For example: $200/month for social media management
The primary benefit of this method is that as a customer, you know exactly what you will be spending each month.
In order for a company to be efficient and cost-effective, they will have to be laser specific when it comes to what services they are offering. As a result, customers can feel as if their plan does not cover far more than it does cover. In addition, customers will rarely know exactly how much time is being spent on their account each month.
Hourly billing -
With hourly billing, our clients know exactly what they are paying for and how long it took.
For example: 2 hours spent writing blogs, billed at $125/hour for a total of $250 owed
The benefit of hourly billing is transparency. Customers who to ask, what they are paying for, how long it took, and who to hold accountable. Instead of trying to read through the fine print of their contract to determine if something is covered, they are free to make requests.
Transparency often comes at a high price. A service provider that can’t count on the consistent income of a monthly plan will usually charge more to offset the irregularities in revenue. Additionally, work is likely to be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis. You’ll have to wait in line or potentially incur an additional fee if your request is urgent.
The relationship between the customer and the provider also changes with hourly billing. Instead of an ongoing partnership, there is a string of disconnected requests. Questions and even problems often are put off to avoid incurring charges.
Retainer billing -
With retainer billing, clients pay an agreed on amount for a number of hours during which any number of services can be provided.
For example: 60 hours of creative time billed at $950 per month for 6 months
This has by far been the most effective payment schedule for us and our clients. We are able to operate as an extension of our client’s business instead of an outside consultant they only hear from once in a while. Our clients are aware of how our time is being spent and are free to reallocate that time if they so choose.
Unlike flat rate billing, retainer billing does not limit our time to a narrow set of services. Our clients are welcome to reach out with questions or requests without wading through fine print or bracing for a big bill. Unlike hourly billing, our clients can budget for a set amount each month. If it looks like a client will exceed the allotted hours, we let them know so that they can decide whether to change their priorities or increase the number of hours.
For us, the question of what kind of plans to offer comes down to this: are we offering a product or are we offering a service?
Are we selling customers a pre-packed, generic item off the menu? Or are we offering our time, expertise, and creativity to help them market their business in a way that is unique to goals? While there is great value in the products we offer, we believe that our service is worth much more. There are any number of consultants you can reach out to if you just need to get something done. We are more than that. We are bought in, committed, enthusiastic brand ambassadors, partnering with each of our clients to help them reach their audience and grow their business.
So when you are trying to decide who to enlist to help your company, ask yourself: do you need a product or do you need a service?