Yes, I get it. We were all told in business class never to reveal what the actual budget is for a project or acquisition. You want to get the best price, and to get that the vendor has to make the first move. If you reveal the budget, they may take advantage of that information and inflate the price tag. This tactic makes sense when you are buying a car, negotiating a lease on office space, or even buying new computers for the office. However, when it comes to creative agencies, this approach may leave you diving for bargain basement prices with bargain basement results.
As an agency, we often struggle with this. So I’m about to reveal our hand to help you better prepare for the proposal process. You see, when we start talking to a client, we ask all sorts of questions. These questions are designed to understand better where our client is at in their business planning process. Have they adequately assessed the market, their audience needs, their product offering? Have they taken what is working for them in a physical space and matched that against what their target audience is searching for online, and what the competitive landscape looks like to determine if they can even compete? Do their internal technology systems help or hinder the sales and marketing process?
These questions help us, as a strategy and data-driven creative agency to determine what work may be necessary to move the needle and drive client success. We’ve identified the need, outlined the work, and gotten to the all-important question. What’s your budget?
More often than not, the answer from the other end of the phone or across the conference table is crickets. The crickets die down to a reveal a ubiquitous statement. “Well, why don’t you put together some numbers and we’ll see how that looks.” Ah, the all dreaded vague answer that leaves us completely guessing as to what your budget might be and how the package should look.
Small Budgets vs. Big Budgets
The work we do for clients is very much tailored to meet their specific business goals and objectives. We’ve worked for agencies that feel that it’s their objective to garner as much of the budget as possible – no matter what the impact on the bottom line might be. That’s just not us, and we hate that approach.
What we strive to do with each engagement is to build a long-lasting relationship as a genuine agency partner. Sure we’re highly creative individuals who always look out-of-the-box for new and innovative ways to tackle business challenges both big and small. However, we’re also incredibly strategic and data-driven and always looking at how we’re adding value to our client relationships and their bottom line, not bleeding them dry.
How an engagement rolls out has as much to do with the required work as the work that will have the biggest bang for the buck. When approaching the timeline for an engagement, we look at both short-term and long-term strategic initiatives to establish a plan.
The short-term initiatives we see as moves that provide immediate pay-off and quick returns to drive more longer-term goals (think paid media and user experience enhancements). Those longer-term initiatives are investment driven. They are tactical moves that will be completed today with the understanding that the returns will occur months or maybe a few years down the road (such as SEO, public relations, and customer loyalty).
This dynamic is where not having a budget off-the-bat gets tricky. You see, with or without a budget we’ll give you an honest assessment of everything that we see should to be accomplished. However, if we have a budget in mind, we can adequately prioritize initiatives and match them to a timeline that allows us to do our best work and deliver on tactics and work that will show a return when you need it.
Every day we create amazing results for small businesses that only have a couple of hundred dollars a month to part with, and we undertake ambitious and aggressive initiatives that are more than $10,000/month and driving large returns for some pretty big businesses.
The great thing about engaging with a creative agency is that you can get amazing results on practically any budget. It’s just about being smart with your spend and fully understanding where the short-term and long-term objectives are at and prioritizing what you need today to be successful.
Come Prepared, Get Exactly What You Want
If you come to the table prepared with all the right information, chances are you will get exactly what you want. As an agency, we’ll fully understand what you need to get out of the engagement to deem it a success. We’ll also understand what budget parameters you have in place to achieve those. Sure, we might come back and say that the list of objectives doesn’t align with the budget constraints, but this is where we get together and get creative.
With clearly defined scope and budget in place, both parties can have an active conversation around what each party can bring to the table to drive business success. You’ll be confident that you are getting high caliber work at a cost that you can comfortably afford. We’ll know we have the right priorities in mind as we approach our work to ensure your needs are met every step of the way without wasting resources in areas that aren’t important to you.
So don’t be afraid to lay the cards out on the table. When it comes to creative talent, the odds are you’ll get a better result at a price point you need to hit.