I'll Show You Mine, if You Show Me Yours

Marketers Shouldn't Hide Their Budgets

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The game's kinda cute when you're a kid. But when you're trying to determine a client prospect's budget, it's downright frustrating. I'm seeing a trend of more and more client prospects dangling their business in front of agencies (mine included) and asking for our thoughts in a pitch situation. Naturally, one of the first questions a small agency asks is, "What's your budget?" Clients hate that question. They feel we'll (agencies in general) spend whatever they put on the table. But agencies -- especially small ones -- have to have that information in order to make sure this pursuit is not a waste of time. There's no shortage of tire-kickers out there.

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
So, the game of poker begins. Or better yet, "20 Questions." Is your budget bigger than a breadbox ... ? The real waste of time starts here. I wish more clients would do their homework when developing their list of agencies to invite to the dance, so that they could trust them with financial information once they do. After all, clients hire us for our strategic and creative thinking, not to play guess the moving number.

Which lead me to think, how would I handle the budget question if I were a client? And why?
  1. First thing I would do is my homework. Find three agencies with impeccable reputations.
  2. Now that I have gathered a circle of trusted shops, I would go open book with them. Tell the shops what the problem is that my company needs to solve. And be 100% transparent about the dough I have to get the job done.
  3. If an agency pushes back on the budget, I'd listen to the rationale.
  4. If an agency spends up to the budget limit I'd given, with good strategic rationale, I'd be encouraged.
  5. If an agency didn't, that would be a tell-tale sign.

Point is, let the review process guide you. Not some distrustful game of hide-the-money. It's counter-productive for both agency and client.
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