Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let's talk about the root of all evil

I say let's talk about money early on

Like many of us, I grew up being told it wasn't polite to talk about money. How much someone gets paid or laid out for a car, a house or a tie was none of my damn business, so don’t ask.

Maybe that's why many creative firms are reluctant to bring up the subject of money (as in b-u-d-g-e-t) early on in the conversation. That and maybe it takes away, somehow, the perception that we're all dedicated artists and gosh-I-just-do-this-for-the-love-of-it and money is secondary.

(We actually had a client say to us once in a meeting "I know you guys aren’t in it for the money . . . " At which point both of us leaped from our chairs to nip that particular line of thinking in the bud: "Actually, that's not true. We do it for the money.")

I think that often an agency doesn't want to talk about money because they are just so doggone focused on getting the job,they lose sight of the fact that it has to turn a profit.

As far as prospective clients go, a lot of them don’t want to talk about money because they would like it if you gave them a proposal that was well below what they have earmarked for a project or an agency fee thankyouverymuch.

It's amazing how often someone will answer the "what's your budget?" question with "I don't know" or "we don't really have one."  Really? You have no idea how much you are willing to spend for this? Of course, everybody in the room knows that they do have a budget or even a rough idea of how much they can spend or think is appropriate to spend. It's a silly, silly game to play. But it's been played or years. It just won't die, you know?

At the risk of sounding like I'm only in it for the money, budget is one of the very first things you need to get sorted out, whether you're an agency or a client. That's because the whole idea of finding the right creative firm to work with you and the right client with whom to work is determining whether this is going to be a good marriage.

And, in addition to chemistry, category experience and quality of the work, money is a pretty significant indicator of whether or not it's a good match.That's just reality.

So if you're a client, it's going to make things a whole lot easier for everybody and help you find the right agency more quickly if you 1) have an idea of your budget, 2) tell the agency what it is and 3) be aware that they will want to spend it all.  (And why not? That's what it's for, right?) The question is who will spend it all most wisely and get the most out of it for you.

And if you just absolutely, positively, have some block about being willing to divulge the amount of money you may or may not spend with those people across the table with whom you may enter into a relationship, do this:  Ask them what sort of budget range works best for them as far as a client is concerned. Just as a client really ought to have a budget figure in mind, a professional creative firm ought to have a figure in mind below which they can't really afford to do the work.  The key is for everybody to know that there is a financial fit in there somewhere.

Of course, if you're a creative firm, you have to find out early on whether or not the piece of business you are discussing is one you ought to be pursuing.

As awkward as it may be discussing money, once it's over and done with, everybody seems to feel better. You either know you're in a good place as far as what you want to spend and/or need to earn, or you're not.

And if you're not, everybody can stop wasting any more time on it and you can go out and get some lunch.

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