Tag Archives: trust

Merlin Mann on Budgets

I’ve written before on budgets. So has Mike Monteiro over at Mule. Today, Merlin Mann posted a big piece about the business of being a professional speaker. You should read it. Merlin’s a fun writer with a direct approach. The key quote is this one –

In the best of cases, “we don’t know the budget” people have simply not done their own planning or due diligence, and they should be regarded with extraordinary care and suspicion. Projects have budgets or they aren’t projects.

That last sentence is key.

Budgets, briefs, and trust.

Recently we had a meeting with one of our favourite clients about a large and exciting new project that they’d like us to work on together. It has dozens of constituent components to be delivered over three months, and we’re very excited to work on it. The client is excited about having us work on it. We’re all giddy. And then I ask the fateful question.

“So, what’s the planned budget for this project?”

And all of a sudden the conversation is coated in sandpaper. There’s friction on every word. The client doesn’t want to give us their budget, because they’d like us to cost every component. We, on the other hand, don’t want to cost every component without an understanding of exactly where this project needs to be pitched. There’s something of a stalemate.

It needn’t happen like this.

While the client’s desire to have the agency quote the project without knowledge of the budget seems to makes sense on the face of things, it’s ultimately counterproductive and a poor use of time. When a client trusts us with the knowledge of the size of their budget, we can advise them of the best ways to invest it, and how to get the best value for money. When they simply ask us to quote, and then tell us afterwards that it’s out of their budget, we have to go back to the drawing board on fees again and again and again. It doesn’t make the client or the agency happy to pitch a $100 solution to a problem with a $25 budget.

We love our clients, and we want to do great work for them. The best work comes when there’s a strong relationship based around trust and respect for one another’s role in a project. Transparency around budget is a sign of this trust. We repay that trust by tailoring our responses appropriately to the client’s budget, and deliver the best work possible in the time the budget makes available.

NB: As an aside, it’s worth remembering that sometimes the most creative results come as a response to tight budgets. But to think about these solutions, the agency needs to know what it has to work with.