17 Oct

Your agency wants to know your budget? Tell them.

You’re about to hire a public relations and marketing agency. Maybe you need a full-blown strategic campaign that encompasses everything from media relations to brand work to research to web content. Maybe your team is just stretched to the limits and you need a partner to take the ball and run on some smaller-but-pressing writing projects.

One of the first questions you’ll hear from a prospective agency is “Do you have a budget in mind?”

When you’re asked that question, what’s your first inclination? Do you tell them your budget, but lower it by ten percent, thinking the agency will just run up charges later? Do you tell them you just want them to give you an estimate based on the services you need? Or do you tell them exactly what you have to spend?

Here are some reasons to be truthful when you’re asked what your budget is.


1. It’s like House Hunters. You know those episodes where the prospective buyers are shown a home that meets their every desire, only to be told it’s $40,000 over their budget? The buyers are frustrated and incensed. Heck, as a viewer you’re annoyed too. You may experience the same feeling if you tell an agency you want research into your most recent marketing efforts, a regional media pitch and two grand opening events, but you don’t tell them how much you have to spend. They’ll quote you what it will cost for them to do it, and it may be way over your budget.


But, if you tell them what you want and what your budget is, they can make recommendations on what you can do and still stay on budget. For example, they could compile a report based on your existing marketing data instead of conducting new research, or they could recommend less expensive quantitative research instead of qualitative.


That way, you’re not being shown a five-bedroom home when what you can actually afford is a four bedroom.


2. Your time is valuable. When you’re forthcoming with your budget, you’ll get a more accurate estimate. That means you spend less time asking for this item to be taken out or that item to be put back in; less time reviewing an estimate that is irrelevant to what you can actually afford, and less time being frustrated as you try to get to the right estimate.


3. The agency’s time is valuable. As an agency works to carefully compile an estimate, it can take hours to inform the figures around how much time it will take to do X, what seniority or level of employee should work on Y, how many meetings need to be budgeted for in order to execute the project, how many rounds of revisions might be anticipated. Telling an agency up front what your budget is helps to keep them from spinning their wheels too.


4. It’s the start of a partnership built on trust. Before you hire an agency, do your due diligence. Check out their website, their employees’ LinkedIn profiles, see if they’ve achieved any certifications or awards, ask for references. Once you’ve done that, enter into a relationship knowing they aren’t out to fleece you. In fact, an agency worth its salt is looking for long-term relationships with their own clients, and understands that word-of-mouth referrals can make or break them.


Next time you’re hiring an agency, feel comfortable knowing that when you give them your budget you’ll actually get more of what you’re looking for.