So the Client Didn’t Fire You. Start Planning Better.

Yesterday I wrote about an agency that showed a client awesome, and gave them an estimate with a caveat of ‘budget uncertainties’. What’s disturbing to me is that the author of the article works for a major digital firm that shouldn’t make this kind of mistake.

I'll say this nicely – if your budget uncertainties are enough to derail the project significantly, should they turn into realities – where a plus or minus (aka contingency) is not factored in and agreed to by both parties – then you should not proceed on the project.

You don’t have enough information to move forward. You have a fabulous idea with wonderful creative and some numbers. That’s it.

Budget uncertainties will kill your project in one way or another. It can also kill your agency if this is generally accepted practice.

So, do your discovery and research for creative and execution.

Now I’ll piss some people off…I see this more in the digital / mobile area than any other area of advertising. I have reasons to believe this. Inexperience. Fear of clients, colleagues or vendors. Lack of knowledge.

I have witnessed it first-hand. Digital is in huge demand. Therefore, the bar can be set pretty low. Lots of inexperience. So, a person can work in a digital agency, gain some experience, and move their way up the food chain where the demands, budgets and risks are much higher. Someone who knows the lingo may be clueless to risk as it applies to scope, budgets and timelines.

Those who are client-facing, usually Account or Producers / Project Managers, may not have the depth of experience in scoping, estimating, project management, sourcing, negotiating, arguing, writing a purchase order with restrictions, managing internal deliverables, risk and mitigation planning, and managing client expectations (as well as those of your colleagues). But saying yes is so...easy.

What I am witnessing in the digital and mobile areas is that the demand is high, the staff is young and inexperienced, and everyone is highly driven. I’m not saying you are stupid. You are just making rookie mistakes. Everyone must understand that they are part of running a business - first. 

And by the way rookies, I have also personally witnessed veterans who give it away every day because they think they can circumvent the potholes that will kill their project.

Then there's the ever-changing landscape of apps, platforms and whatever else anyone can dream up – that you have to keep on top of – all the time.

Give everyone an education. Pull everyone into a room to flesh-out the scope, budget and timeline. And make that a mandatory meeting. I guarantee that an hour (or two), in that one meeting, will save hundreds of hours (and dollars) down the line.

What happens in that meeting? Talk about possibilities; flesh out the good ones (that are achievable); everyone must poke holes in the scenarios and execution – and explain why (that is the education part); shout out every issue that can and will affect cost/timeline, and be realistic. Take into consideration what everyone has on their plate during the life of the project – you should be able to see everyone’s schedule (just sayin’).  

Speak up! Here’s your chance to clue everyone in on the pain you endure every day to fix the things they committed you to…without asking first.

And before you fall in love with something, find out if it can be doneCost, schedule, requirements. Bring that back to the group and make sure it fits – before presenting to the client.

I absolutely love great creative and an awesome experience. I hate parsing out the good stuff because someone didn’t do their homework.

Tomorrow, collaboration. The old-fashioned way.