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Get the best from your budget

Useful tips to ensure you're getting bang for your buck (ROI or whatever you want to call it)...

For many, it’s that special time of year when final budget for the next 12 months is being negotiated. White Clarke Creative can’t help you to squeeze more out of the corporate pot (sadly), but we can certainly help you to maximise the value of your spend.

Agree the right billing model for you

Many sources will tell you that hourly billing is the most expensive way to go, and in some cases this is right – especially if hours are allowed to escalate or aren’t effectively managed. However, there’s no avoiding the fact that any agency’s costs are mostly based on paying for talent – which means that one way or another, time is the key factor. So, when you get that fixed price quotation guess what it’s based on? Yep – it’s basically an estimate of how much time is likely to be investing in your project. If a project takes less time than estimated, we will pass that saving on to you, but some agencies don’t, sticking to the original fixed price. Check the small print.

It’s best practice for your agency to keep you informed of how your project costs are tracking, and some (like us) will adopt a flexible approach to invoicing. For example, you might want pay as you go rather than in a full and final invoice, so that you can spread costs.

A monthly retainer can help you to manage cashflow and keep your outgoings on an even keel. Acting as an extension of your team adds huge value, as your agency will get to know you and your business better, briefings become more efficient and productive, and you’ll get more for your money as a result. If you’re interested in how this might work, we’d be happy to give you some examples.

You’ve invested in agency time – don’t let it soak away

You’ve invested in agency time – make sure it’s not being used up on unnecessary activities that aren’t going to bring you any return. Make sure you and your team are aligned to keep billing time under control and avoid delays to your project.

1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.

We’re happy to be your sounding board, facilitator or referee – after all, it’s part of our role to help you develop, refine and enhance your brief. However, if you and your team haven’t already agreed on the fundamentals you want to achieve, you risk your agency briefing meeting turning into a back-and-forth between stakeholders about objectives, priorities and resources, which is not a great use of what should be productive time together.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff too early.

You know it’s true – we all love to get involved in conversations about font, colours and images. But avoid the temptation to try and get the fine detail nailed down before main concepts are signed off. Be ready to accept examples and placeholders for what they are. Interrupting the process with a debate on whether Comic Sans is a good choice or not (only kidding, we all know it isn’t), in the early stages can lead to delays, more iterations and increased costs.

3. Consolidate input from all sources before you give feedback.

We’ve all seen those files called ‘FINAL FINAL FINAL v7’. Designers are all-too familiar with to actioning one set of amends, then another, and another, Oh and can you just deal with some tweaks from our boss? It’s life, and it happens. However, too many changes take too much time, leading to delays and potentially soaking up more of your budget than you intended. This is why it pays to identify early on who has final sign-off: your marketing team may all be happy, but if someone from the C-suite wants to see it before it goes out, then that person should be involved in the main feedback process, not just as the final step.

Go for value over price, every time

People often assume that because we work with some big-name brands that we are going to charge a fortune – actually, that’s not the case. When you’re comparing different agencies, look at how they work and respond to you. Are they returning your calls when they say they will? Are they keeping you informed and will they involve you in the creative process? The way you’re looked after is just as important as the creative output. Look for people who listen and ask questions, that you feel comfortable working with, who will accept challenges and rise to the occasion on your behalf, and that you can trust to deliver the results you are looking for.

Originally published in All Things Business, March 2020

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