Be a better client - Unexpected madness and the grey areas it creates Expectations

Deborah Hanamura

25 September 2013

Lucy and Ethel. Bill and Ted. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Client and Agency. There are certain partnerships that run so deep that they take on iconic status.

The close collaboration between a client and their agency is at the epicenter of every project’s success. That collaboration usually starts with a shared understanding of the project’s goals, and then the intense, relentless, and shared pursuit of that goal.

Experience and common sense have taught us that every project plan, no matter how detailed, has the potential to be thrown off course by an unexpected event, need, or business demand.

And that’s okay.

We are in the marketing agency business because we love what we do, and that includes the last minute scramble to get a banner out the door, or to take advantage of a timely marketing opportunity. If it improves the campaign’s results and increases your ROI, then we are all for it.

Sometimes there is a chance to put together an estimate, update appropriate paperwork, and get client approvals on additional expenses. Sometimes there’s not. So what’s the best way to handle an urgent request that comes in with no time to spare? Here are the best options:

  1. The client lets the agency know exactly how much can be spent to get this new deliverable out the door according to this new deadline.  If there is no additional budget available, then we can talk about other items in the scope that can be eliminated for the sake of this important opportunity.
  2. The agency can deliver the additional work at no extra cost.  The only thing that we ask is that you understand that it’s out of scope and don’t treat fire drills as the norm (not that you ever would!). Obviously this option is at the discretion of the agency and depends on how big and gnarly the added scope is.
  3. You can agree to an hourly rate and complete the additional work at time and materials. Even in this scenario, it’s good to have some general discussions about “not to exceed” or budget ranges.

The most important thing is to have an open and honest (and probably quick) conversation about how to handle additional billings for the last minute add on. That’s the best way to avoid any grey area that pops up when it’s time to be invoiced.

By the way: Speak up early and often
Let your account manager know the minute you have a new or possibly unmet need. Speaking up early ensures there’s time to get things on track,  assess expectations, or re-assign resources. The earlier we can anticipate a change in scope, the easier it is to find a lower cost solution for you. We’d rather use your budget producing killer marketing than bringing in after-hours team members and paying rush fees. 

There’s a strong mutual desire to ensure your project or campaign is brilliantly executed, so teamwork between you and your agency, plus honest, timely feedback will help ensure the ship sails straight.

How do you ensure your expectations are being met by your agency?

Agency folk – how do you manage expectations and boundaries with clients?