Managing an Effective Retainer Budget
In advertising, time is money. There is nothing worse than finding out that a client’s project is going to cost more than anticipated. We feel disappointed in ourselves, and worst of all, you might have a seriously unhappy client. Managing an efficient budget is one key way of building a trusting client relationship. So, how do we make sure that we keep our client's trust and budgets in the green?
1. Talk About It:
Talking about money can be an uncomfortable subject. American Author Emily Post said this in 1922, when she advised people on financial affairs, “Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him.” Well, sorry Emily, but we’re gonna have to say, WRONG! Get to chatting with your client and let them know what the projects that you plan to work on for them typically cost. Plan for what you can, and then set aside a small percentage for inevitable things that pop up. Try and set aside a good portion of time to talk about goals. This will set clear expectations for what is ahead.
2. Set Goals and Prioritize:
Now that you know what projects you want to work on, prioritize them. Sit down and discuss this month’s objectives with your client. This will help you and your client figure out which projects need to be taken care of right away and which ones can wait. Once you have that figured out go back and revisit the overall goals to be sure they align with the objectives you’ve just created.
3. Track It:
Spreadsheet. Spreadsheet. Spreadsheet. Excel is my very best friend. If you haven't worked in Excel much, you'll pick it up quickly working at an advertising agency. Texas Creative tracks all of our clients’ budgets using Excel, down to the cent. This is how we make sure that we are as efficient as possible with our clients’ dollars. By setting up a spreadsheet, you are able to organize different “buckets” to allocate money into, and will also be able to see the full picture with a quick glance. These spreadsheets are also handy when it comes to billing. As a backup, our Account Managers here at Texas Creative sit down once a week to review budgets and track where we are for the month. This helps ensure that our invoices are correct and we are not sending crazy dollar amounts to our clients.
4. Be Proactive:
After a while you will get into a good groove with your client and be able to get a better idea of how, and how much they typically spend in a month. At the end of the month, make sure that you are looking at each project and find out how the hours were spent. From there, make adjustments to be more efficient. Talk with your client and let them know things that they can do to save a bit in certain areas. Budgets are not always perfect but can always be improved by making necessary adjustments each month.
5. Stay Positive and Keep Learning:
There will always be months that your budget comes in over. It’s inevitable for one reason or another. The key is to stay positive and be flexible. So if something isn’t working one month, try something else the next month. Some other ways to improve are to look into outside resources. Reading about finance, listening to financial podcasts and even working to manage your own budgets more frequently will help you build your knowledge and keep your mind fresh with ideas of how you can improve your clients’ budgets.
Overall, keeping retainers on track for your clients is really about staying on top of things and making sure that you are planning ahead. Whether you’re managing a small budget or a large one, be sure you are stretching each dollar. What tools/tips do you use to help manage your budgets efficiently? Let us know in the comments below.