Before you read this post, you need to view the YouTube video The Vendor Client Relationship In Real World Situations. I laughed my tail off when I watched it because the execution amplifies the delusional approaches some companies attempt when it comes to paying for work/services from agencies. I can’t imagine there is anyone who has worked at a creative agency that has not had a company try to use any of the following arguments for not paying and/or reducing fees:
We don’t have it in our budget: Oh really…then what the eff are you doing standing in front of me and asking me to to do work for you? Last time I checked we didn’t have a sign outside our office that said “Free Marketing Services.”
We want everything but can only pay for a portion: Didn’t your mother teach you that you can’t always get what you want…and if she didn’t, The Rolling Stones should have. Here’s an idea, use your brain and put together a plan within your budget. I’m pretty sure that’s what you were hired to do…or did the employment ad say “Looking for someone to take our marketing budget and build a marketing plan that costs four times that amount.” I’m gonna let you in on a secret — agencies were not put on this earth to make up for client budget shortfalls.
I can get it cheaper from <insert name>: You get what you pay for homey. This week I actually had someone tell us she could get a logo done by her friend who is an “artist” for less money. Good luck on that one sista’. If you want to have someone who is good at pottery design the iconic image for your brand then you go for it!
I can pay more next time: Ummm…no you can’t and you won’t. There is not a company on the planet that will go from having a laughable marketing budget to a well funded one. Why? Because some schmo — usually the CFO that allocated the budget — thinks spending on marketing is wasteful and that’s why you were given an inadequate budget to begin with. That person’s perception will never evolve. Remember these people wouldn’t know a kick-ass marketing campaign if it kicked them in the ass.
Let’s use this project as a test: In other words, “if you do well with this project that we are paying jack shit for, we will give you more work and pay fairly for it.” Honestly, do they expect that person from the agency to jump up and down while clicking their heals and clapping their hands to squeal, “That sounds great! I love tests! When can we get started!”
This is an opportunity: No, it’s not. Spending a month in Darfur is an opportunity. This is a screw job. It won’t be long before you question why you bent over to pick up the soap.
I ordered three but only used one: This one always makes me wonder how much crack is actually smoked on the job. The agency is retained to do three separate projects which they complete. Something happens inside the company — usually a budget reduction — that only allows them to execute one. As a result, they now don’t want to pay the agency for the other two that they now won’t be able to use. And really…why should they…I’m pretty sure agencies exist for the sole purpose of absorbing every budget reduction that hits a company. Pass the crack pipe dude.
Show us how to do it so we can do it in-house next time: No problem. I’m happy to take my intellectual property that was developed over many years and give it to you so you don’t hire us again. <visualize two thumbs up with a big grinning face>
Wikipedia defines slavery as a form of forced labor in which people are considered to be, or treated as, the property of others. I’m sure every employee working at an agency reading this post just shit a Twinkie at how accurately that definition describes their world when it comes to some clients.
What’s an agency to do? It’s quite simple:
Make sure your pricing is fair: Always fair. Don’t raise it if you think the client can pay more. I believe you get what you give. By giving fair pricing you will receive it from the vendors you deal with.
Walk away from every situation described above: Seriously. Without exception. Don’t compromise your integrity or the value you deliver. Yes, it’s a tough economy but acquiescing to any of the above scenarios is unhealthy because you are being used and because you then become an enabler to this dysfunctional behavior.
If they are rude or bullying, laugh in their face: Sometimes the person at the company seeking your services is just the messenger in the above scenarios. Often times they are being told to say those things by someone else. In those cases it’s important to be empathetic and respectfully explain why the situation will not work for your agency. How-effing-ever, if the person communicating the message is rude and/or tries to bully you, laugh in their face at their suggestion. Trust me when I tell you that you will probably be the first to have done it. I hate bullies. The thought of someone using intimidation to take advantage of someone sends me through the ceiling. If you can’t do it, tell them you heard Kel Kelly may be able to help them and send them my way. Haha!
Disclaimer: The good news is that the peeps who try pimping the above scenarios are the exceptions. The vast majority of marketing people seeking agency services are honest and hardworking. Quite frankly, having the opportunity to help these people is one of the many reason I and others like me do what we do.