How to conquer the vexing budget items that can derail a marketing project

Perhaps this sounds familiar: you finally get approval from your COO or the marketing head to move forward with a key project, like a rebrand or website overhaul, but you’re haunted by whether you’ve nailed down all the costs.

To help you avoid budget-busting surprises, we suggest that you consider the crucial areas below at the outset.

Rounds of design concepts or visuals.
Most agencies will include a set number of concepts and revisions in their proposal. But it’s important for you to ask yourself whether you need to increase the number of rounds of revisions to ensure project buy-in.

Can your key stakeholders envision different concepts without seeing specific changes to colors, fonts and layout? Do you have several department heads to please with differing opinions? Do the decision-makers cross different generations or geographies? If you answered yes to any of these questions, make sure your budget includes additional rounds.

We all know that research is key to creating the right message for the right audience. However, it can be tough to price external research without detailed knowledge of who you are targeting.

Consider these factors: Are your targets highly compensated individuals and incredibly busy? Then you will either need to tap into your firm’s contacts or to budget for serious incentives. The challenge is to find the right incentive to motivate someone to participate in your research. You will also need to build extra time into the process, as busy buyers will need more follow-up. It can often take 100 phone calls to secure even one interview. All of this can add to your bottom-line costs and schedule.

Kickoff or check-in meetings and presentations.
Kickoff meetings and in-person presentations are powerful tools to get your stakeholders on the same page. These meetings are also critical for educating everyone on trends in both buyer values and marketing tools.

So, again, think about what it will take to get naysayers on board and get company-wide project buy-in. Many senior executives will not question counsel provided by your external consultant as they would in-house marketing advice. So make sure to allocate enough funds to cover travel and extra time for your agency’s top leadership to meet with your management. These front-end meetings can make the difference in getting your project completed on time and with early buy-in.

You can have the most beautifully designed website or thought leadership series, but without compelling content, it will fall flat. Most organizations simply don’t have the resources to rewrite an entire website with existing staff. Make sure you’ve budgeted for the right quality of writers. Excellent writers are never going to be your least expensive option.

Image library.
In most cases, your agency will price out a limited number of images based upon your current website or what it thinks is needed for a new ad campaign. But take a moment and think about your organization. If you are a professional services firm, you will need to increase the budget to cover headshots of all the partners or brokers or consultants. If you are serious about a unique ad campaign, you need pricing for custom imagery that you can “own.” If your budget only includes royalty-free images, you are limiting your options for creating a unique brand.

Overall, think about how your organization currently uses images, and budget enough to use your new imagery everywhere. Even with custom photoshoots, you have to pay for usage rights.

Internal project rollout.
We are often stunned that firms spend $250K+ on a marketing initiative and then skimp on the internal rollout. Do you have enough budgeted for a thoughtful style guide? How are you going to educate your internal audiences? How will you collect feedback and concerns that will inevitably arise along with change? A well-thought-out rollout needs its own serious budget.

Partner with your agency.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the underbudgeted costs that we see in branding and advertising projects. The key to a realistic budget is having a frank talk with your agency about the dynamics of your organization. Get its help in planning a realistic budget for a compelling end product on time and on budget.

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