In the current advertising and marketing environment, ad agencies are increasingly being steered away from retainer-based client relationships, and toward procurement-managed project work. This not only requires agencies to alter how they work with clients, but to change how they regard projects.
Evaluate Project Potential
When your business model relies on doing one-off projects rather than working over the long-term with clients, you should evaluate each project for its value to the agency—the same way you would evaluate a new business lead.
Is the opportunity a good fit for the agency?
When a project arrives on your doorstep (via the new business developer, a referral or “over the transom”), call a short meeting of your new business committee and ask some qualifying questions:
Is the project worth our time? Consider project size, profit potential, future relationships, prestige, etc.
Do we know/understand the client’s industry and market?
Do we have the right people and capabilities?
Can we meet the timing and budget?
Is the client going to pay their bills in a timely way?
Is the client financially stable?
Will we be working with decision-makers, or will we be working with lower-tier managers lacking authority to make final decisions?
Does the client want our best work, or is marketing a necessary evil to them?
Do we need the work enough to ignore any negatives?
Determine the answers to the best of your ability, and decide if the project is worth taking on.
If you decide the project is not a good fit, call the contact and politely decline, with a thank you for their consideration. Make sure you keep the door open for future projects. If the client seems a good prospect for future new business development, add them to your new business A or B list to be included in email and content marketing efforts, and your regular business development cycle.
If you decide to accept the project, prepare an estimate. Call the contact and request any additional details you may need to help compile an accurate price. When the estimate is available, prepare a scope of work document detailing exactly what the estimate allows including: the number of rounds for alterations/corrections; what you’ll need from the client (with due dates); and suggesting milestone billing, with a one-third payment due before starting the project. Make sure you explain cancellation terms and what happens if there are too many author’s alterations (AAs). Get sign-off on the estimate and the scope of work before starting the project.
The good old days (that largely exist in the imagination) are gone, where we could blithely accept any work that came in the door without fear of being left holding an empty bag at the end of the project. Approach every project with the same degree of professionalism you would use upon winning a retainer account. Never take a project without assessing its value to the agency, and you will protect the agency from time-churning clients, and projects that earn your agency nothing but frustration.