Rules for Agencies: Budget Matters and Budget Constraints Breed Creativity

In the latest in my series on some proposed ‘Rules for Agencies’ (which I hope means they’re applicable many other places too), I’d like to talk about budgets.  Yes, we know they’re a necessary evil, and maybe the right self-funding program with incredible ROI makes them obsolete, but when you’re giving recommendations to clients please take the budget into account.

In discussing with many folks across the digital world it seems that forgetting all about budget constraints happens a little more than I think would be acceptable.  In fact, I recently opened an example recommendations deck from an Agency (no relation of course) which was at least transparent enough to have a two paragraph statement on page two that said budgets were not taken into account in any of the recommendations given on the following 64 pages.  I wondered if anyone paid attention the rest of the presentation?  I wonder how angry the client got when they got all excited at the possibilities outlined in the recommendations only to be blatantly reminded at the end that they were told on page two that they couldn’t afford to implement them?

We’ve heard a lot about how constraints breed creativity and what easier constraint to set then a budget target.

I’d also argue it’s easier to create amazing programs without the financial constraint vs. having to get the same results within an actual budget.

That’s not to say doing a budget-doesn’t-matter exercise isn’t valuable.  Sometimes unleashing that thinking can bring in newer exciting ideas.  In fact, maybe you even start there and gather up all the ideas in an unlimited money supply world then apply the budget constraint to say ‘how could we get the same result of this outside of the budget program while staying within the confines of our budget’.

At the very least, before undertaking the process of creating ideas or recommendations please clarify and specifically align with us on which path we’d like to take – financially constrained or not, or both.  Maybe even start with the idea that there’s absolutely no money at all – I bet there’s still some good recommendations out there utilizing our existing resources.

Matt Kane

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