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Your budget may be bigger than you think

Why your budget is bigger than you think?

Aleksandr Orlov is possibly one of the greatest marketing icons of this decade. His appearance as the eccentric Russian meerkat as part of comparethemarket.com’s marketing campaign saw quotes rocket by an astonishing 80 Who wouldn’t like an ad campaign that did the same for their business?

But with an annual marketing campaign of nearly £15m, that sort of impact is something small businesses and entrepreneurs can only dream about.

For most of Britain’s businesses, their marketing budget has to stretch a very long way. It’s only the biggest and best-financed companies that ever get to enter the sacred halls of the ad agencies that create big famous campaigns like the Cadbury’s Gorilla, the eccentric Meerkat or the PG Tips partnership between Johnny Vegas and his knitted side-kick.
At least, that’s what most people believe.

We believe that it’s never been a better time for small businesses to step up, as they might be surprised at what their marketing budget can REALLY buy.
Most entrepreneurs wouldn’t dream of phoning Saatchi & Saatchi to ask for some creative input for fear of being laughed out of court. However, small businesses often have something the bigger agencies really want to get their hands on – an interesting brief.

It’s true that most ad agencies need to work with big-budget clients creating high-spending, very visible campaigns. It’s what pays the bills, supports the global networks and ultimately drives sales for companies like building societies, detergent manufacturers and package tour operators. But what many people don’t realise is that the big, sexy advertising, PR and design agencies need to attract the best creative talent in the market. And whilst the best creative talent loves the scope that larger budget clients sometimes offer, big isn’t often better. Agencies can attract the best talent in the business, but if all they do is fire-fight complex international politics over a creative brief, or see their work crash and burn time and time again after yet another round of focus groups, you won’t see those top notch creatives hang about for very long.

Which is where your small business brief comes in. It’s a little known fact that some of the best, award-winning creative talent in Britain would probably prefer to work on your brief than on a new campaign for a fabric softener. There’s just one catch. You have to be a really great client. The Observatory International has done a lot of research on the difference between a ‘good’ client and a ‘bad’ one. It can mean the difference between a hugely successful, award-winning, sales-through-the-roof generating campaign (comparethemarket.com) and a really irritating, remote-control-waving one (you be the judge!). It can mean highly efficient, focused teams stretching the marketing budget with zeitgeist thinking and clever use of media, or badly managed agency staffers handling briefs poorly and sucking up budget on unnecessary process and missed deadlines.The trick you’ve got up your sleeve is that you can learn from bigger budget mistakes and become the sort of client that great agencies are desperate to work with. The results can be astonishing. Here are some tips on how to be a great big small client.

Write a great brief, but don’t try and answer it too – that’s what the agency’s there to do and what they find so rewarding

  • Treat your agency as the experts in their field – you know your product/service inside out, let the agency bring their consumer understanding, planning and creative skills to the expertise pot
  • Offer time – not only by giving reasonable deadlines for campaign development, but in terms of providing access to you and your team to share and debate the agency’s proposals at various stages
  • Get the money right – be realistic on budgets and clear what is available as a fee versus media or production spend. A relatively small fee can still be motivating if it has a potential bonus linked to business and agency performance
  • Be prepared to skill-up in how to manage your agency – marketing in general and agency management in particular are specialist skills which you or your team may be new to and need to get to grips with.
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