Sometimes, I catch customers off guard.
We’ll be having a conversation about a project, and inevitably they’ll ask, “What will that cost?” And I’ll reply, “What kind of budget do you have?”
That might sound naïve. After all, a sign is a sign. A display is a display. And they cost a certain amount, right? So I should just give them a quote and leave it at that.
But that’s not why I ask the question. The fact is, marketing requires commitment. There’s an old adage that says the surest way to spend too much on advertising is to not spend enough. You have to be willing to budget enough to get the job done properly.
Final numbers aren’t necessarily the issue. Commitment is. If someone describes an ambitious project to me, but is only willing to spend a fraction of what it will cost, we’ll end up too far apart no matter what I say. But if I’m given a realistic budget figure, I know that we can work together to get the job done right. I may give a little, or they may give a little—or both. But eventually, the objective is to complete the project to their satisfaction, at a price we can both live with.
That’s what business is all about, isn’t it? We’re traders, all of us. We exchange things of equal value—or should. Some people might think they can rip people off and get away with it, but in the end it catches up to them, one way or the other. It might be in lost business, or it might be in a damaged reputation. Meanwhile, they’ve hurt the other party, not helped them. And that will harm the customer’s ability to grow their business, which in turn is a detriment to the economy, not a benefit. Everyone loses.
So I ask about budgets right up front. It provides a basis for moving forward. If I hear a figure that’s realistic, I know we can work together. If not, I’ll suggest an alternative, and if that’s too expensive for their taste, then my advice is to try something different.
You have to be realistic, and honest. You can’t serve a customer any other way.
Mike Boyd is president of Creative Source, a Canton, Ohio sign company