Do you shop around for a better price and/or service? I do this myself as a business owner and also as a consumer. I also respond to briefs from clients who are doing the same. This is a normal part of everyday business and for marketing managers who are working to a set budget it is business critical.
What I have also learnt from being on both sides of the fence is that there are some unwritten rules to follow when shopping around, whether you are a buyer or a seller. One particularly important aspect to follow is that having a quality brief is a lifeline to both parties and will result in better outcomes all round.
You may wonder about the importance of a brief. The irony is that many marketers skip this step. Briefs are extremely important and help both parties in the shopping around transaction. Therefore if you don’t currently write them then it is time to consider a change.
If that’s the case, the next question is ‘what do I include in the brief?’ The first step is to be as specific as possible in what you are looking for. When I write briefs I tend to highlight the areas where new ideas are welcome and note anything that is non-negotiable. I also always give a budget estimate and this can be tricky. As the supplier you want to charge as much as possible for the job, but as the buyer you want to pay the least. My recommendation was inspired by real estate; here are some budget tips that may be helpful.
- Total spend – if this project has a few different components – you may feel comfortable mentioning the entire budget. Especially if more than one supplier is involved.
- Price ranges – I find these quite helpful. The buyer always has a range in mind and this may be a polite way of communicating this.
- Flat rate – this is similar to a private sale in real estate. State what you think the project is worth and you may be surprised with the outcome.
To be fair on all parties, if you are shopping around, getting more than three quotes is excessive. I am always upfront about how many quotes I am seeking. It will end up being too time consuming as a buyer to manage, and as a supplier I don’t waste time being ‘one of ten’ to respond.
The other important consideration is timing. I received a brief that had a very tight turn around. The person putting it together hadn’t bothered to consult the calendar and included the name of another supplier – interesting information for Next Marketing none the less. Your attention to detail is important and your reputation in the market both as buyer and seller will be remembered by it.
If nothing else, writing thorough briefs is a good way to narrow down your shopping list. I used this technique a lot when I was a marketing manager. I was quite specific in what I was asking for, which meant that those who didn’t take the time to read the brief were unable to respond appropriately. It was an excellent and effective way to weed out people and companies. If nothing else, the old saying of junk in and junk out applies to briefs. The more time and thought put into them the better the outcome will be.