How much is a house?

House And will you honor that price, no matter what?

I can hear you now…how many bedrooms?  Ranch or two-story?  Brick or siding?  Finished basement?

What if I wanted a price without answering any of those questions, because I didn’t know the answers yet?

Welcome to working at a marketing agency.

One of the most frustrating aspects of how prospective clients select their agency partner is the question "how much will it cost?"

Now don’t get me wrong. Clients have a right to know how much something will cost.  But often times the question is asked before the details are known.   It really disrespects the process AND the product.

This is one of the reasons why RFPs are such a bad way to choose a partner. They almost always are a price war game.  In which the client is the biggest loser.  Because they very rarely end up buying what they put on their shopping list.  And yet, that was what they based their decision on.

Sure…some agencies deliver cookie cutter products.  Swap out a few words, a logo and voila, a brochure is born.  They can publish a price sheet (which I have seen) and live by it.

But any agency worth their salt delivers a custom product/service every time.   Working with an agency is about collaboration.  We need to get inside your head.  Inside your employees’ heads.  And inside your customers’ heads.  We want to tug and push against ideas with you.  We want to explore, dissect, twist and turn.

Then, we’ll know enough to recommend that your house be a 3 bedroom ranch with a walk out.  And tell you how much it will cost to build and maintain.

Mark True just wrote a great post with the added bonus of some excellent links that extend the conversation.  He asks the question — are you ready to hire an agency or to engage with one?   A subtle difference, but a very important one.

You hire a cab.  They deliver a commodity.  Don’t reduce your agency to that.

Engage with your agency.  Let them engage with you.  Then let the building begin!

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4 comments on “How much is a house?

  1. Thank you! Thank you! and thank you again!

    As an independent contractor, I even have agencies (YES, AGENCIES!) asking what a website design or a catalog would cost. And it becomes increasingly difficult to explain that I don’t have the dang thing sitting under the lights behind me.

    “Do you want fries with that?”

    SO… I have a toothache. Do I call and get three competitive bids for a root canal, or do I have my trusted, family dentist look at it first?

    It takes conversation, discovery and understanding for a designer or developer to even start a project. When did relationship building become a commodity? As technology advances, those key elements of customer service have been forgotten…

    So a website could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000… and does $100 to $1,000 per page work for the catalog?

    Thanks again, Drew, for keeping the passion in the work and the truth in the business.

  2. Mark True says:


    Thanks for the props. That part of the post came from Director Tom, and it’s a good one. The other day, I handed a hard copy to a friend before he could finish “how much does a video cost?” He knew what I was going to say before he finished!

    I’m really getting heated up about the whole “ready to engage” idea. On your suggestion, I’m getting through “Category of One” and the very first chapter clearly points out the need to get serious about getting serious. Too many organizations talk a lot about going but never get going.

    As counselors, we also need to be more discerning in how we engage and how we evaluate potential clients before we engage, or we’ll be stuck in first gear and looking for a way out.


  3. Andrew,

    I think one of the biggest challenges for agencies, web folks, etc is helping our clients realize that while in the end they get a “thing” — be it a brochure, a blog, or whatever– but what we really sell of value is our thinking.

    Too many clients want you to think for free and then they want to pay you like a commodity to make the thing.

    We need to work for people who value what we actually offer.


  4. Mark,

    “As counselors, we also need to be more discerning in how we engage and how we evaluate potential clients before we engage, or we’ll be stuck in first gear and looking for a way out.”

    You are so right about that. We have all made the mistake of taking the client that we knew in our gut was a “commodity” client. And everytime, right as we are extracting their teeth from our rear ends — we shake our heads and say to ourselves, “told you so.”


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