False economies: why getting more for less isn’t always good

We don’t need to use over simplified analogies about the mythical money tree or over-spending on one’s credit card to understand that budgets, return on investment and value for money are being scrutinised now more than ever.

Prantik Mazumdar’s great article last year about the volume of agencies operating in Singapore putting pressure on costs highlighted how we have created a buyer’s market that is being disproportionately exploited. Not to say that agencies haven’t made a rod for their own back or that this won’t ultimately benefit the industry in the long-run as quality and innovation emerges in the strongest players… however it is clear that in many cases this market condition has been exploited to drive more for less, (and even free), which apart from endangering the viability of businesses is responsible for some pretty shonky work.

The ultimate affect this will have on agencies is obvious; downward pressure on wages, using less experienced and junior talent, longer hours and later nights, talent leaving the industry altogether and ultimately the threat of closure.

Sure we work in an industry where client and customer satisfaction ultimately is what matters the most – but if you work in a marketing department that calls a pitch for every project, changes agencies annually and doesn’t commit to any retained business because you’re never satisfied with the work you’re being presented please take the time to reflect on the cause and effect of the fruits of your partnerships.

This is an appeal to the people who control budgets. Trying to get more out of your partners for less will ultimately cost you more in the long-run and here’s why:

  1. You will inevitably get a lower quality deliverable. Either cheaper resource will make it, or you’ll need to strip out essentials, or you’ll cut corners to try deliver the original scope.
  2. That lower quality deliverable will not achieve the desired effect you intended it to. Because it is lower quality. If results don’t meet expectation interrogate the conditions in which the work was executed to understand the final output.
  3. How many times have we heard about websites having to be “refreshed” as the original revamp was executed poorly due to budget constraints? How often do films get produced that are sub-standard because of time and cost pressure? When a campaign performs poorly – (and poorly performing campaigns do exist, Singapore marketers) – do we consider that insufficient media support and inferior creative assets might be the reason why?
  4. You are missing the opportunity to do fewer things exceptionally well.
  5. Bad karma. Drive more value hard enough with a partner you treat as a simple vendor to be replaced at the end of every year will put your reputation and business into a tailspin.

If business conditions are challenging invest more in fewer initiatives that will deliver more effective outcomes. The author Jim Rohn outlined the issues of putting major effort into minor tasks. And conversely do not put minor effort and resources into major tasks.

Your website does not convert sales. Why underinvest in this critical project?

Your brand is outdated. Are you going to get a great outcome with your current budget?

Plan with your partners to achieve your goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. Pay them for this guidance and support. Value the partners who deliver you quality. Look for new partners when you do not have that quality. But remember that the conditions for success are co-created.

Alex Thoma is digital transformation lead, Singapore at APD. He can be found on Linkedin.

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