When we're talking with a new potential client, it often happens that they are very forthcoming about all of the details of their upcoming event with one exception. Clients will often dance around the issue of budget. Over the years, I’ve found that answer falls into a few groups. Some clients come right out and tell you how much they have budgeted. Some clients will ask us to come up with a budget based on their requirements. Others will state a number but not be clear about their expectations of what is included.
For the first group - we progress to a useful and focused conversation. Everything we propose and suggest from that point forward is informed and proscribed by that budget.
While we can recommend budgets for clients or work off lightly detailed briefs, this can result in a lot of back and forth until the mysterious number is finally discovered.
If a number is given but other information is withheld, such as portions of the budget that are already earmarked for things outside of the production company’s scope, the result is confusion. And the process is less efficient than simply getting an open answer from the outset.
To illustrate this challenge, imagine that you're a real estate agent and I'm your new client. You ask me what my budget is for a new house, but I don't want to tell you. You show me a house that I totally fall in love with, but when I ask you the price, it turns out it's twice what I can spend.
So, what have we accomplished?
I now have the frustration of knowing what I would love to have but cannot afford and, furthermore, we've wasted each other’s' time. If I had told you my budget from the outset, that would have enabled you to show me the absolute best houses that I could actually afford. Makes sense, right? So why don’t clients want to share the magic number?
I've often heard clients say that they don't want to share their budget with me because we'll just spend all their money - and they’re right - but for the wrong reason. This is not because we're extravagant and wasteful, but because, to be completely frank about it, there are no clients anywhere who have more money than desire.
Every client I've dealt with in the past 25 years wanted more than their budget would allow. It is always an issue of paring back here and there to beat the numbers down to the desired spend. It simply doesn't happen that we fulfill everything that the client wants and they still have money left over. I don't know exactly why that is, but it's 100% consistent.
It is often the case that we need to look a client in the eye and tell them, with all candor and courtesy, that the event that they envision and the budget that they have for it are incompatible. This saves both of us a lot of time and trouble. Call it tough love if you like, but often the client has to either find more money or drastically change their expectations. It's better for both of us if this is sorted out right from the start.
Getting budget-aligned with your production and creative partners at the outset will make for a more efficient process, but more importantly, will result in a better event -– an event custom made for your budget.