We are premium.

The road to your liberation is removing the fear of money, being brave enough to set proper pricing, being accountable for delivering on that price, and learning to say no.

Dog having a poop on grass.

“Revenue is Vanity, Profit is Sanity and Cash is King” — Alan Miltz

Simply put, without profit, no business can survive, and there is no brand, or agency to boast about. In spite of the beautiful story and meaningful heartwarming core values, you externalize.

World-class service, needs world-class people, talent. World-class talent is not cheap, I am not going to say expensive, that’s something else. I will say not cheap because clients pay for your team, and that team is not cheap, cheap people don’t necessarily lack money, they desire quality but prefer not to pay full value.

I can never support cheap, I will try and help small, but there must be money coming from something valuable in order to do that. Whether that’s clients or products put to market, you can’t help small, startups or anyone else, if you have no business. You must have money coming in order to make the choice to help a client who may have the potential to be great but lack capital.

In order to get the clients you want, you have to connect with them and find out what they need. You position yourself because that’s a constant you cannot manipulate, you can only develop strategies aimed in that direction. You must have an engagement level, a process, and support for that process to accommodate those clients when they start arriving. Preparation meets opportunity, not the other way around. Of course, there is a building process, but every client must be fairly priced and beneficial towards your business growth.

Know what your team costs — employees or consultant relationships — you must know what operational costs are, and you must have a profit margin. You don’t just charge and then realize later you didn’t charge enough. It’s ok to break even for a while…if everything is covered.

It’s not uncommon for me to be on a team that fears charging a premium, I usually have an entirely different perception from the rest of the team, I am operating on something completely different from what they were doing. Without a unified understanding, the client acquisition and strategy will never be targeted.

My background in the advertising and marketing industry has always been a premium one, the client types that are worth the time and effort, by the investment points, are not usually small, but they’re not always easy. That dynamic comes at a certain cost, that client is not necessarily paying for a deliverable, they are paying for a valuable process that leads to a valuable solution, a solution that they can leverage for money for their business.

The misconception is thinking that you can take on a wild card client without capital and turn them into something amazing for both your benefit and theirs. There are what is known as venture agencies who help startups, these agencies have relationships with investors/funders and they have a strategy that allows them to have effective teams they pay for. Any other agency that takes on a startup or small business, chooses to do so because they can, they can because they can afford to take risks, they have clients that pay them well to keep their company going.

You need a process

In order to have a process you need to have an objective, the process must be the foundation framework for success. A good process is adaptative, it can be tailored to different problems by adding or removing variables, but the constants of the framework don't change. i.e a method of gathering information and making it understandable is a constant, but a strategy for solving a specific problem is a variable.

Set a minimum engagement level, and a minimum retainer fee, define the business operational structure, and COGS (Cost of Goods Sold). Every client project must move the needle, in meaningful ways that justify further investments, otherwise, you’re simply taking in various projects and pricing them with the hope that you’re growing.

Part of your business is your team, the more valuable the team the higher the cost is to engage them, that’s the rule. If you’re not targeting clients that can pay for your team, or grow your team, then you either have the wrong team or the wrong clients for your business. This is not to say you can’t have something interesting happening in the background with an exception against the rule, but you need to have your primary focus upfront, that’s what you sell.

The average agency engagement level is $25k to $30k with a possible minimum retainer of $5k to $10k, (not necessarily large holding companies or agencies) these are averages based on type, agency size, clients, and market location, this means the average client needs a minimum annual revenue of $1 million. In my opinion, a project that meets a $25k minimum engagement should have a budget of $50 to $100k, if you’re trying to solve a $200k problem then you’re budget clearly needs to be between $500k to $1 million, relatively speaking, depending on the problem, that investment may be a lot more.

The point is this, a client may not have $1 million to throw at a problem, but they must be able to afford to find ways to actually solve the problem. There is also the option of phases that can be developed where the same problem is solved in stages for the same value over a longer period of time, in smaller, but beneficial payments, your retainer plus additional cost for the project development.

I leave with this, no client or project must cause you unnecessary pain, and most of all, not without paying for that pain. Your team, operations, and whatever is required to help that client must be paid for by the client.

Speak from a place of power, not from a place of fear and defensiveness, clients will eat you alive. A place of power is the ability to choose to say no, name a price without second-guessing yourself, being able to walk away without feeling that you lost something.

A place of weakness is saying “yes client”, that’s something we can do, without any information that says you actually can.

A client cannot have control, if they do, it means you have not established your process and have no agency of that process. You’re not going to rule them, they are not your subjects…with empathy, you lead by listening and responding to specific, unasked questions.

You give up your power when you agree to things that remove your leverage, you promise to deliver on something you cannot do, you also did not secure money to do that thing. If you have to live up to the client’s expectations instead of them living up to yours, you cannot help them.

We do not meet client expectations in regards to how we work, we create value by delivering solutions they cannot truly pay for, we bring clarity to their chaos.



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Phillip J. Clayton

Phillip J. Clayton

Brand Design & Development | Brand & Marketing Judge: pac-awards.com | Writer | Art & Design | Advertising | Creative Director