September 10, 2019

Delivering Big Ideas on a Small Budget

By Kyle Taylor / Founding Partner

The number of marketing channels is exploding, but the budgets we have to fill them are headed in the opposite direction. These two seemingly opposing trends are being driven by the same factors — a segmented economy, widely available technology, and consumers who have grown up making their own content and sharing it on their own platforms, without the assistance of Big Media.

Additionally, technology has given CEOs the ability to hold marketing departments accountable not just for budgets, but for daily results. When you add it up, it’s no wonder clients are asking agencies to place “smaller bets.”

But working with smaller budgets doesn’t mean you should settle for smaller ideas. It’s not always easy, but you can find ways to be more efficient and shorten the process without taking shortcuts. Some agencies are making the difficult decision to move forward with reduced teams, leading to ideas that are developed without the benefit of diverse viewpoints. But here are a few other paths, so you can keep pushing your ideas without compromising the quality of your work.

Change the question

Searching for ways to trim costs incrementally will lead to ideas that are incrementally scaled back, too. Instead, make the lack of a budget a creative challenge to solve. Brainstorm how you’d get the work made if you had a 10th of the budget. Or if there was no budget at all. That’ll force your team to find new ways of doing business instead of just scaling back old ones.

Care more

Great work is a direct result of caring. And while it sounds backwards, when you have a smaller budget you have to care even more. Effort can be infectious. Make a concerted effort to communicate effectively within your team and be present in conversations. And pay attention to the details, because on a smaller budget it’s important to get it right the first time.

Get the right team together

Since you won’t have endless hours to concept and execute, team chemistry is extremely important. Depending on the project, sometimes its best to sacrifice the traditional team model in order to be more efficient and focused. Start with a team of four to five cross-functional “warriors” who share the same standards of good work and energy for the challenge. Pull in additional expertise at critical junctures in the work lifecycle if needed, but make sure the core team feels ownership of the outcome.

Find focus

We all have meetings, e-mails, fire drills and other duties that come with agency life. But in order to do great work, we must find time to create and guard it with ferocity. Identify your personal peak creative time and make it precious. If you’re most creative in the morning, block it off or go hide somewhere that people can’t find you. Turn off Wi-Fi, close your browser, turn off your phone and get lost in the challenge. The creative process isn’t linear, and when you’re interrupted it isn’t like pressing Pause on a movie. There’s a massive difference between two hours of true focused time versus two hours of aggregate “leftover” time scattered throughout the day.

Extend the execution

What you create doesn’t always have to be big, but it should be scalable. When possible, come up with ways to extend your idea beyond the initial ask. Video project? Capture still assets while you’re on set for social. Or squeeze in an extra 0:30 using the B-roll. Many times, by extending your ideas beyond the ask you’re also able to extend your budget. That thing clients say about “If we like it, we’ll find money”? Yeah, sometimes it’s true.

The agencies that will be successful in this new world are the ones not afraid of any challenge, budget be damned. We’re not lecturing captive audiences. We’re speaking to a world of makers itching to judge our work — or add to it. Make things that matter, and the budgets will follow.

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