Ever hear folks whine about how they can’t get in touch with Facebook over whatever issue they have? Usually, it’s a user wanting to get their vanity URL changed, a small business wanting strategy support on how to grow on Facebook, or something of the like.
So Facebook puts up as much self-serve support as possible, since it just doesn’t have the staff required to personally assist anyone and everyone who has a question. But here’s the one way the social network can tell if someone is serious: It asks for their monthly budget.
Having a budget means that there is a decision-maker already involved who is committed to some goal (usually). It means they’re far enough along in the process to be ready to spend money.
Conversely, if they don’t have a budget, there are things missing usually in the area of strategy. We redefine strategy as GCT — meaning that there is work to be done to clarify goals, content and targeting.
Now if you’re an agency talking with a potential customer that is interested in Facebook marketing, that means you have to weigh some risks here. You are gambling that whatever time you spend in free consulting ahead of a deal will be worth your while:
- If they don’t know know you well, the odds are definitely not in your favor, since they’re probably shopping and you’re likely wasting time.
- If they know who you are, you still have the risk of people trying to milk you for free consulting — to get as far as they can until you say “that’s enough — time for a retainer.”
- If you’re approached by an agency that may “potentially” have a client they want your help with, that’s the trickiest situation of them all.
You’re two levels away from the decision-maker, and the agency is usually quite protective of its relationships, but it wants your expertise, anyway. Any fees it shares with you come out of its existing retainer, unless it gets incremental budget, so you’re fighting uphill.
The solution to this, as Facebook and a few others eloquently detail, is to ask them what their budget is. You might troubleshoot a bit based on what you know about their business — especially if you know it’s a big brand or company that’s raised a big round of funding.
Short of that, you should be wary of putting in resources. Let me save you a lot of future headache — just don’t do it.
When a prospective client has a defined budget, it tells me that this isn’t their first rodeo, and there’s a lot of great things that come about because of this. It means they’ve likely already tested landing pages and offers. They also likely have settled on messaging and general direction that tends to perform well. If you take on a client who doesn’t have any of this, you’ll be the one trying to figure it out, and when the campaign isn’t successful, it’s because you didn’t do a good job. Defined budget means the best chance for success.
I recently violated my own rule here and talked to an agency that had a “hot” big brand client that it claimed was ready to spend big dollars.
A bunch of phone calls later and another 40+ email exchanges, and that cloud had no rain. Worse, the head of this small agency wanted to put one of his folks in touch with us so we could train him in how to diagnose efforts and set goals.
Of course, we said no — fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 43 times, then Dennis Yu is not a smart man.
If you’re an agency or consultant, you should have even more incentive now to focus on inbound marketing. By putting your content out there openly for everyone to see, you eliminate most of the re-explaining you’d had to do with prospects.
If you serve small-business clients, put your offering and training details on your landing page. Then every question they’d have is already answered, so you talk to customers only after they have paid.
If you’re dealing with mid-market and enterprise, then you have a standard lead-qualification process. Perhaps you score them by how big their Facebook page is, how much content they produce and what tags they’re running on their site.
Readers: What’s your technique for finding the right clients who are serious?