How to Evaluate Branding Agencies: Understanding an Estimate

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Finding the right agency partner is crucial to your brand’s success. In this series, we’ll discuss the strategies we’ve found effective for making the right client-agency match at every step. Today’s edition: understanding an estimate.

Imagine submitting an RFP for a website update. You interview and receive estimates from two agencies. The first agency estimates the job will cost $50,000. The second agency estimates $250,000.

You probably have some immediate questions about that massive gap — and you should. In reality, some agencies outsource coding while others have a different workflow or style that leads to higher prices. It may not be helpful to make assumptions with an agency’s estimate, especially when they’re asking for five times as much money as another agency. You need to have a clear explanation.

Agency and client should have mutual understanding about all aspects of the work — including its cost. There is no such thing as an inappropriate question. So if a number comes back from an agency that makes you pause, step back and request an explanation. Ask a representative from the agency to walk you through the process and identify what you can expect.

An agency should be open and receptive to answering every question you ask about the work and the bill — from high-level to granular. If they’re standoffish or vague about addressing your concerns on the estimate alone, that’s not a great sign for your working relationship during the project itself.

Consider the estimate your opportunity to kick the tires with an agency. Have a frank, inquisitive conversation to see if you can get on the same page with the agency from the outset. If a partnership feels promising from these early stages, you can proceed to next steps with confidence. If your request for clarity leaves the idea of a partnership even murkier, you might want to consider connecting with another agency.