Ten Ways to Save

May 18, 2010

By Wallrich

Ten Ways to Save

How do you keep project standards high when the budget isn’t? Communicators see their resources rise and fall, while the demand to inform, inspire and engage their audience remains constant. Wallrich was founded on this need. Today, we still put the extra drop of goodness into every marketing assignment, by applying—and sharing—these simple, powerful ideas.

1. Tighten the terms
The primary commodity in a service business is time. Talent and tools to write, design, produce and program marketing projects are “rented” by the hour. Rates vary based on skill and demand factors, just as you’d find for landscaping or legal services. (Ours are closer to landscaping.)

We quote fees by estimating the hours needed to meet your communication goal while maintaining our creative standard. A modest cushion is often added to cover tasks not specified but likely to be included in the project. Flatten this cushion by tightly defining process benchmarks and deliverables, and the estimate can be reduced.

2. Good, cheap or fast: choose any two
To maintain a tight rein on design quality and budget factors, try loosening turnaround requirements. Plan extra lead time for creative work into project schedules. Our standard rates assume a constant level of deadline urgency, but last-minute demands diminish buying and staffing leverage. We can afford to be more flexible if your project can fit between workload peaks.

3. Use visual aids
There’s no way around it: visual taste is subjective. Visual examples help bridge the gaps between each person’s preference. Do you hate “trendy” design? Show your designer visual examples you think fit that description. Gather samples (from magazines, the Web, etc.) that represent the descriptive dos and don’ts that will drive your design approval. You’ll get a creative and unique design solution—with fewer detours.

4. Shape message before media
In the not-so-ancient days of design, text was outlined, drafted, revised (revised, revised) and approved before it was provided for typesetting and production. When photo typesetting and manual paste-up were significant cost and time considerations, wordsmithing on layout proof was a rare and costly practice.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Typesetting is now just another phase in the design/production continuum. But while content changes during layout have become typical, they’re not always economical. Even minor edits take time to implement and verify. Major ones can create a ripple effect, reversing hours of production. Confining major edits to pre-layout text delivers major savings in production.

5. Emphasize the problem
One common barrier to efficiency is interpreting client feedback. Let’s say you’re reviewing an ad layout. It’s not quite working and you want some changes. To be helpful, you specify exactly which elements to revise and how: “Make it bigger, move it up and color it green.”

Suggestions are fine, but the most effective feedback emphasizes problems—“the name looks lost” or “the layout feels cluttered”—freeing the designer to explore alternatives. Focusing on the problem saves time and enhances design.

6. Consider a gang
On press, gangs can be a budget booster. Ganging simply means grouping several pieces together on a single press sheet, such as notecards with folders, or announcements with brochures. If the items can be printed in the same colors on the same stock, ganging delivers multiple pieces for little more than the price of one. Entire promotional campaigns can “slice and dice”—yielding collateral in various shapes and sizes—for about the price of running a single poster.

7. Look for economy of scale
Offset lithographic printing uses high-speed equipment, with much of the cost concentrated in front-end processes like imaging and make-ready. Many printed marketing items cost the same for 500 quantity as for 100. One thousand brochures cost only a fraction more than 500—and unit costs come down as quantities go up.

Look for ways to apply economy of scale during design planning. Take publications: a multi-color masthead can be printed on a year’s supply of “shells.” Each issue can later be imprinted in black ink—maybe even on your laser printer—providing the appeal of color for a relatively low unit cost. Invitations are another example. Once the desired quantity has been printed, event-specific text can be removed from the plate to produce an additional quantity of complementary notecards at next-to-no additional cost.

Above all, make sure to order quantities that meet your anticipated needs, with a reasonable surplus. Reprinting 500 brochures because your mailing list was incomplete when you printed the first 5,000 will do ugly things to your bottom line, no matter how pretty the design.

8. Paper or plastic: ask before you approve
As hard as you try to avoid content changes after layout, try ten times harder to avoid them after printer’s proofs or other file output. Not sure when that happens? When you okay anything, ask what action you are authorizing. Because $50 to $100 for an additional proof review beats $100 to $500 for changes while on press.

9. Leverage your loyalty
Stick with vendors whose abilities you value and whose ethics you trust. You’ll spend less time orienting new players to your organization, product and process. You might also spend less money. If you are providing a consistent flow of business—and saving vendors the expense of developing formal proposals for every project— you may be able to apply that value toward a “favored client” pricing structure.

10. Leverage your ability
Are the above ideas old news to you? Congratulations! You are a cost-savvy communicator. You deserve one more advantage: don’t pay for another client’s learning curve. If you’re confident in your ability to plan ahead, give clear direction and manage content, you’ll pay less for creative services under a time-and-materials billing model. That’s because project estimates allow for a “moderate” efficiency level, based on similar project experience. If you already embrace the kinds of efficiencies outlined above, time-and-materials contracts (with frequent statements to keep you informed) let you reap the rewards.

Ten Ways to Save

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