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Phase 3

Phase 3 is an integrated marketing services company which provides solutions across the print and marketing spectrum. We were founded in Atlanta, GA in 2001 and have served corporate and enterprise clients across the country for over 20 years.

3 Quick Tips to Keep Projects in Scope and On Budget

By Phase 3
April 29, 2020

If only we had a nickel (or a dime) for every new client that’s told us they’ve felt nickel-and-dimed by marketing firms they’ve worked with in the past.

This client refrain is so common—and so avoidable, as long as both client and marketing partner know how to “speak scope” and prep for success.

Consider this article a quick primer for staying in scope and on budget—and avoiding those pesky “that-will-be-an-additional-charge” emails that pop up when everyone isn’t on the same page.


1. Know What You're Doing & Why You're Doing It

Top-quality (read: effective) creative work starts with clear objectives. Let’s say your sales team wants a brochure. The first question you need to ask is why.

What will you do with the brochure?
How will it be distributed and how often will it need to be updated?
Who needs to see it?
What do you want them to know after reading it?
How do you want them to feel after reading it?  
What do you want them to do next?

Our project managers are trained to ask the questions that get to the heart of the business challenge early—so clients not only get what they need to be successful marketers—they get to that solution sooner (and faster, and on budget).



2. Gather Your Ingredients

If you’ve ever baked cookies from scratch, you probably checked your kitchen to make sure you had all the ingredients before you started mixing. Marketing projects work much the same way. And yet, clients often ask their marketing partner to use placeholder text, placeholder images, even (gasp!) placeholder video clips—to “save time” and “not delay” getting started. While it seems like a good idea for the creative team to “get to work” while you’re tracking down or approving key assets, it’s actually a recipe for racking up additional costs you didn’t account for.


Take this collateral project, for example:
We get started on a 60-page annual report design, using placeholder images in order to give the client time to gather their approved photography. Our approved design concept centers around beautiful, full-page images, but when we receive the approved photos some are too low-resolution to work in the full page format. Others don’t work with the horizontal orientation of the report.  Now the client is faced with a difficult choice: re-design the report to suit the photos,  shoot new photos, or purchase stock photos to fill in the blanks. All three options increase the time and cost of the project.


The same goes for body copy. Starting the design process with approved text is always your best bet. It will save you the cost of reflowing the design—or, if the text comes in too long, having to redesign and requote the printing to accommodate more pages, again, impacting both your timeline and your budget.



3. Honor the Editing Process

This is a big one. Most firms build a round or two of edits into their project estimates. At Phase 3, we ask clients to consider how many rounds of edits they’ll likely need—before we get started. Thinking this through at the outset helps clients be more deliberate in their editing process—and saves (you guessed it) time and money down the road.  Here’s how to think about it:

Round 1: We recommend you reserve this round for just you, the single primary point of contact (PPoC). This is your chance to make adjustments before your team takes a look.


Round 2: The inner circle. The inner circle are the key stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) who need to weigh in and triple check the content (remember, this is the content that should have been approved before starting design). We recommend you gather all of their feedback into one document, then (and this is critical) you as the PPoC reconcile any conflicting feedback before you send it back to your marketing partner.
Round 3: The higher ups (or further outs). Naturally, you’ll want to get their input at the beginning of the project to ensure their direction is taken into account (and the finished product won’t come as a complete surprise). When you send the project for edits, let them know it has been reviewed by all internal stakeholders and SMEs and is being provided for their final blessing.


Of course there will be exceptions, but we find that the more care clients take with each of the early rounds, the fewer changes they have later on. If your marketing firm hasn’t specified how many rounds of edits are included in a project scope, ask them to do it. It not only helps you manage expectations and prevent unhappy surprises—it gives you leverage with your team to ensure they take the time to provide a thorough and thoughtful edit during their round.



At Phase 3, we make it our job to not only provide great marketing—but to provide great advice about how to get great marketing from your agency and print partner. We believe in communicating early and often to get the best results.


If we can help you start a new project and keep it on track, give us a shout! We’d love to hear from you.