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Experiential Marketing Insider: Why Promo Agency Pricing isn’t Definitive

THE ‘FLUCTUATING’ DOLLAR QUESTION: WHY PROMO AGENCIES PRICES AREN’T DEFINITIVE

As a seasoned Promotional Staffing Coordinator of 7 years, unsurprisingly, the first and most certain question I’m asked by potential and returning clients is “what is the cost?”; to which I am unable to provide an immediate answer in most cases. It’s an answer that will determine the outcome of our business partnership, and yet the topic of pricing has become increasingly complicated due to the saturation of promotional staffing market. To operate within the given marketing budget, most clients are likely asking this same question to several promo agencies. However, it’s as ambiguous as going to five different restaurants and asking “how much is your food?” and just as ill-advised as to go with the lowest bidder.

This is very much an industry where you get what you pay for. Many promotional representatives and brand ambassadors simultaneously work for multiple agencies as sub-contractors. The agency that provides its clients with the lowest bid will, in turn, offer the lowest wages. When wages decrease, so do the staffing pool and quality of staff. The highest-performing staff will likely pursue a higher paying job either by another client, or with another agency. In fact, there are agencies offering beautiful, experienced promotional staff and sending out inexperienced retirees in their place. These are the agencies who have undercut their competition and are now providing nothing more than then first respondent of a classified ad on their clients behalf.

Generally speaking, promo staff prices in Canada are in the $30-$40/hour range (fees included). To best execute your experiential marketing campaign, I will require specific details to negotiate and to provide an accurate quote for your business. Before you book your first promotional agency, here are some essential variables that will influence promo staff prices:

  • Most importantly, please give me an idea of the budget you’re working with. So many times I’ve spent hours liaising with potential clients, trying to come up with a fair price for their request, only to find out in the end that their budget wouldn’t even cover my costs, let alone time.
  • Where is the event? Rate range varies from region to region. Rural areas are far more difficult to staff and often require paid travel.
  • What time is the event? If it requires driving at 3 am, chances are there will be a travel per diem.
    Is it a private event and if so will it be held in a private residence? This doesn’t come up too often but sending brand ambassadors to residential events comes with a lot more hesitation. We usually require a minimum amount of staff for safety reason, pay them slightly more and ask for 100% upfront.
  • What are the uniform/outfit requirements? Bikini-clad roller-skating servers are going to be paid significantly more than street teams in jeans and branded tops. Mascots will also be compensated differently.
  • What is the total number of hours/staff? There is definitely some wiggle room if you’re booking 100 hours but my business and my staff will suffer when I start to discount 10 hour contracts.
  • Are you willing to sign an agreement right now, well ahead of time? If so, I’m happy to negotiate. Last-minute staffing requires tight deadlines and subsequently more work.
  • What payment terms work for you? If a lower-than-average rate has been negotiated, payment will almost definitely be expected upfront and/or immediately following an event.

For on-going agreements such as tastings, demos and street teams, here are some other details to consider:

  • How many shifts/hours/staff per week or month will you be booking? This can be a ballpark answer but this information is imperative when deciding or negotiating a price.
  • Will you require product financing?
  • Will you require training, materials and/or delivery? These are additional costs to be considered.

To provide your business with the best quality of service that suits your budget, a promotional agency needs to compensate our staff fairly. In order to stay competitive, most agencies choose not to disclose general prices on their websites and discuss rates by negotiation. If you are seeking out multiple agencies, it is the best to approach the matter in an ethical and transparent manner. If you come across a competitor offering a similar solution at a close price, please let me know. I’d love to match their rate or work with you to improve the original terms/services. Shopping around becomes detrimental if a client is considering price as their only basis or creating a bidding war – something I’ve seen happen and seen falsified many times in my career. When you have two or more agencies undercutting each other to obtain the contract, everyone involved suffers the consequences.

Please help us find a detailed solution that you will be satisfied with while remaining mindful of the expenditures, pressures, risk and diligent effort we take on in order to fulfill that satisfaction.