Guide to Client Service: Volume I, ConsultingChapter seven

Fiscal Seasonality & Budgeting

As an agency or consultant, it’s important to be aware of your clients’ financial seasons such as their fiscal year, annual report timing, and budgeting season, as well as any seasonality for when they may revisit investments. Knowing when clients revisit their investments allows you to prepare either for budget cuts or surges in spend.

Mid-fiscal year is a time when many companies assess their annual investments in order to tighten up their budgets, investments, and marketing strategies for the remainder of the year or reallocate budget to double down on programs that are performing well. This is also a time when additional funding may become available for your company’s partnership if it was not used as planned elsewhere.

How to Leverage Public Financial Reports

In order to get ahead of budget conversations and engage in conversations in a more informed way, utilize resources that are at your disposal! If your client is a publicly traded company make a point to reference their publicly available financial statements, including quarterly earnings statements and Annual Reports (10k). Knowing about the financial health of your client’s organization ensures you’re informed during budget conversations and can contribute to those conversations with all the information you’ll need.

  • 10Ks (Annual Reports) tend to give a more comprehensive overview of financial performance, outline product/services, market risks, competitors, and company priorities.
  • Quarterly statements show progress towards the company’s business goals.

 

Why are financial reports important & useful?

  • They help us understand the financial health of the client’s organization.
  • If the company is doing well financially, that’s awesome! If you see any big declines in value for them (revenue, activity, other KPIs), then that may be a flag to stay in front of. The client may propose budget cuts, pivoting goals, etc. that come from Senior Management.

 

What can you do with financial reports?

Not sure where to start? Here are a few places to start:

  1. Talk about key points from financial reports with your client and how it relates to the partnership. Ask them questions about their business as it relates to the statement/earnings report.
  2. Find ways to regularly weave important topics that are relevant to your work together into ongoing reporting, deliverables, and other conversations. Connect your business to theirs whenever possible.
  3. Come prepared to kickoff meetings! These reports often share comprehensive product and competitor information.
  4. If you have trouble connecting recommendations to revenue, map them to priorities outlined in the beginning of the 10k.
  5. Empathize with a Point of Contact if you start to receive unexpected pressure about performance or financials. They may be receiving pressure from upper management if revenue is on the decline and expenses are up.
  6. Set expectations about your clients’ competitors. You can find out where competitors are getting their money from if it appears they’re able to invest more in various channels.
  7. Utilize the “business risk factors” section to better inform a SWOT analysis.

 

Flagging Budget Questions

This means you should plan for conversations around investments, performance, and other key partnership metrics somewhere between five to seven months into your client’s fiscal year. At this time, you may hear things like:

  • How much have we spent year to date?
  • How much value has our investment provided?
  • What’s the ROI on what we’re working on together?
  • We may be hitting goals, but am I driving revenue for my business?
  • Could we spend more? If so, how much?
  • I have more budget available, what else could we do together?

 

Proactively Planning for Budget Conversations

There are plenty of ways to be proactive for these conversations as well. For example:  

  • If you deliver performance reports regularly, mid-year is a good time to make sure you’re highlighting what’s working, what’s not, and what else clients could be doing as part of your key deliverables.
  • Align on expectations by asking your clients what’s important to them now. See if there’s any key business questions bubbling up around their halls you could support with data & insights. Note that priorities could have shifted during a time of investments review, so proactively asking clients rather than waiting for them to share updates can help you and your team stay ahead of the game.
  • If more budget is available, work with your clients to see if there are other problems you can help them solve, even if it’s outside of the existing scope of work. As a partner, it’s in your best interest to continuously be thinking broader than the existing scope of work.  Think about what’s best for their business and share recommendations accordingly. Sometimes this may even be pivoting away from the current engagement to shift in alignment with any business shifts on the client side.

 

Ultimately, the more you’re aligning to your clients’ business seasonality and financial health, the better partner you’ll be and the more successful your client-agency relationship will become.