A Change Order…For What?

Your Agency: Inside/Out 

Everything your agency wants you to know but won’t tell you because they don’t want you to fire them. 

A Forbes study shows that only 41% of all marketing clients have a positive view of their agencies.  Only 38% report they are satisfied with their agencies*.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here at Push, we’d like to present a series of articles to help clients better understand and work with their agency. You’re welcome.

Now the fifth in our eight part installment…


“A change  order…for what?” Part 2 of 2

You’re cruising along on the new social media campaign. It’s been a coyoteclifflittle bumpy to say the least. Your CEO came in at the last minute and had some comments that derailed you for awhile. But now you’re back on track. Your agency has been quietly spinning in the background, meeting deadlines and being just lovely about your requested changes. Then, out of the blue, you receive an e-mail with an attached change order. The e-mail explains that the original scope of work called for two rounds of revisions and your requested changes have resulted in a $5,000 change order fee to the budget.

What? When? How? Why?

Unfortunately, in our business, this scope creep scenario happens all to0 frequently . The behind-the-scenes plot goes something like this:

  1. “Ideation is coming along great! We’re presenting to the client on Tuesday.”
  2. “Cool. We nailed it!”
  3. “Looks like the CEO has come in and asked for a pretty big change in direction. People, we’re going to have to work the weekend to make this happen for our client.”
  4. “Well, that seemed to go well. We’re a little over budget, but we can make it up in production.”
  5. “The client isn’t happy with the images we’ve chosen and wants us to take another look.”
  6. “The client wants us to create a ‘simple’ infographic to explain the new product features on the landing page.”
  7. “The client has some last-minute changes to their their pricing chart.
  8. “The writer just sent us a change order for the work she did re-writing the copy to meet the CEO’s requested changes.”
  9. “Has anyone looked at the budget to see where we are? We’re how far over? Gawd, you’re kidding! Go back to the SOW. Is there anything in there about rounds of revisions? There is? Good. We’re already over budget and still haven’t started production.”
  10. “The client will freak if we send her a $10,000 change order. Do you think she’ll be OK with $5,000? Yeah, let’s try that.”

I’ve never met a client who wanted his/her agency to lose money on a project. But in the scenario above the agency suffers from “Golden Retriever/Ostrich Syndrome”. Most agencies are so eager to please their clients they often stick their head in the sand and ignore budget realities until it’s too late. Agencies HATE talking about scope changes. We hate it! So we just keep holding on, hoping for the finish line. And when the finish line doesn’t come in time, the agency panics.

So, how do we fix it?

A SOW can NEVER be watertight enough to cover every eventuality. Talk about budget early…and often, with your agency. It’s incumbent on the agency to broach a scope change. But the ebb and flow of most projects fill a SOW with gray area. In the scenario described above, the agency is way too late for a scope change conversation. All they can do now is to humbly appeal to your mercy.

Here are a few recommendations to beat scope creep:

  1. We know you are under budget pressure. So require a budget conversation at the end of each milestone to mitigate surprises at the end.
  2. Don’t assume no news is good news. Be on the lookout for anything that might depart from the scope and bring it up with your agency if they don’t bring it up with you.
  3. When the agency does have the courage to broach the subject of scope creep, don’t be dismissive. We’re trying to prevent a train wreck.
  4. Include a 10-15% contingency in your internal budgets for situations like this.
  5. Keep an open mind (and a little grace) when situations like the above occur. We usually know we blew it and are willing to take part of the hit. But scope creep is inevitable in some projects. We’ll do our best to bring it up early if you will be open to having the conversation with us.

*Forbes Study


Don Low is a Principal at Push. When he’s not working, he’s turning laps in a pool, riding his road bike, rooting his kids on or deciding what to make for dinner.



A Change Order...For What?