The terms ‘quotes’ and ‘estimates’ are often used interchangeably, but their distinctions influence potential costs you may incur for a project. Knowing the difference can be key to cost visibility.

I’m routinely asked by my clients for price “quotes” on a particular project. In practice though, this means I’ll prepare an estimate for the item we’ve discussed. In the majority of cases, when you’re working with your Portland marketing agency, you should expect that the project costs you’re presented for approval will be in the form of an estimate.

An estimate is defined as: an approximate calculation or judgment of the value, number, quantity, or extent of something.  

A quote is defined as: a stated price for commodities, goods or services.  A fixed price.

Why would your marketing agency give you an estimate that’s approximate when you ask for a quote? Well, the creative process rarely if ever is linear and therefore arriving at the cost of a marketing campaign or project can at times be tricky, even when you’re starting with a budget.  “How high is up?” may be one rhetorical way to answer the question of costs. But rest assured, your marketing partner has a number of ways to determine costs; including basing some or all of their services on hourly rates or applying charges to a retainer. So, with inherent variability in the creative process and the fact that marketing work often is subjective, you should expect that there will be variations in the amount of agency resources allocated to your particular project. This is the primary reason most full service marketing firms will present pricing to you in the form of an estimate that has some flexibility baked in, rather than a quote that is rigid.

If however, you truly need a fixed price for a project, be prepared to have some restrictions put on the project’s parameters.  You might be limited to the number of revisions or have fewer concepts presented.

Your agency partner will still seek to meet the strategic goals set for the project, but with a fixed cost, they’ll need to fix their resource allocation as well or jeopardize the profitability of the project and ultimately the sustainability of their business. So, be sure you know how your agency views project costs. If pricing is unclear to you, simply ask your account manager if the cost shown is a fixed price quote or not.