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Thoughts on digital marketing

Apr 29, 2013
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It’ll only take 5 minutes, can you please do this asap?!

I love those calls or emails.

The best part is the deep breath before when you’ve convinced yourself that in fact it will only take 5 minutes, but you know deep down 5 minutes is always 20-30 minutes. I believe Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” from Brainy Quote.

I thought for once I’d lay out the true cost of 5 minutes requests to everyone, my peers, my clients, my prospective clients and my friends. It’s time we really took a hard look at the ‘freebie’ 5 minute request.

Firstly let me say that West17Media is a very small agency and so on average I get only about one ‘5 minute‘ request a day, not so much right? Well firstly let’s breakdown the 5 minute request into some basic actions that you can consider rather consistent across all types of work. This is a baseline, it will only get worse or more expensive for the provider, never less expensive.

Here is the sequence:

  1. The email for the 5 minute request – 2-3 minutes
  2. Follow up conversation to confirm the query – 5-10 minutes *Don’t forget I probably need to investigate the issue first.
  3. Speak with developer or designer regarding the change – 5 minutes *After all they have no idea what the client is talking about they are working on other projects totally unrelated to your request.
  4. Developer or Designer does the work – 5-10 minutes
  5. Testing or review of the work by the account manager (me) – 5 minutes
  6. Submission to the client for review – 1-2 minutes *I need to write it, find the link to view/review it, reread it (must look professional right?)
  7. Client responds confirming the work is complete as requested – 2 minutes
  8. Make a note in the CRM, update the files to ensure the document or change is now listed as the new ‘final’ and notify the developer or designer that they can close that file – 5 minutes.

So the true cost of that 5 minute request was 30-42 minutes. 

For a small agency that’s a financial loss that most of us take each and every day at a minimum. Let’s think about that in terms of a year and how that can impact our ability to pay for training, pay bonuses and other perks that keep good staff that support your business.

In Canada we have about 250 work days per year. So let’s take $75/hr as a baseline (this is the most common rate for small agencies) and calculate together the cost of the 5 minute request.

For 30min a day x 250 days per year = $9,375

For 42min a day x 250 days per year = $13,125

Did you know I didn’t even know this? In fact if you go to the start of the post I suggested the time cost was 20-30 minutes. I did that to sort of show my own ‘perceived’ view of the cost. Would you have thought it was this high?

I will say there are a couple caveats.

1) We charge lower rates for our design services and we offer existing clients an internal rate, but still the number sign above is quite huge.

2) This doesn’t account for any real development work, because anything beyond, change this word or position it a little to the left or right is going to cause the cost to shoot straight up. Why? Because we need to test any material changes on our browser testing software that checks our work against 5-15 different browsers. Plus if the work requires changes to the database or how something accesses the database then there needs to be a full backup of the site AND that’s assuming the work is so small we don’t first do the work on the development site and then transfer it after testing.

What do you think? Are you surprised?

Thanks a bunch

Roger Kondrat
Managing Director



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  • Melissa Leithwood

    Great post, Roger!
    I wonder if there is a way to manage clients so this is a win-win situation. I don’t think client five-minute request will go away (Since that is the point of differentiation for the business – its ability to Have clients feel looked after). I wonder if anyone has ever tried a minute by minute pay-as-you-go type of add on. ?

    • Well exactly. There can’t be any thought to removing that kind of access as you point out and for exactly that reason. We do have to learn how to manage it better though and we need to start by communicating the real cost.

      Then the next step is ‘how do we fix it’. I think you make a good point e.g. should we start by charging by-the-minute on calls. I just can’t imagine how a client would react if I did that – my gut tells me – quite badly. It’s a good idea though, you always have good ideas!

      Do you have another one that won’t keep me up at night? 🙂