I have a love/hate relationship with marketing firms. I often love the people who work at marketing firms. I love the cool offices at marketing firms (though I don't like paying for them). And I even sometimes love their ideas. But there are lots of things I hate. Several blog posts worth, I suspect.
The thing I hate most is being asked "What is your budget for this project?" Or, worse yet, "What is your marketing budget overall?"
I always answer the same way: "My budget is unlimited. If you can generate (and measure) positive ROI on this project and any future projects there is literally no limit to what I will spend. As long as your ideas keep making me money, the budget just keeps growing."
I have never been asked: "What is your ROI goal for this marketing project, and how will you measure the ROI?"
To me, this is the difference between being asked "How much of your money can we spend?" and being asked "How can we be sure the money you spend with us will produce an acceptable ROI?" The first question is about how much money the marketing firm will make. Now, here is something that might a be surprise to some marketers: The second question is as well, since that positive ROI is going to be the source of the cash to pay for your future work.