The brutal logic used in accountancy is a useful tool for understanding where you fit in your clients’ eyes. If you understand how you’re seen, you can deliver a better service and achieve greater growth.
Take the concept of breaking expenditure down into two buckets: capital expenditure (capex) and operational expenditure (opex). Broadly speaking, capex is money spent buying, building or maintaining assets, and opex is money spent on running the company.
Why are these two definitions useful? They help you understand what a client sees when they buy your services.
Advantages and challenges
For instance, if you’re a law firm that specialises in mergers and acquisitions, then a client might see the money they spend on you as capital expenditure. It’s money they only spend because they’re building their business. If they stop investing in growth through acquisition, they’ll probably stop using you. If they delay investment plans, then your planned fee income will be delayed too. The advantages of capex are that it normally has specifically identified budgets associated with it and there is a clear business objective (e.g. buy that company).
However, if you’re a public affairs specialist working with firms in heavily regulated industries, you’re probably operational expenditure. Your clients will need a dialogue with legislators and regulators, either through you, your competitors, a trade association, internal capacity or some mixture of all of these.
The big advantage from opex is more stable and cyclically defensive income; you’re a necessary expense for the business. The challenges typically come from greater or more constant scrutiny: why does this service cost this much? Where can savings be made? Efficiency gains in opex tend to accumulate over time. If costs can be cut by 10%, then future costs have also been cut. It is a perpetual saving.
P&G’s $100m saving
Let’s take a real world example, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) recently cut its digital ad spend by more $100m and claimed to see no detrimental impact from the move. At the same time, P&G’s CEO said the company was investing in new digital capabilities.
In effect, that $100m is an opex efficiency saving, meanwhile capex on digital marketing continues. So some agencies will be growing their business with P&G, others will have lost a lot of income.
How do clients see your firm and how are you using that knowledge to plan and grow a stronger business? Contact us to have a chat about capex, opex and how marketing can help.