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Proposal Pergatory

13 January 2009

As a business owner, the most important objective is to bring in new business. The most imperative part of bringing in business is the pitch, and the proposal. The pitch is something I can do pretty solidly, and while I can also write a decent proposal, I’m finding that it’s taking a good deal of our collective time for each job. I’d say each proposal is worth about $1000 in and of itself, in equivalent hour value. This means, it’s costing us $1000 just to tell a client what we’re wanting to charge them and why. Insane, really, if you think about it, and you end up having to build that value right into the bid. Problem is, that time is not valued by the client at all – it’s expected to be given to them freely, otherwise how can they even estimate if they should choose your firm versus another firm. If you add in the fact that everyone’s job has different parameters, needs, desires and expectations, and if you’re trying to extend your model into activities you have not sold before – this leads to a lot of time just thinking, and reworking wording.
That’s what we’re doing right now. We have about eight proposals to get out the door, and they’re just taking forever. Add to that our ongoing workload, and you can see how we’re just up to our eyelids and unable to rest. But, we have to keep on chasing, and bringing people into the pipeline. We’ve been relatively successful at the $1k-$3k range for client sites, but we’re now moving into the $6k-$12k packages that include not only site design and implementation, but internet marketing campaign management. It’s where we need to go if we’re going to survive and thrive, and it’s a lot to ask of a client, but not if you figure in the absolute necessity of that work, and the total number of hours that actually go into managing an internet marketing campaign, including ad campaign management, search engine optimization, keyword placement, conversion testing, and all the other things necessary to properly administer an online presence. However, budgets are not what they once were, and there’s a lot of resistance to paying the proper value for anything in this market. Consumer trends suggest that anything less than 50% off is not considered a bargain right now. If that translates to services, we should be cutting our rates in half – but we aren’t. We can’t. We have overhead and this stuff just isn’t worth it if you’re losing money every month.
So, I have a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of late nights for the next few weeks, spending our time and giving it away for free, so that maybe, just maybe someone will decided to pay us back for our time.

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