WHY BUSINESSES NEED TO STOP ASKING AGENCIES FOR PROPOSALS
Fellow agency owners, business developers, and account managers has this ever happened to you? You’ve just met a prospective client for coffee or lunch, likely having just rushed in from bad traffic or a busy workday, and you are doing your best to quickly get up to speed on a potential project that they want you to bid on. All positive so far, right? Maybe they want a new website or a marketing campaign. Or, perhaps they have just decided that they need a rebrand for their ageing firm.
Ooh! (you think). This could be a great client!
You lean in and scribble as many notes as you can while also gulping down your hot enchilada or tuna tar-tar (depending on the scale of the restaurant you’ve met at). Then, after 30 or 40 minutes, they state that you seem to really get what they are looking for and could see working with you in the near future.
Whoo boy! You might not have to turn off the heat this winter after all!
Finally, just as they are about to leave they turn to you and say the words you’ve been dreading to hear this whole time: “We’d love for you to send us a proposal or have you in for a pitch meeting. Can we have it by sometime next week?”
BAM! A shot to the heart.
You immediately know that the next three days (and possibly nights) will be spent hunched over your desk coming up with your best guesstimate of what the project might take to complete and staring into your crystal ball for what it might end up costing in terms of staff hours and agency fees. You know it’s going to be a crapshoot, but you are left with no choice if you want to win over the client. Oh, and you won’t get paid for your time to do it either. Sigh.
I’m here to tell you there is ANOTHER WAY.
Dear business owner…
We know you are trying to do your due diligence and getting quotes from 3-4 agencies before you make your choice. That’s fine. But the thing is, nobody has ever taught courses on how to go about finding the right firm, so most think that it means connecting for 30 minutes or less, offering a 10,000 ft view of your problem, and expecting the agency to know (somehow) all of the variables that it will take to make your project come to life. Being wrong about this is ok–the system has been spreading poor information. But, we’re here to correct that one reader at a time. Here is what you should be doing:
The Roadmap Strategy
What you need is a Roadmap, not a proposal. I will outline what that means in a moment, but first I want to make it clear that we’re not just making this stuff up. We learned it from a wide range of successful agencies and firms who have taken on the task of trying to educate the business world on why proposals are the fast-track to project failure. Here are the four main reasons why:
- It’s impossible to fully scope a project in 30 minutes. What are the variables that might affect the project? Who are the primary stakeholders who need to speak into the deliverables? What are the likely roadblocks that we will face? Not knowing these beforehand makes it impossible to know how much time your project could take. So don’t be surprised when your agency comes back with an adjusted budget after a few months.
- Your solution may not be the RIGHT solution. So you think you need a new website because your sales are slumping and the guy down the block has been kicking your butt since he got a new website. Hmm. Maybe your problem isn’t the site but somewhere in your sales process. Maybe your product doesn’t stand up against the competition. Maybe your marketing materials are speaking to the wrong audience, but you don’t know it. Most of the time, clients come to us thinking they have a problem in one area when they often need to focus on something else entirely or don’t yet have all the facts to help guide their decision.
- We need to fully understand your business before we can tell you what to do. Think about it. You have spent countless hours and a significant amount of money building your business. So why do you think a 30-minute conversation is enough time to give an agency the information it needs to make strategic recommendations? We need to take the time to better understand you, your business, and how this project plays a role in your business’ growth. NOTE: If the prospective agency you are courting doesn’t ask you about this. Run.
- A proposal can’t tell you how you are going to make more money. Every business expense needs to result in a tangible return on investment. It’s not complicated. That said, most proposals simply tell you how your money will be spent without outlining how the agency will help your company make more money in the long run.
How a Roadmap Helps
So what is a Roadmap? Simply put, a Roadmap offers a deep dive into your business problem and a list of proposed actions (with far more accurate pricing) for what it will take to fix it. Importantly, a Roadmap isn’t a guess. It tells you what you can expect, what turns and twists are likely to be encountered, and how long it will take to get to your destination. Best of all, it is tied to business objectives and financial growth targets so you can be confident that the project won’t be just another cost-centre.
During a road mapping session, Loomo will sit down with your team to delve deep into your business problem and what you are hoping to achieve. The Roadmap looks at:
- Who you are – really… who are you?
- What the problem is – what is the root cause of your problem? Should that be our focus?
- What the payoff needs to be – what defines success, what defines failure?
- The risks and priorities – what will stop the project from being successful?
- Project roles & actions – who is expected to be a part of the team? What are they expected to do?
- Project architecture – what are the technical aspects of the project we will need to manage?
- Reassess the risks – we will go over the risks again to see if more have come to light.
- Map the project to your business goals – we’ll make sure that the newly defined project is tied to and supports your overall business goals, or we will go back and change it so that it does.
Now, it’s important to note that Roadmapping is not free, but it is worth it. After years of working with clients of all sizes, we can say from experience that the costs of having your project delayed due to a lack of clarity on direction or scope are far more significant. At the end of the day, if you choose not to go with Loomo for your project you will still have a detailed plan in hand for how you can solve your business problem, and that’s what we care about in the long run.
So, dear Business Owner and Agency Partner, the next time you are about to go through the proposal process, maybe consider opting for a Roadmap instead of resorting to the Magic-8-Ball method of business planning.
Now, all of this said, if you do happen to ask us for a proposal, we will do our best to accommodate but don’t be surprised if we suggest a better way. If you would like to book a road mapping session with us, don’t hesitate to contact us today.