Hey, everyone I just want to write a brief note about writing proposal for services when bidding on a contract. Never give out to much info when writing a proposal, here’s why:
Example 1: When I was first starting out, my first thought process was to give all kinds of great information away about social media marketing. In fact before I met with prospective clients, I would nearly hand over a complete social media strategy in hopes that they would hire me to do the execution and training for them. I met with the CMO of a very large public company located in the suburbs of Chicago. I was so excited, I put together a 40 slide presentation outlining why social media was important to in their internet marketing strategy, what the benefits were, and I even went into key areas where they were lacking, key opportunities for them to take advantage and a road map for social media success. Of course, the idea was they would hire me out to help with the implementation. The CMO was excited, “This is great, we are definitely going to do something!” he said. In my mind, this is a done deal, I’m not expensive (pricing was reasonable), he sees the benefits, all he has to do is put me in touch with their director of online media and it’s done. However, after a week I received no communication from him so I started calling and e-mailing with little success. After 2 weeks I gave up. A month later I went back to check their site and what do you know? They used their current staff to implement my plan. Why pay me when they can push it off onto someone else currently working for the company? Now the argument can be made that they didn’t do it very well, but the fact remains they still took some my ideas and ran with it.
Example 2: I landed an appointment with a pretty large national pizza company a few weeks ago and I went out to meet with their team. When I got to the company I ended up meeting with 4 people on their team. I told them my background, what makes me qualified and I gave them a detailed overview of what my services would include: the time spent on market research, a custom strategic social media plan, implementation strategy, spending time with their staff executing the plan, etc. It was a very detailed overview what type of services I would be offering, how it would be reported, and what they could expect. However, they kept drilling me with questions like “We understand you would put together a plan, but can you tell us exactly, step-by-step what you would be doing? Can you give examples on what types of things would be successful?” I told them that I felt a little uncomfortable discussing the strategy without a contract in place so, the meeting ended uncomfortably and I was told they would contact me after they met with a few other consultants. After a week without hearing back I called and e-mailed them. I finally got this e-mail last week denying my proposal because: “For the most part we wanted to see what we were capable of doing ourselves.” Yep, they made me spend one whole day putting together a proposal and one whole day driving and meeting with their staff with no intention of ever buying. Their main objective was simply to get whatever free info they could, so they could figure out how to do it for themselves. So even though I didn’t give away information, they met with 5 or 6 other consultants who were more than willing to give away free ideas. In the end, they ended up hiring no one.
Another example, which has happened at many companies I’ve met with, is for them to simply take the detailed bid from the consultant back to their traditional marketing firm (which has never offered social media services in the past) and ask them if they can do social media. The answer will always be yes, even if they don’t offer it, because now they have a blueprint of what they can do.
So just a tip for you budding social media consultants: Don’t give away to much info, and stand your ground when pushed into giving away free advice. You’re hired because you’ve put the work, time and research into understanding social media from a business and Internet marketing perspective. Don’t let some executive who’s panicked because they don’t understand the technology (and their CEO is likely coming to them asking what their Web 2.0 or social strategy is) pressure you into giving away free info. Make sure you have a contract in place, at least an hourly contract. My tip: keep an hourly contract with you when going on appointments, if you are pressured into giving away info, tell them you have no problem digging deeper into the proposal and giving some advice, but you need the hourly contract signed before continuing. If you don’t get the bigger bid, at least you can invoice them for your time spent with their company .