Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Effective Proposal

Step Two: Creating effective Proposals.

An effective proposal decreases the incidences of misunderstanding (and instances where sentences begin with with "I was under the impression....") between you and the clients when the project is under way and acts as a basis for a formal contract. When competing for web design and development or marketing contracts; a professionally presented proposal more often than not decides, whether you win or lose the business. Not to mentions, it also shows your professionalism. Do not forget that you are representing your company. The first golden rule of marketing as you know is....Sell yourself before you sell the product! Please don't take that literally!! If your client is impressed with your approach, chances are that they will buy from you (having a good offer on plate also helps ;-)).

When putting together a basic web site proposal, you should include the following elements:

Your Information: Include an overview of your company and the area of expertise. In other words enough reason as to why someone should buy from you.

Project Overview: The business you are submitting the proposal for, your understanding of their products and services, the target market, the goals of the web site.

Scope of Work: A description of the site you are proposing to develop. Include elements from the client's current branding you will utilize or new elements that you will develop.

Special Considerations: such as language, security or other issues pertaining to the business, site or target market that will need to be or should be addressed.

Web site flow chart or Site Map: Include a diagram showing the different pages of the proposed site and the navigational structure.

Flowchart Description: A detailed description of each web page, how it fits in with the overall web site theme and the project element it addresses defining the flow of logic.

Delivery Timeline: This is calculated after consolidating the effort estimation provider by a developer and designer. This should be a description of each stage of the web projects' development, the estimated completion date and notes regarding client consultation and supply of information/feedback from the client. If possible, you can also mention that the delivery timeline does not include the time taken into consideration for client feedback.

Project Costing: You would need to include a descriptive breakdown of costs and the Project Total, including an end date after which the price might need to be re-calculated. This will include/exclude items such as domain name registration, hosting fees and outsourcing sections of the site you will not be able to develop yourself. This may also include milestone payments for involved projects and/or site promotion activities. If the project amount does not include some or any of these elements, please do mention it. Make it clear that traffic takes time to build up after implementation and promotion should only be done after the site has been tested thoroughly. Improper implementation can cost months of traffic and a great deal of lost business. Ensure that you take into account business related items including travelling time, electricity, telephone and consumables (In other words, certain elements of overhead cost) and factors in the cost of the development of the business proposal as well. Lastly, always try to provide a separate proposal for maintenance if your company is going to take care of post deployment maintenance.

A good proposal will take hours of your time and you should be compensated for that. In your eagerness to gain the contract, you may lose money if you quote too close to the bone. Bear in mind that things rarely go according to plan in web development and delays can be expected. Time is money fellas!

Terms and conditions: Expectations and commitments. It is not unusual for web projects to be delayed due to clients not supplying feedback or content necessary to complete sections. It is just as important to be clear in what you expect from your clients as well as explaining your commitment to them. Conflict resolution issues and feedback mechanisms should be described. Not to mention change requests mid-way of the project. For instance, you can let you client know that Design changes after HTMLization, will either cost extra and/or will lead to an increase in the delivery timeline.

Your clients will need to know what will occur if they do not supply information when requested, or request changes mid-stream and the action that you will take if you are running behind in the project yourself. You need to be clear on payment details and consequences of failure to pay for the services that you provide.

Mock-ups (samples): Be careful not to give too much away, just enough to give the client a good idea of what the site will look like. Ensure copyright notices and intellectual property statements are in place. Also, be sure to ask the design to put a watermark over the logo and/or the template. Keep the opacity between 15 and 20%

Web site maintenance: Summarize an offer of ongoing site maintenance or the implications of the client deciding to update or maintain the site themselves after it has been established.

The above points are usually sufficient to put together a professional web design proposal for a small to medium project. If you are drafting a business proposal based on criteria given to you by the prospective client; be sure to address all the points.

If the client suggests the proposal documentation be a certain format, respect that. In the culling process, the first proposals to be trashed will be the ones that do not address all the criteria the client has laid down.

Bear in mind that not all the web design proposals you submit will be accepted. You should be prepared to do the necessary revisions to satisfy your clients and to find a middle ground where both feel comfortable. A prospective client asking for revisions is a good sign - they are genuinely interested and have gone through the proposal. Thus, it is quite natural to be excited about it. Having said that, do not over-commit in the eagerness to close the project.

Also remember that some companies will ask you for proposals purely to use as a comparison against another company that they are interested in utilizing; so try and limit the amount of time you spend on the draft until the client gives indication of serious interest.

Hope this works for now!


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