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Old November 12th, 2009, 09:51 AM   #1
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The proposal request

I just had an existing client call me. This company is medium sized with many departments, and from what I gather, each department operates pretty much independently from the others. We've done work in the recent past for two other departments (some training videos and some design work) and now I'm contacted by a third.

He wants me to put together some storyboards and design ideas and present them at a meeting with two other competitors to (his words) "give them some ideas". I asked if they had a budget for this project. No. I asked if they had written a request for proposal. No.

From his brief description, I could see this being as small as a $2,000 project. I don't want to go through so much work and drive 45 miles to attend a meeting where I have only a 33% chance of getting a piddly little project.

The problem is we already have a relationship with this company (but not this department) and they are very good to work for. Always pay the bill on time, never complain about the price. But I think this guy is way out of line asking for this much up front.

What would you do? Tell him we don't work that way? Just do it and hope for the best?
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Old November 12th, 2009, 11:08 AM   #2
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What about going to the meeting and billing them for your time if you do not get the project. Since they are asking you there for input on your knowledge.

They will likely decline on paying for something right away, and you wont have to worry about it :P

Or or go to the meeting, and agree to the terms because they value your opinion, and you get the gig, whatever size it is.

I am not sure the size of your business and operation, but $2000 is $2000 in my book.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 11:36 AM   #3
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Chris, I'd probably talk "professionally candidly" with the person you know best there and point out that it is not a common business practice (nor YOUR business practice) to develop "look and feel" type work without being on contract AND THEN presenting YOUR concept in front of your direct competitors. This is the corporate response to all these Make Us a Commercial Contests and I'm not entirely sure that corporations know just how despicable what they are asking for really is.

Hey Chrysler, GM and Ford, each give me a car for 6 months or so, let me drive it however I want and I'll get back to you. Oh, and my budget is probably only $2000.

I say find a way to keep from "offending" the client as you have an excellent working relationship with them but you have no need to comply with this BIZARRE request.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #4
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As well, if you'd LIKE to do the creative work, offer to pitch it to them directly, with no competitors in sight and with a non disclosure agreement in place.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 11:59 AM   #5
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He did just get back to be with a budget of $5k. That's a little better price, but I'm still trying to come up with some wording to tell them why I don't like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alden Miller View Post
I am not sure the size of your business and operation, but $2000 is $2000 in my book.
Oh, $2k is a fine project and I'd almost never turn one down. But basically they're asking me to do at least $1,000 of work up-front with a 33% chance I'd get the job.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 12:19 PM   #6
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This is the way the Advertising business has worked for some time, although each agency generally gets a separate pitch meeting. But this business model may not work for you. If you're uncomfortable with it, you're completely within your rights to say you don't work that way.

But perhaps you can come up with a compromise, seeing as they're overall a valued client. Where I'm from a 45 minute drive is a walk in the park, so I'd be tempted to generate a few ideas if I could get a private pitch meeting. But no way I'm giving away ideas to the competition. But be prepared for the company to steal your ideas anyhow.

The downside of encouraging this sort of request is that they'll think it's normal and you'll never be free of it.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 02:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post
But basically they're asking me to do at least $1,000 of work up-front with a 33% chance I'd get the job.
You're a smart guy Chris but for the sake of the discussion I'll add:
The question a producer would need to ask is: by doing the $1k worth of work without knowing if you're going to recoup, are you displacing other work that you KNOW will pay. It's all about fiscal risk management.

If you HAVE the time AND it's a reputable client, it's ONLY $1000. Sucks if you don't get the work but at least OCCASIONALLY we need to take chances in our businesses. It's just how much of a chance are YOU willing to take. And be honest with yourself - how would YOU REACT if you didn't get it AND the other firm used YOUR pitch. I get bitter about stuff like that. I believe in building mutually respectful relationships with clients and THAT would indicate that the relationship had just become one sided.

Again, this isn't directly aimed at Chris, this is a further discussion for any and all that come looking for advice later.
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Old November 12th, 2009, 11:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post
He wants me to put together some storyboards and design ideas and present them at a meeting with two other competitors to (his words) "give them some ideas". I asked if they had a budget for this project. No. I asked if they had written a request for proposal. No.
This is absurd.

No industry works like this. Meetings with competitors present?

I think this is a situation where some education is needed.

I have no problem meeting with prospective clients and talking about ideas but to storyboard & design before contracts is putting the cart before the horse imho.

This is either fishing or ignorance, neither should be responsible for you to design up a concept before you are the chosen vendor.
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Old November 14th, 2009, 10:20 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
No industry works like this. Meetings with competitors present?
As messed up as this seems, a MAJOR aerospace manufacturer in my home town had a regular client of mine AND another production house that I know the guys at in to COUNTERPITCH themselves against each other for a rather large medium budget advertising piece.

My client respectfully requested to have his own time to pitch his ideas after the young upstart company kept butting in and pointing out how they would do it "hipper" and cheaper. My client did not get the contract.

This happens and I'm in awe that ANY self respecting video producer would engage in this sort of proceeding.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 08:42 AM   #10
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Gosh, they might as well put out a matt and have everybody wrestle for it.

I would think this is the domain of advertising firms, not video production companies. Although the lines get blurred when budgets go south.

Where is this going into the future?

I can hear some high school kid in one of these pitch meetings saying "we can do it hipper and cheaper as well as the portable advantage of shooting it entirely on my iPhone to connect with the younger demographic, with the audio mod of course".

The endless quest to get something for nothing.
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Old November 15th, 2009, 03:29 PM   #11
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www.no-spec.com

I found some great info here that helped me draft a response explaining why I was declining their request for a speculative presentation.
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Old November 17th, 2009, 06:47 AM   #12
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Chris: Have you asked the people you've worked with in the other departments at this company about their take on the request? If you've built strong relationships with those people, you may be able to have a conversation with them about this request - without sounding like a complaint - that will A) help you navigate the situation and B) enlist their support for you and your process with the other department.
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Old November 18th, 2009, 08:33 AM   #13
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It looks like it may work out. Someone from the company is coming to my office on Friday to talk about the project.
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Old November 20th, 2009, 11:58 AM   #14
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Chris,

Hope it works out well. You may also find this item to be worthwhile for a read.

Free Pitching and Designer Selection


Designers get this "free pitch" nonsense quite often. The document explains quite well why free pitching is bad for both the designer and the client.

Andrew
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