One of the things I do regularly – that makes my team a bit crazy – is test new online business solutions to see whether they do what they say. This month, I’ve spent a chunk of time reviewing Bidsketch, the online proposal software. If you’ve ever wished there was an easier way to crank out a proposal, this post is for you.
I ran across Bidsketch back in January when I was drafting an extensive content marketing proposal for a client. It gobbled up a ton of time and energy. I’m a fan of using the least amount of time and effort to produce the best result, so I decided the next time I needed to create a formal proposal, I’d give Bidsketch a try.
The sign up was easy – and free – for a month. I jumped on and quickly reviewed the available proposal options. In my business, I’m often asked to consult on branding, public relations, content marketing, copywriting, and web content. Everyone’s a “pro” these days, so those areas where earstwhile digital marketers are most likely to enter the entrepreneurial world are present here.
Happily, the proposal templates provided are well organized and value driven, easy to customize, and simple to replicate. It’s a little “old school” of me, but a tiny little voice inside my head says that people don’t actually have to know what they’re doing in order to whip out a nice proposal that looks like they do.
I squelch it as best I can. I know that by the time I get to the proposal and contract stage, both the client and I have had opportunity to engage and know whether we’re the mutual right fit. If I’ve done a good job of pre-selecting my clients, then the proposal and contract are a formality that ensures we’re both on the same page moving forward.
Decision makers in a business have a responsibility to evaluate whether or not the solution proposed will actually create the effect they wish to see. When they don’t, I tend to hear from them when they can’t figure out where they went wrong.
Back to Bidsketch. I reviewed the “consultant,” “content marketing,” and “branding” templates. Each section is “chunked” so the logic is easy to follow. As the constructor of the proposal, I have the ability to pick and choose what I add. So my sample “content marketing” proposal had additions drawn from “copywriting.” A bit of editing is needed to make things flow nicely, but all in all, the proposal springs fully formed from a stock of available choices. Each of the three resulting proposals I reviewed was reasonable, decisionable, and actionable. Dropping the extension of the copywriting tasks into the body of the “content marketing” proposal worked just fine.
The features I liked best were accessible from trusty blue, typed links for “advanced” choices. These allow the compiler to do things like customize the proposal date and add a limiter, or make changes to the fee structure which are earmarked for the current client version without altering the original content. Though I would prefer those options not be treated as asides, I like the capability to track the life cycle of the proposal and attach a number value to the fee structure so the close-to-propose ratio is easily monitored. However, I have a similar function on my social CRM software, Nimble, that tracks lead stages and deals, so I’m not terribly inclined to duplicate efforts here.
Additionally, I noted that the terms and conditions sections closely mirrored those in my existing contract, which I liked. However, my intellectual property agreement has more specificity. I also initiate a non-disclosure, non-compete agreement with a scope not covered within the Bidsketch proposal template. If I plan to use Bidsketch regularly, those would be elements I need to add to the proposal package.
The thing I miss most is a hyperlink option to send an email to someone or place a link on a spreadsheet or in the notes section on a kanban board. An option to quickly reference my proposals using a designated hyperlink would also allow me to anchor a quick link to the proposal onto the client’s card on my Nimble deals board. My only options, however, are to download the proposal as a pdf and save it to my hard drive, to a third location in the cloud, or to stay logged into Bidsketch.
The question of whether or not Bidsketch is “worth it” boils down to the (1) volume of proposals, (2) level of customization, and (3) how we assess the value of our time. If your time is worth more than the monthly fee, and you do a minimum of one proposal for month, then you’ll want to take a look.
Personally, I’d like to work with it a bit more. I sat down today to draft a public relations proposal with an emphasis on influencer/image marketing, and there was no PR template. My first impulse was to adapt a “branding” report to describe what it’s like to build image through pitching to journalists, raising the individual’s profile online, and similar tasks. The amount and substance of the editing would have dictated an even trade for the amount of time to create the proposal I actually needed. So the effort wouldn’t be worth it for a one-off type of proposal, but I certainly understand the benefit of creating it, loading it as a template, and refining it for future, repeated use.
Industry professionals who want to set themselves apart in a sea of pitches will want to customize or individuate proposals closely. Heaven forbid that two consultants turn in the same proposal with minimal changes; if that happens, the client’s decision doesn’t come down to value or finding the best match for its goals, it comes down to cheap, and that’s bad for business.
My final assessment: Bidsketch is a useful tool for sales and marketing professionals who are actively networking and engaged in regular, repeated lead generation activities. They are also unafraid of asking for the business. Money likes fast action, and with Bidsketch it’s possible to deliver proposals in about 1/3 to 1/2 the time of a traditional, built from scratch document. If your bottom line could increase proportionally to the time freed up by using Bidsketch, then checking out the trial version is a no brainer.
Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is a nationally published U.S. journalist and lead content strategist with Professional Moneta International, www.professionalmoneta.com, a boutique marketing public relations consultancy helping exceptional entrepreneurs and executives grow their multi-platform brand influence locally and globally.