A recent prospect responded to my inquiry about the project budget with this:

We can’t release budget information as we need all vendors to bid their best price. If they know the budget they just bid right up to it.

I’ve always known that is the fear, but in the thousands of website projects I’ve pursued over the years, I think that is the first time a potential client was ever that forthright about it. However, it’s an unfounded fear. In a competitive situation with 6-50 firms proposing, we all aren’t going to peg our proposals at the top of the budget. Without a budget, those 6-50 vendors aren’t even proposing on the same solution. They are proposing on their perception of what they think you want for a solution. That is why you’ll get bids ranging from $25K – $250K from the same RFP.

If you want to receive a good mix of proposals, all proposing in the same budget neighborhood, so that you get to the no-lose situation of a short list with 3 or 4 vendors that will all do a great job on your website, you have to provide the budget in the RFP. If you truly don’t have a budget, give us a ceiling, or what you consider a reasonable neighborhood.

Any competent web shop can scale a proposal to fit a budget. We can take the same basic set of requirements and design a $40K site, or a $140K site. The primary differences in a $40K site and a $140K are:

Depth of the discovery consulting
Amount or complexity of the interactivity in the site
Integration with 3rd party apps
Amount of customization in the site
Sure, we prefer to build the $140K sites. That kind of budget allows more time for creativity in the design, and more time to customize Drupal to do exactly what the client wants. However, if $40K is all you have that is fine. We can deliver a compelling website for $40K. What we can’t do is read minds. Without some guidance on budget we have to guess at whether you want the $40K site, or the $140K site. Help us help you by sharing the information we need to give you the best site possible for your budget. Nobody expects the car dealership to guess at whether we are shopping for a Honda or a Mercedes. We are upfront about that, often by choosing which dealership to walk into. The same principal applies to web sites. If you want proposals that meet your expectations, please share those expectations with us. Don’t make us guess.

That prospective client from the beginning of this post? They wanted the $40K site. We guessed incorrectly on that one.

Image source / license:Creative Commons 2.0