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Start: Mark Evans

Ballpark quotes are a big mistake Add to ...

A couple of weeks ago, a potential client sent me an e-mail asking for a quote to build a new website.

The quote was needed within a few days so I asked some questions to get a better idea of what he wanted, and then I sent him a proposed budget.

Big mistake.

In hindsight, it was like trying to guess someone's weight when they're 100 metres away. While you can make a rough estimate, there is little chance of coming up with an accurate or informed answer.

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What I should have done is made it clear that offering a quote with only a few details was a non-starter. It was unfair to me and unfair to the client because it meant guessing rather than providing an educated estimate.

If it meant not being able to provide a quote within the timeline and, as a result, not getting the contract, that would have been the right thing to do.

Quoting blind is bad business. It means trying to win work based on a ballpark figure instead of other variables that can be just as important, if not more.

What about fit, and the ability to work with a supplier that is aligned with your strategic and tactical approach? What about the value of customer service? And what about your willingness to see a project through to the end?

These things cannot be pitched as valuable assets when you are providing a ballpark quote. It leaves you vulnerable because even if you win a project, the key benchmark will be price as opposed to service.

There is an obvious downside to avoiding the guessing game: By taking the high road and not providing a guesstimate, you risk losing the business to someone else.

It comes down to how much you need the work and how much risk you are willing to take to get it. It may turn out to be a win-win project but it is not the best way to do business.

If I could do it over again, I'd ask for a meeting to properly assess the opportunity and to provide a quote that took into account the project's different dynamics and have it make sense to both parties.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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