Agency Advantage 20: Ben Lee on Building a Million Dollar Agency by Charging for His Pitches

Agency Advantage 20: Ben Lee on Building a Million Dollar Agency by Charging for His Pitches

Almost every agency owner has been here before: you spend hours upon hours creating the perfect proposal and think that once the prospect sees it, they’ll be begging to hand over their money. But after you hit send, you get radio silence. Maybe you hear back that it wasn’t what they were looking for, or maybe you don’t hear back at all. All of those hours have gone to waste.

Ben Lee of Neon Roots flipped the old model on its head by selling paid roadmapping to his clients.

Roadmapping is essentially the proposal on steroids. Instead of loose estimates and approximations, roadmapping is a full discovery process that gets to the root of what the client wants to achieve and lays out how they can get there.

Today Ben shares how he went from pitching for free to selling $30,000 project roadmaps, and teaches you how to take the first step.

.@benleenr went from pitching for free to selling $30,000 roadmaps. Learn how to do the same Click To Tweet

Key Takeaways

The project roadmap process is fundamentally flawed [5:00 – 11:07]

Right now, most agencies are giving away their time and expertise for free when they write a proposal. Roadmapping aims to solve that problem by going the extra mile, turning the proposal into a valuable deliverable, and charging for that time.

Turn your proposal into a valuable deliverable, and charge for that time. Click To Tweet

The problem with most proposals is that they are going to be all over the place even for a single, reasonably well-defined project. The reason for this is because most agencies are so eager to get started on a project that they send out the proposal without learning near enough about what the project entails.

The goal of roadmapping is to do the due diligence so you can actually give a proper estimate, and then make it clear what exactly needs to go into the project to get it done and what it will cost. Once you’ve done this work and given your client a true roadmap for success for their project, then you can easily charge for it because they have received real value.

Roadmapping reduces risk for the client [15:45 – 18:30]

The main reason it reduces risk is because roadmapping actually goes through the discovery needed to give a proper estimate of what is needed to complete a project. After doing this, the client will have fewer surprises in terms of budget or timeline when it comes to getting things done.

Roadmapping goes through the discovery needed to give a proper estimate of project needs Click To Tweet

Additionally, it adds transparency to the process. A project roadmap is more than just a quote, it really is a detailed plan of what needs to be done. Theoretically, the client could take it to another agency and have them execute on it. This is a benefit. You want your clients to shop around so they make a well-informed decision, and just as you are vetting them to make sure they are a good fit for you, they will be vetting you.

After going through this process with you, they will see that you have a clear framework you work within. When they see how unprofessional the alternatives are, they will usually go with you in the end.

Even if they end up going with another agency, there’s still a chance the project won’t succeed and they will come back to you because they know you provided the roadmap and can get it done.

Developing a tool to help guide the process [19:00 – 25:45]

Fleshing out the product backlog is essential to making the agile method work, but they knew using 3×5 note cards and Google Docs to do this wasn’t exactly impressing the clients. With that in mind, Ben and his team developed Arbor to help bridge the gap between ideation and execution.

Arbor is essential to getting the user stories in a central hub so that the engineers can do their estimation and get everybody on the same page for what the first version of the product will look like. By bringing the client into this process it helps make sure that they understand that while they can get everything they want, as they start adding more features, the budget and timeline both increase.

The Neon Roots team dogfooded this product for 2 years, but after seeing how it helps add transparency to the process and streamline the hodgepodge of systems they used before, they decided to release it as a standalone product. Today, Arbor is the layer between the idea and the heavy duty PM tool.

Roadmapping builds trust [26:45 – 33:30]

Most agencies are so eager to close the deal that they don’t ask nearly enough questions to give an accurate proposal. Clients realize this, so when you pump the brakes and say that they need to slow down so you can do some discovery before giving a proposal, they will immediately see that you’re different.

After going through the roadmapping process with you, which usually involves significant 1-on-1 time, they are going to see that you have a process for working and that you aren’t just after their money. If a feature doesn’t make sense, or won’t fit in their budget, you’re going to let them know and show them why. Other agencies don’t do this.

If a feature doesn't make sense or fit into budget, let clients know in your roadmapping session. Click To Tweet

By changing the relationship from order-taker to expert consultant, you not only are able to significantly increase the rates you’re able to charge, but you’re also able to increase the trust clients have in you. And, to top it all off, going through this upfront work will make delivering the project even easier and more reliable so that you can keep that trust by delivering on your promises.

Roadmapping is a win-win.

Want to learn more?

The interview and show notes could only go so deep into roadmapping, so if you want to learn more I strongly recommend checking out the project roadmap resources Ben Lee and Brennan Dunn put together at https://doubleyourfreelancing.com/roadmapping/.

If you want to hear more from Ben, you can follow him on Twitter, check out his agency and roadmapping service, and even test out the tool he created to make roadmapping easier.

Resources Mentioned

Brennan Dunn
Agile Method

Thanks for listening!

How much time do you spend pitching for free? Have you thought about offering paid roadmapping services? If you have, please how it went in the comments. If you haven’t, let me know what’s holding you back.

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