Guest post by Ian S Lauder
Do you specialize in developing marketing plans for products? Or perhaps you’re a graphic design expert who works in the field of advertising. Or maybe you sell ads on radio or television.
Whether you specialize in advertising or in the larger world of marketing in general, you know that the success of your business depends on keeping a steady stream of satisfied clients. Mass mailing brochures or networking at meetings in person can help you identify potential clients, but to land a contract, you will probably need to write targeted proposals for specific projects.
If you’re not a writer, the prospect of writing a business proposal can sound a little intimidating. This article will show you that it’s not as difficult as you may imagine. First of all, you know your business and what you have to offer, so you know how to talk about your services. Now, all you have to do is put yourself in the potential client’s place, and write your information in an easy to follow sequence.
No matter what type of goods or services you are pitching to a potential client, every proposal should use the following four-part structure: an introduction, a client-centered section, a detailed description of what you propose to do, and finally, a section that’s all about your expertise and experience. Your proposal may be five pages long or twenty, and the content in the last three sections will vary according to your business and the project you are proposing, but the order of information will remain the same.
Let’s look at each of these four parts in a little more detail. The introduction should include a Cover Letter, which briefly explains who you are and why you are submitting the proposal, states what you’d like the reader to do next, and provides all your contact information. At the top of the proposal itself you should create a Title Page, which contains a name for your proposal. Keep that simple and descriptive, using titles like "S&T Design Services Proposal to Maxxwell, Inc. for New Corporate Branding Campaign" or "Proposed Marketing Plan for the RT5 Product Line." For a simple business proposal, that might be all you need in the way of introduction. But if your proposal is more complex, you may want to include also an Executive Summary of your most important points and a Table of Contents to help readers find the sections they want.
The client-centered section often makes the difference between a successful proposal and one that ends up in the slush pile. In this section, your goal is to prove that you understand what your potential client needs and wants. You also want to discuss any concerns you’re aware of. For example, a client might be worried about a specific competitor, connecting with their target market, repeating past mistakes, spending too much money, or not meeting important deadlines. Discuss all of that here. If you need to call the potential client and ask questions about the organization or the proposed project, do it. Doing a little research to show you listen to your client can pay off in a big way.
Even for a short straightforward project, you’ll want a Needs page or Requirements page here to list the specifics for the project. For a more involved project, you may need separate topic pages for Specifications, Schedule, Budget, Deadlines, and other areas you want to describe in detail. It’s not time yet to talk about what you can do for your client; this section is all about the client and proving you have listened to their needs.
After you have finished describing the needs and concerns of your client, move on to the next section, the description of your goods and services. Here, you will describe exactly what you propose to do for the project, how your ideas will meet the needs laid out in the previous section, how this will benefit the client, and what it will cost.
For a simple proposal, you might need only a Solutions or Services Provided page and a Price List or Cost Summary. For a longer proposal, you may want to include topics like Options, Packages, Schedule, Market Study, Venues, Subcontractors, Teamwork, Market and Audience, Sales Plan, Marketing Plan, Promotion, Advertising, Demographics, Publicity, Packaging, Brand Development, and so forth – it all depends on the project. Your objective in this section is to describe in detail what you plan to do and explain how your ideas will provide the solution to the client’s needs. Be as specific as possible.
Last but never least is the all-about-you section. This is where you need to include all the information you have that will persuade the potential client that you are the best pick to accomplish their project. You’ll want to include topic pages like About Us or Company History, perhaps a page named Staff, Personnel, or Teams, pages that describe relevant Experience or list Clients you’ve done similar work for, and lists of successful Projects you’ve accomplished. If you have Awards, special Certifications or Training, or Testimonials from satisfied clients, you’ll want to include those, too.
There you have it–at this point, you have created the first draft of your proposal. Now take the time to perfect it. Use a good proofreader or editor to make sure all pages are error-free, and format the pages well so they are visually appealing, too. You might want to add design elements such as special fonts or bullet points, or add color or your own corporate logo.
Then print your proposal or bundle it into a PDF file, and deliver it to your client by whatever method is likely to make the best impression (email, upload to your web site, print and deliver, etc.).
Did you know that you can use pre-designed templates to help you write business proposals quickly and efficiently? Using a proposal kit is one way to get started right away–it has topic templates (hundreds, including those listed above), sample proposals (dozens), basic contracts, and of course, instructions for use. Each template page in a kit includes suggestions and examples, so you’ll never sit staring at a blank page, wondering what to put on it. The sample proposals in a kit will show you what a wide variety of finished business proposals might look like. You can also find kits in a variety of graphic designs to give your proposal a professional look, or you can adapt all the pages to your own designs and logo.
Ian Lauder has been helping small businesses and freelancers write their proposals and contracts since 1997. For more tips and best practices when writing your business proposals and legal contracts go to http://www.proposalkit.com