Sometimes I look back on my career as a copywriter and content marketer… and I wonder how I even managed to feed my family and keep the bills paid in those early days. It’s a wonder I didn’t run off every single prospective client with the poor quality of my “proposals.”
During the first year or so of chasing clients, every proposal I sent was typed up in an email in a direct response to a query for business. I probably lost as many as I landed, if not more. At the time I thought it was price, experience (or lack thereof) or some other factor. The fact is a lot of it had to do with the proposal itself.
A good proposal serves two purposes. First, it explains the core concept of your service in a simple and logical way that it easy to understand, effectively communicating your services and what you’ll provide to the prospective client.
Second, it’s a sales tool; you’re showing the prospect how it will benefit them and why it’s in their best interest to hire you. That means you have to be persuasive, compelling and the content has to be well written.
There’s that eye-tick that comes from having to write your own copy…
Keep these items in mind to help control the tick while putting together a winning proposal:
1. Focus on the “Wootness”
You’ll be hard-pressed to sell someone on something that is mediocre; people will see through the hype pretty quickly. A good proposal is based on a great idea. The core principal here is to show the prospective client that you recognize their problem, and then present to them a great idea worthy of a “Woot!”
2. Keep it Short
Always think like your clients are busier than you. Develop proposals with brevity in mind and avoid being verbose. I used to try telling stories to my mother as a teen and she would always cut me off with “10 words or less.” It was annoying at the time but it taught me to get my point across.
3. Be Passionate
In conversation you can easily show people how passionate you are about your service. Make sure your proposal communicates your passion in writing. This is not a license to oversell so avoid the hype, but you still need to convince the client that you’re “it.”
4. Convention is Important
Without a doubt your proposal is unique to you and your business but I’ve discovered that convention helps me craft winning proposals. My most successful proposals contain a lot of the following:
- The “Executive Summary” – Explain the basic idea of the project or requested services in a few paragraphs. I try to keep it within a single page.
- My Background – I like to include some background about myself in a proposal, tailored to the project and how it relates to their needs. It shows that I’m not sending a cookie cutter proposal and injects my personality and personal touch into the proposal. You’re not just selling your service; you’re selling your own brand of awesome sauce as well.
- The Proposal – They’ve asked about a service and/or stated the problem and this is where the answer is. This is the meat of it, detailing the requested services and what I can offer in relation to their problem.
- The Benefits – Rather than just stating what I can offer, I include why. I want them to know what kind of results they can get specific to their problem and what they’ll get out of our business relationship.
- The Needs, Timeline and Cost – I outline what I need and what needs to happen for the project to start, continue and finish as well as the amount of time I’ll need. Cost is always last. When you ask someone to give you money, the prospect must have clearly seen why your idea is the winner. After selling them on the benefits, selling them on cost is easy.
- Conclusion – I close my proposals like I’m closing a letter to a friend, stating some of the most important benefits once more from a position of sincerity, and I always close with “sincerely”.
Do I still cut the occasional email proposal for small gigs? Absolutely. It has its merits but once I dove off the e-mail proposal train on “big fish” clients, and began crafting more professional proposals, I saw a noticeable increase in the number of prospects interested in gaining the benefit of my awesome sauce.
About the Author – Derek Cromwell
Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the Success Works SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media. He fancies himself as a professional writer, peddling website copywriting and content marketing services to businesses around the globe. He’s still trying to convince his family that he does more than sit at a computer playing Call of Duty all day, but they’re not buying it.
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