7 Tips for Writing a Strong Business ProposalBy Nicole Lauzon
“You never get a second chance to make a strong first impression.”
Think of a business proposal as a professional introduction of your brand and a snapshot of what’s possible when a prospective client decides to enter a relationship with you and your business. It sets the stage for a great relationship and provides an expectation of what it will be like to work together on solving some of your client’s trickiest problems.
Studies have shown it takes as little as 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression through the design of visual content, and when a contract is on the line you want to get it right. This article explores the Top 7 tips for crafting a proposal that will become one of your strongest assets in client acquisition.
1. Preparation and Personalization
Research shows 91 percent of consumers say they are more likely to spend money with brands that provide relevant recommendations to them. It’s wise to have a template of your proposal ready to go with design elements, bios and general information. And it’s important to conduct client research and discovery prior to sending the proposal.
6 Questions to Consider Before Writing a Proposal:
- What is the recipient's role within the organization?
- Who is the decision maker?
- What are the recipient’s main concerns?
- What supports or resources does the recipient already have?
- Is the recipient familiar with your solutions and company?
- What is the recipient’s industry background?
By considering these few key questions you can tailor content to speak directly to your prospective client and build a selection of solutions and services that fit his or her needs.
2. Review the Competition
During the discovery phase of your conversations with a prospect, get a sense of the market competition. By using a marketing assessment tool that reveals various areas of a business’s online performance, such as the Vendasta Snapshot Report, you can generate details on how the digital presence of competitors stack up. This insight gives your prospect a deeper understanding of gaps that may exist in their own marketing and how they rank online relative to the competition. You can then recommend solutions to improve their digital footprint and attract more customers.
3. Put Your Best Foot Forward
The cover page of your proposal can make or break a successful pitch. It may mean the difference between your document getting shoved aside or passed forward to key decision makers. You can use templates and free graphic design tools like Canva or DesignWizard to create neat, clean and visually appealing business proposals.
Additional Elements to Consider for Your Cover Page:
- The sections of your proposal should be informative and well organized, but fairly simple. (see Tip 7 for an outline on recommended sections)
- An attractive layout that clearly and easily explains the company or project.
- Be sure to include your company name, address and logo, an engaging proposal name, its due date, and to whom the proposal is intended.
- Add an image that is relevant to the content within your proposal.
A good proposal writer cares about content, structure, pricing, and fees, as well as design and layout.
“Use elements like white space, images, and videos if you’re sending the proposal digitally. Include anything that can visually help your proposal stand out,” Reif says.
Expert Tip: A piece of content paired with a photograph is 6.5 times more likely to be remembered by your audience. Try using a contextually relevant photo on the cover of your next proposal cover to leave a lasting impression with the recipient.
What is White Space and Why is it Important?
White space is simply the space between text, graphics, images, and blocks. Whitespace is also known as negative space or blank space.
Using white space evenly makes the content in a design easily scannable and significantly improves legibility. According to studies, proper use of white space between lines of paragraphs and its left and right margins can increase comprehension up to 20%. Large spaces between layouts and layout elements, also called as Macro White Spaces help guide the viewer through, allowing them to more easily prioritize areas of focus.
White Space Examples
4. State the Problem and Propose Your Solution
Use the client discovery and competitor research mentioned earlier to match up the needs of your prospect with the expertise and digital solutions you provide. This is where personalization makes you shine. There’s nothing more disappointing to a local business owner than receiving a canned proposal that feels like it wasn’t specifically intended for them and probably took little effort to put together.
A tool like the Vendasta Snapshot Report identifies areas of growth your client may not have considered. It’s an automated sales intelligence tool that generates graded insights into a prospects online marketing performance. The report gives you and your potential client a summary of their online presence, identifying pain points in areas like listing directories, online reviews, social media performance, ecommerce, website traffic and design, and more. You can match each of the identified pain points with an appropriate digital solution or service that will meet their needs and budget.
5. Include Testimonials
According to research, when a prospect interacts with customer testimonials or reviews, they are 58 percent more likely to convert, generates 62 percent more revenue per site visitor, and these customers buy 3 percent more per order. Real customers who endorse your company and provide concrete details about how you’ve helped them succeed builds trust with prospects and allows potential clients to envision how you might be able to help them achieve similar results.
When a project wraps up or you reach a renewal period with clients, send a short survey, encouraging them to leave comments about their experience in doing business with your brand. Ask permission to use their remarks in your marketing materials, and you’ll have plenty of quotable content to include with that next proposal.
6. Provide a Call to Action
A proposal needs to efficiently communicate the benefits of purchasing your products and services, and encourage a client to work with you right away.
Having the ability for prospects to approve your proposal, and conveniently submit a payment with one simple action is key.
You can use an esignature tool like HelloSign to add a sign-up step right in the proposal itself. You’ll also want to include relevant contact information so that clients can reach out to you with any questions or adjustments before they sign on.
Expert Tip: Conduct split testing to compare different versions of your proposals, measuring conversion rates, to determine which version is the best customer acquisition magnet.
7. Use a Template
“Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you need to create a proposal. Save templates that you’ve customized for your brand,” Reif says.
The Basic Structure of a Business Proposal Should Include:
- Title page
- Executive summary
- Proposal & Solution
- About Us
- Agreement & CTA
Expert Tip: The average proposal has seven sections and 11 pages - significantly shorter than proposals from a decade ago.
Proposal Builder: Coming Soon to the Vendasta Platform
We’ve heard from many of our partners that they spend hours building a single proposal with no guarantee the client will come onboard. So my main consideration when we approached the design phase of an in-platform proposal builder was ease-of-use and the ability for our partners, who sell ecommerce and digital sales and marketing solutions to local businesses, to create something in as little time as possible.
“We’ve designed templates, so that our partners can now build their proposals in less than five minutes, with less than five clicks,” Goff says.
Proposal Builder, currently in development by Vendasta, will allow users to save entire proposals, or even individual elements of those proposals, like pricing tables and testimonials, to a content library for easy recall.
“With more than 500 products in the Vendasta marketplace, we wanted to give our partners an easy way to sell those products to their local business clients,” says Tandon.
He explains that, through proposal builder, vendors who resell their digital solutions in the Vendasta Marketplace can add additional templates that partners can use when creating their proposals.”
Proposal Builder is set for release to testers in late June. To keep an eye on the latest updates for this feature subscribe to the blog today.