How to Write a Proposal
How to write a proposal correctly: 5 simple steps + 10 useful tips
School, college, university and many occupations require skills of writing proposals. At some point it becomes a critical skill whether we are talking about science proposals, book proposals, commercial proposals or any other types. In any way, proposal aims at informing and gaining support for your idea. It is written to sell your services, ideas, skills or knowledge. Even though, types of proposals are different, basic rules of writing them are the same.
The article will cover the topics of formatting and content of proposal, psychology of the client’s perception, as well as personal tips and developments with explanations.
General recommendations for writing a proposal
As a rule, a proposal is made up of one page, in some cases – a maximum of two. With the right approach, the whole essence of your proposal, including description of your offer, client’s benefits, brief information about you (your company) and contacts can be placed on just one page.
Today, people, especially businessmen or officials (commercial proposals are made up mostly for them) do not have a lot of time and are unlikely to read more than 2 pages of document. If we are talking about a classical good proposal, it looks like this (from top to bottom):
- head (when appropriate);
- title or catchy phrase;
- main part;
When appropriate, a proposal should contain a head with a company logo or a symbol (picture) of the product that you are selling. You can divide your audience into two groups, one to send a bright and prominent proposal, and another to look at the response.
5 simple steps to make an effective proposal
In order to see in practice how a commercial offer is being prepared, we decided to write it on the example of advertisement site. At the same time, you can follow the steps of how the proposal is compiled. We will give examples and explanations.
An important condition that must be met before starting the compilation is a well-established warm contact with your potential customer. You must know in advance where you will send your proposal and the name of addressee.
Step 1. Conduct an analysis of the reader
To know in which style to write a proposal, to indicate in it the right benefits for your reader, you need to conduct an analysis. First of all, we will analyze his problems and needs, as they will be decided by our product or service.
In our case, the offer for a potential client will be placement of advertisements our site in the format of a banner, review or mention in a targeted article of products or services of our advertisers. Let’s think logically. Who can be interested in our proposal?
Our advertisement board is a platform with instructions, recommendations and interviews for start-up entrepreneurs. This means that all the owners of services, authors of information courses, trainings, event organizers for start-up entrepreneurs, people who want to start their own business and are looking for a business idea for launch are our potential customers.
At the beginning of the first step, we simply have a general idea of our potential customer and an empty commercial offer form.
Suppose that we have already found on the Internet some company “X”, contacted them and found out that their manager Mr. Perkins is interested in cooperation and now is waiting for our offer on e-mail. We also know that this company conducts online training webinars and trainings on how to organize business on the Internet.
Step 2. Make the catching title WITH NUMBERS
The title of your proposal is a powerful tool to attract attention of your potential client. In our case, this header can be the following: “100 000 of your potential customers are already ready to pay for training in the company “X”!
Let’s see now, why the title of our commercial offer is exactly like this? It’s simple, now our site is visited by more than 100 000 people a month. Considering that these are people who are interested in earning and opening their own business, it turns out that they are all potential customers of our fictitious company “X”.
Also the phrase “already ready to pay” further warms up interest in our commercial offer. And it’s all logical, if these 100 000 people come to our site with the goal of opening their own business or receiving an idea for earning, then indeed they are READY to pay for really high-quality and structured information that will be given on the webinar of “X”.
A figure of 100,000 specifies the potential revenue from the sales of webinars. For example, it would be wrong to write a headline using the phrase “large number” instead of the 100 000 figure. After all, “large number” is a subjective indicator and not specific enough. The head of the company can immediately estimate the calculation of the potential profit.
Step 3. Main part of proposal – we talk with the reader in his language using his words
Now we turn to the main part of the proposal. In a short introductory-preface to the proposal, you must mention the problems and wishes of the client, talk to him about him, about his company, about his tasks. This is a simple psychology, and just an attentive and respectful attitude to your partner (potential advertiser). This is how it might look like:
During our conversation on the phone, you said that you are going to expand the range of services of your company, and for this you are now creating a line of information products for earning quick money for people who want to open their business on the Internet and not only. Separately, you mentioned that you are in dire need of such potential customers.
Also you asked me to send you facts about our advertising company and options for advertising with examples. Separately, you asked to justify the benefits that you get when working with our site.
After our telephone conversation, I carefully studied your site and the new proposals presented on it.
Our counter offer of cooperation is sent to you in a separate file, it describes the benefits that you will receive in cooperation with us, as well as in our proposal, possible types of advertising with examples and figures.
Waiting for your reply.
That is an example of introductory message before sending your proposal.
Step 4. Describe main advantages for the reader from cooperation with you
Now let’s move on to the facts and benefits of the client or describe here what the potential advertiser asked us to do.
First, tell about your achievements and abilities. In our case, tell about the advertisement board:
- 3 years in the network;
- Attendance of more than 100 000 people per month;
- All the content on the site is of high-quality and fully authoritative, with visual colorful illustrations;
- The site has an understandable and loyal target audience (novice entrepreneurs), a large number of reviews to articles of the site speaks for itself;
- Successfully acts as an advertising platform for companies and individual entrepreneurs interested in obtaining new target customers.
Second, tell about reader’s (client’s) benefits from cooperation with you. In our case:
- Your advertising message will fall exactly on the target because your potential customers are our readers;
- You will get many responds with high turn to your landing page due to the large attendance of our resource (more than 5000 people per day);
- We will select the individual location and format of advertising on the site to increase its effectiveness (advertising review, banner, mention in the target article);
- You will save the budget for long-term advertising (customers who have placed advertising for a period of over six months are granted a 15% discount);
- Your product, service or company will become recognizable throughout the English-language Internet. This will increase the confidence of your potential customers and increase passive sales.
Third, it is better if you give several options of cooperation with you. In our case, options of advertising on the site:
- Advertising review (article) about your products (services);
- Mention in the form of unobtrusive (hidden) advertising in our thematic articles – native advertisement;
- Advertising banner in different parts of the site;
- Individual or combined advertising options (specified individually).
Here we list the range of our services. Separately, you can also send the client links with examples of ads that he requested, as well as a price list for different options.
Step 5. Encourage the reader to act
This step is a kind of closing the proposal. Here we must write something that will prompt our potential client to call in the very near future. It should ultimately bring additional value (benefit to the client).
Call us within 24 hours and, as a gift, you will receive 1 month of free placement of your advertisement in the targeted article.
Next, specify contact information of person for communication. For example:
John Smith, customer relations manager
It is not overloaded with unnecessary information and the client knows that he can find out other details from the contact person specified for communication.
3.10 useful tips for writing good proposal
- Tip # 1 – Respect the reader.
Almost every proposal begins with addressing to the reader. Make sure that the name, position are written without mistakes. By specifying the title or name incorrectly, you “hit” the self-esteem of the recipient and from the first words settle the dislike for your proposal. Make the reader understand that you’ve written the proposal for him and respect his decision.
- Tip # 2 – Dear or not?
Only 8 seconds are enough for the addressee to decide whether to read it further or to throw it away. If he is not interested in the first lines, then all your efforts to write an effective proposal are completely vain. Appeal “Dear” is not considered a gross error, but occurs in 90% of proposals. Accordingly, it is unlikely to interest and attract the attention of a potential client. Try to replace it with something else.
- Tip # 3 – Be on an equal footing with the client.
If you start a commercial offer with the words “Please, let me offer you”, then you automatically fall into an unfortunate position. Begin your offer with a “hit phrase”, for example: “Have you yet solved the problem with timely logistics / quality polygraphy?”. Find the client’s problem and solve it from the first lines of your proposal. Be confident and persuasive.
Partnership is the key to successful cooperation. Accordingly, you need to be with your potential client “on an equal footing”.
- Tip # 4 – Catchy headline.
Remember about 8 seconds, which was mentioned a little earlier. The main task is to make your proposal stand out against all the others. If the title of your proposal can be substituted for any other company working in your field, it is a bad heading. It should be one that attracts attention and indicates the uniqueness of your company. The header should show the benefit of your offer to the client. From the title immediately it should be clear what exactly the reader will get.
- Tip # 5 – “You” not “we”.
Do not praise your company too much, give appropriate facts, that’s it. No one is interested in knowing about your success. The manager will not spend time on this. Stop using the pronoun “We” to much in your proposals and make more emphasis on “You”. “You will receive”, “You will be pleased”, “You will benefit”, etc.
- Tip # 6 – Focus on benefits not advantages.
Now let’s compare. Advantage is what distinguishes your product from your competitors. The benefit is what the customer will receive when using your product. Do you understand the difference?
- Tip # 6 -Another area – a new proposal.
You always need to clearly understand, for whom you write a proposal. Each company has its own criteria and its own interests. If you send the same proposal to everyone, you will show your unprofessionalism. Accordingly, there may be an opinion that you are not serious about the matter of your proposal.
Now you know how to quickly write a good proposal by all the rules literally in half an hour.