Over the years I have lost count of the number of proposals I have written for clients, some successful, others not. I look back at the proposals I wrote 14 years ago and marvel at how much has changed.
Did I really say that? Did I really use that image with a circular fade around the edge? Well the truth is yes, because at the time this was seen as creative and made Corporate Innovations stand out - which of course it did. But times have changed and I have become even more scrupulous when reviewing proposals. It’s not just the proposals we present outwardly but also proposals we receive from suppliers like venues and DMCs that we review with a fine tooth comb. Proposals to me should show a personality, excitement and intrigue.
Ultimately be a professional storybook of the tale you have to tell. One of the most important tasks of the client services team is to create client proposals; to ‘WOW’ them with creative ideas and innovative solutions that they will want to invest in. It’s a really engaging part of the job; the collaborative briefing meetings to start the ‘idea ball’ rolling, the brainstorming sessions to develop ideas, the moment when the final idea is settled upon and you leave the room full of enthusiasm to tackle the brief head on. We then come to my favourite part of the job – creating the proposal.
Though I think this is one of the easiest areas of our job to get right, it’s also the part where I think a lot of people go wrong. Even the smallest errors can have adverse effects to the proposal’s success!
Take a look at the credibility killers below; the seven deadly sins of proposal writing:
1. Losing consistency Losing consistency is a pet peeve of mine and it covers many areas. For example, capital letters – if you decide to have all of your titles in capital letters; then make sure ALL of your titles are in capital letters. Consistency complements a strong proposal and also a strong company image. Most agencies will have guidelines for proposals; sizing, spacing, text, imagery – make sure you keep to the guidelines. If you decide to stray from them for any reason – be consistent throughout. Often proposals are created collaboratively by different members of the team but always make sure one person proofs the proposal to ensure it maintains the same tone of voice, information is not repeated and consistency is maintained.
2. Forgetting to spell check A definite no-no. Proofing is king. That is all.
3. Using subpar imagery It is true that a picture paints 1000 words. It is your strongest tool for creating an immediate reaction. Great visuals stick in your mind and provide a constant reminder of key parts of your proposal. This doesn’t just need to be photography but strong creative that captures the imagination and shows your story. Imagine a book with no words, you follow the story and that is how your pictures should present themselves in a proposal.
4. Providing too much information Clients want the key information in quick sound bites. Memories are not programmed to remember more than 3 key pieces of information at any one time so make sure you know what these are and stick to them! If you give too much information during the pitch, what information can you then use as reasons to ‘check in’ after the proposal? It’s useful to have these hidden gems to reveal later down the line. At Corporate Innovations we love to build in surprise wows! Whether this is face-to-face or in written form; be short, concise and therefore more effective! Don’t waffle, don’t go off at a tangent and keep on track.
5. Providing too little information By this I mean little substance. It’s all very well that the hotel looks great, in a wonderful location, you can see all of that in the web link. But what is the idea or the concept? All comes back to Sin #4 (3 key points) and Sin #6 (your value proposition). The last thing you want is the client thinking as soon as you walk out the door “well it looked great but I had no idea what they were presenting”.
6. No differentiation of event or company It’s that over used term USP, but it’s true. What is your value proposition? Why is your solution the best match to the brief? This is the critical part of the substance of your proposal. The idea and the differentiation is what will create stand out from your competitors. Innovators, creators, leaders….
7. Not knowing your audience You will see from the number of blogs on here just how important we feel it is to truly know your audience. Lots of us have written blogs on this subject - go check them out. Ultimately, to sum up, if you don’t know your audience, the message will not stick and the proposal is unlikely to hit the mark. If you’re lucky enough to be asked to present your concept face-to-face then you can bring a proposal to life with how you present and the environment you create. But there’s a whole new set of seven deadly sins for presenting face-to-face effectively; how to tell your story and bring it to life for your audience. I’ll save that for another day!
For me, proposals should always be part of your evolution and for us as an agency it’s part of our constant desire for self-improvement.