Some PR pros avoid writing proposals whenever they can—but there are certain situations where you need some sort of document to gain approval.
Many corporate, governmental, and NFP institutions need a proposal before they can proceed. They might need multiple bids, or—because no one person can make a decision—the proposal must go before a committee.
If you must write a proposal, then write one that’s simple and straightforward using these five elements:
1. Summarize the problem.
You need your audience to know you hear and understand the issue. It’s important to put the summary into the words they use; don’t wrap it up in big technical terminology or fancy jargon.
Use the same words they use to describe the situation in which they find themselves. If they can see that you understand the problem, they’ll believe you can solve it.
2. Describe the outcome.
The client isn’t hiring you just because they have a problem they want to go away. They also want you to take them somewhere beautiful. So, be sure to describe their desired future state of things.
The client needs to see a compelling vision of the future that will be theirs once you complete your work together. Ask them, and they will tell you how to describe this future.
Remember: The proposal is not where you prove your expertise. They’ve called you because they already believe you’re qualified. They don’t need to hear how you are going to solve their problem.
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Everyone’s “methodology” section looks the same, and a detailed, technical description of your methodology will not convince anyone to hire you. Leave it out.
Remember that cost is the part of the proposal that everyone flips to first. Don’t hide it in the back, put it right up front—but never give them just one number.
3. Include other options.
When walking into an Apple store, you see more than one phone.
Most customers usually start out with a small phone with less memory, and then look at the bigger phone and think, “It’s just $100 more…” Your proposal can work just like that.
Most proposals have one price. The unspoken message is: This is my price, take it or leave it. Maybe there’s some negotiating room, but the negotiation is only about how much your service costs—not about how it gets done.
This is crazy.
The question of cost should always be answered with, “It depends.”
There’s always more than one way to do the job. There’s the way your low-ball competitor would do it. You know that company; they’re always cheap, and you scoff at their process. They skip steps and use inexperienced people.
There’s also the high-end competitor who charges exorbitant rates and goes the extra mile for the client. You can be sure the prospect in front of you isn’t going to choose them. (Or will they?)
Instead of trying to read the minds of stakeholders you haven’t met—you’re writing a proposal because you couldn’t meet all of the decision makers—why not propose all three?
Create a low-end offering using your less experienced staff, offering bare-bones services. Then create a high-end offering, with senior people and all the bells and whistles. Present these two costs, along with your standard offering, and let them choose.
If they choose the low-end option, that’s better than hearing “No.” Plus, it’s better than a competitor getting the deal instead.
Providing different options does a couple of things.
First, it puts your price in context. Your prospect may not know what your services should cost, so providing three options gives them context. Also, when you create your low-end and high-end options, you’ll include and exclude things from each.
4. Include a signature line.
You want a way for them to say, “Yes.”
You want to make it clear: “If you want to move ahead, sign here.”
You could turn it into a contract, but that would involve lawyers. This isn’t necessarily a contract. It’s more like an agreement leading up to a contract. Be clear, so they know precisely how to commit to moving forward.
5. Include payment terms.
Congratulations, you’ve agreed to a price.
Are they paying you now? Is there a payment structure?
Lots of proposals request a deposit, maybe one-third down now, one-third midway through the project, and one-third upon completion of work.
Why are you waiting until you’ve spent 100 percent of the cost before you get 33 percent of the revenue? For most projects, ask for the whole contract payment up front.
You might worry that by asking for the full amount up front your new client will walk. However, it can be a negotiation. Start by asking for the full amount and if they balk and offer a deposit, you can ask for 60 percent up font and then find a middle ground.
The point is, get more money upfront. Now is the time when they like you the most; get as much of the fee now as possible.
How do you write proposals, PR Daily readers?