Business proposals are documents created for the sole purpose of asking for something – usually business!
There are two types of business proposals:
- Proposals written in response to an RFP
- Proposals written for a business idea for which you hope to gain a particular market segment, funding, or a business partnership. In this case, there is no competitive bidding process.
A proposal written in response to an RFP should be pretty straight-forward, because the rules, regulations and guidelines are clearly stipulated in the RFP itself. However with a ‘cold’ business proposal, there are no specific guidelines from the targeted audience. The challenge is to create a proposal that is highly customer-centric.
Here are 7 tips to writing a ‘cold’ business proposal:
- Research, research, research! Without an RFP to guide you, be sure to dig out every bit of public information about your target audience. Use their website, brochures, case studies, annual reports, newsletters etc. Go to your online library database and find out even more about them. You want to know enough about them to anticipate their needs, and write a proposal that addresses those needs!
- Pay them a visit! If their location is convenient, you may consider dropping by their office/facility. You might be fortunate to observe something or ask a question that could uncover further interesting information about your audience’s needs and challenges.
- Plain English please! Your goal is to communicate not to impress. Eliminate the use of lofty words and technical jargon. Your proposal must be clear, concise and compelling. Don’t assume that everyone is familiar with your ‘tech-speak’.
- Differentiate between features and benefits of your product, service or idea. Be sure to give as much detail as required to persuade your audience that you are a worthwhile investment. Remember, features explain how your product or idea works. Benefits explain what the audience gains from using your idea. You must strive to answer the question that they will ask: “What’s in it for me?”
- Political correctness: Be sure to use language that is acceptable to one and all. Your proposal cannot be deemed to be offensive to any group of people. The general rule here is, if in doubt, don’t!
- Presentation: Whether you write the proposal yourself, or you hire a writer, be sure to apply the highest standards in document preparation. You must be familiar with the segments of a business proposal. If your proposal is not for solicitation of funds, then some sections of a standard proposal may not be relevant.
- Finishing touches: Make sure that the document is edited and scrutinized for visual appeal. Pay attention to spelling and grammar, layout, font and size, margins, visual aids, spaces between text, high quality paper, professional printing and binding.
One final thought. Don’t wait for a prospect to invite your proposal (RFP). Be proactive and find prospects who are likely to be receptive to your business idea. That’s innovative marketing!