In my recent article, Question Your B2B Clients for Better B2B Project Outcomes, I wrote about the importance of asking tons of questions to clients. It’s a process I use to insure I deliver a successful result for my client when I do a project.
Proposals are another component in my business process that I consider important.
Not all clients expect you to submit a proposal. But even when they don’t ask you for one, it’s well worth the effort to take the lead on drafting and submitting one.
Why? For one thing, proposals contribute to your professional image. Especially so if the proposal covers key points that directly correlate to your proposed project.
When you start planning your proposal, first brainstorm questions that you have asked or could ask in order to elicit key details about the project. Then those questions can serve as part of a framework of the document. Think of it as a partial outline. So your outline will begin to emerge simply by asking yourself questions about every imaginable detail of the project. The purpose of that section would be to sum up, in the responses to the questions, your understanding of what the client wants.
Presuming the client likes your proposal and wants to move forward, you’ll be off to a strong start with detailed questions that elicit information like…
- type of copy (newsletter, email series, landing page, sales letter, etc.)
- schedule of delivery (like first draft: June 30 )
- method of delivery (could be Word doc posted on Slack)
In addition to informational questions, this is a good time to ask a few yes-no type questions to find out if the client agrees to your terms, including…
- your asking price for this project
- schedule of payment (like 50% up front, balance after first draft delivered)
- method of payment (credit card, check, PayPal, e-Transfer)
Without clarification of these details, you might misinterpret what your client wants and vice versa. In fact, you each might assume you understand what the other wants. Your client’s expectation of how the project should unfold will not, then, jive with yours. That could lead to avoidable misunderstandings and unnecessary complications.
While we can’t guarantee any client will be 100% satisfied with projects we do, submitting a well-planned proposal increases the likelihood of all-around satisfaction. Let’s look a bit closer at the fallout that each party might experience during a project that doesn’t include a proposal.
Outcomes that result if your client’s experience of the project is anything less than 100% satisfying may include…
- clients feel disgruntled and don’t communicate with you
- clients put the brakes on the project before you start writing it
- clients put the brakes on the project when you’re midway through it
- clients aren’t happy with your delivery of the project
Why would any of these happen? If you start a project with no written proposal, the client or you can easily forget any details you may both have verbally agreed to in your discovery meeting. Or maybe the details were never discussed in the first place. All the more reason to have a proposal, which would convey those details.
An example is details about format. Clients might expect the copy to be delivered in one particular format, but you deliver it in another. For example, you email the copy in a pdf, but your client wants the copy in a Word Doc posted on Slack.
For this and other reasons, frustration builds. When clients feel frustrated, it’s often related to cost. Nobody likes to feel they’ve wasted money. But that’s what clients will feel if they lose faith in your ability to deliver, or if they feel they don’t get the product they paid for.
If you know your client, you, or both of you aren’t happy with how things are going on a project, you’ll likely feel as frustrated as your client. Outcomes that transpire on your end of the project may include…
- you pull out before a project starts and lose that client (you also lose all the time spent on it so far if the client doesn’t pay a portion up front)
- you have no possibility of getting testimonials
- you receive payment slowly if at all when a client isn’t 100% satisfied with your work
- you work with constant stress if a project doesn’t go smoothly
Solution to Prevent These Outcomes
Preventing these outcomes is not rocket science. The practice I started early on, thanks to good templates from AWAI and elsewhere, is to draft and submit proposals before starting to work on new projects.
After an initial (discovery) meeting with a client, I draft a personalized proposal based on our conversation. I try to elicit lots of detail from the client to use in this document.
But sometimes I get home after that meeting and realize I still don’t have the information I want. Don’t fret…there’s a simple solution for that. I fire off an email thanking the client for the meeting and asking her to fill in an attached questionnaire. You design that to fill in the information gaps.
What to Include in Proposals
Each proposal is tailored to a specific client and project, so no two will be the same. I start with a general template, personalizing the copy as I go.
Pieces that usually are included in my proposals are…
- An opening paragraph, to thank the client for considering my services for that specific project. Example: Thank you for discussing your needs with me regarding your e-book content creation. I’m eager to deep dive into
- Recap of client’s goal. Example: You want to drive greater awareness of your unique product as the perfect solution to… (and) You want this copy to generate strong leads/sales… (and) You also want the copy to set the stage for more sales in the future.
- How I can help client reach goals. Example: I’d like to help you reach this goal by…
- Market position discovery/message recommendations (mention target audience, messaging strategy, and how I will discover both before starting to write).
- Pricing and notes about payment schedule (including 50% up front).
- Deadline Example: Together, we’ll determine a schedule. The schedule will include response times for your review of each draft to stay on track.
- Results Example: There are many factors in your project effort that I cannot control. While I can and do guarantee your complete satisfaction with my ethics and copywriting, I cannot guarantee specific results.
- Closing Example: Please let me know if you approve of this proposal. Then we can get an Agreement drafted and signed, and I’ll start working on your project.
Sometimes I weave another piece into my proposal: if clients have a goal I know may not be met by the project they’ve asked me to complete, I may include alternative project options and pricing within the proposal, with an explanation for why they may want to consider those options.
This shows I’m listening not just to what they’re asking me to do, but also why they need this work done, and I’m partnering with them to provide my best advice based on my copy and marketing training.
To sum up, proposals are efficient ways to convey three main types of information to clients. First, they clarify and confirm that you understand what clients are asking you to provide for them. Second, they tell clients how you will work and what they should expect from you. Finally, submitting a well-planned proposal serves to set a professional tone for the whole project. It reflects well on you.