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  • ILISE BENUN is the founder of Marketing Mentor, and has been teaching people to promote themselves and their services since 1988. Author of 4 books and many, many more articles, Ilise has been self-employed for all but three years of her working life.

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6 posts categorized "Proposals"

November 14, 2012

Should you do the proposal?

Not all projects are worth doing a proposal for. But when they are, there are certain techniques to help you get the best outcome.

Last week, I covered this topic in “Best Practices for Proposals, Estimates and RFPs,” for IABC/Toronto Professional Independent Communicators (PIC). Sue Horner, IABC/Toronto and PIC member, freelance writer and owner of Get It Write, has reviewed my presentation. Here’s an excerpt:

Should you do the proposal? Like going after an RFP, you should only do a proposal when you know you’re the best person for the job. The job should be in your target market; if not, decide if it’s worth your time. Ask how many others are bidding and if you can meet with the decision-makers. Is the client “just fishing” or truly buying?

Anatomy of a proposal: Spell out why you’re the best fit. Tailor the proposal to the prospect, and set it up from his/her point of view. (Leave “About us” until the end.) Clearly explain your process. Show that you “get it” by repeating the prospect’s objectives. Include how you would approach the project and be enthusiastic. Prove that you’re the perfect fit. Pricing should be clear but this shouldn’t be the first time the prospect sees a dollar figure; you should have mentioned or sent a rough estimate first.

How to present the proposal (and you do want to present it, not just send it): Make it part of your stated process that you need to talk to the decision-maker and you need to present the proposal in person, or by phone or Skype. This allows you to respond to questions or objections. End by closing the deal and asking for the work.

How to close the deal: Ask if the prospect has questions and if he/she is ready to move forward. Propose the next step and timeframe. Ask when the decision will be made. If you don’t get the work, ask for feedback.

Ilise also had some pointers on pricing:

  • Ask what the budget is. You may get an answer, or throw out some numbers; “Are we talking $2,000 or $5,000?”
  • Don’t discuss budget by email.
  • Billing by milestone is dangerous to your cash flow. Instead, ask for a 25% deposit and spread the balance over the project life, charging equal amounts the first of every month.

Read the rest of the review here.

Also, listen to my short interview with PIC chair Donna Papacosta, where I previewed this event and discussed best practices.

If you want more guidance on proposals—plus 11 Actual Proposals to use as models—get the Proposal Bundle today.

October 17, 2012

Secrets to Winning Proposals –Toronto, Nov 7th

If you’re in the Toronto area, and you want to write winning proposals, join me for my upcoming workshop on November 7th.

Presented by the Professional Independent Communicators, Secrets to writing winning proposals, estimates and RFPs will teach you:

  • How to develop the strongest and most persuasive proposal to show why you are the perfect fit for the project
  • What to include (and in what order) in proposals and what to leave out 
  • How to present proposals so you don’t fall into the black hole (and never hear from them again)
  • How to decide which proposals to write (and which to politely decline)

Registration Fees*:
$22: IABC member ($24.86 with HST)
$32: Non-member ($36.16 with HST)

More details and register here…

Listen to my short interview with PIC chair Donna Papacosta, where I preview the event and discuss best practices.

Also I’ll be doing in person consultations at a special rate, so if you’ll be in Toronto, Nov 7-10, email me at [email protected] for more details about what’s involved.

September 24, 2012

What do real clients want in your proposal?

Julia Reich from Julia Reich Design didn’t have a great track record of winning proposals in a competitive RFP-type environment. But this time, she really wanted the job so she decided to get some help. We worked together to update her proposal, and it worked. She won the job!

Why did they choose her firm? Which elements cinched the win? Julia says, “The client reported back that they chose my firm because I demonstrated that I understood the sector they are in better than the competition, as well as their specific branding challenges. They also appreciated that I explained specifically how much time each phase would take. I guess the other designers didn’t do that.”

These elements were clearly important to Julia’s prospect. Maybe they’re also important to yours?

Read the rest of Julia’s testimonial:

"I recently worked with Ilise to provide assistance writing a proposal for branding & design services. My proposal was already good - but not great - and my track record in winning projects just like this one in a competitive environment was poor. She thoroughly reviewed my proposal, offering excellent tips that included page re-structuring, some copyediting, and advice on content that needed to be included but was missing. And guess what - I won the project!

If you need help bringing out winning elements in your proposal, I can help. Email me for details.

April 20, 2012

Rules for a Graphic Design Proposal

You don’t have to be a writer to write a strong graphic or web design proposal that will get you the job.

You do have to know which ones to do and what to put in it.

I recently interviewed Allison Manley from Chicago-based design firm, Rogue Element, about their graphic design proposal template which has won 67% of the jobs they pursued in 2011. Allison shared with me the guidelines she uses to decide which graphic or web design proposals and Requests for Proposal (RFP) to answer.

“We will do a proposal or RFP,” says Allison, “if we understand the goals and constraints very specifically and if it’s clear that the prospect has a very clear idea of what they’re looking for." For example:

  • Do they understand what they’re buying? “Good RFPs make it clear the prospect understands they’re buying the process, not just the product,” says Allison.
  • Are they fishing or buying? “They must understand what they’re buying and not just be fishing.”
  • Are their needs clear? Sometimes the prospect isn’t specific about the goals. They say, “We need print” but what does that mean? Brochures or postcards? An annual report and if so, what size?

Listen to our 15-minute interview here.

Need a sample proposal? Want to see exactly what's in Rogue Element’s proposal? Find it in the Designer’s Proposal Bundle, along with 10 other actual sample proposals for a wide variety of industries and project types.

Patricia Childers of P Childers Design used the Designer's Proposal Bundle and wrote this about it recently: “I have found it to be a great investment. It gives enough different points-of-view to allow one to cull a personalized proposal for each project. I refer to it often.”


April 18, 2012

The secret to winning proposals: Regurgitation

In 2011, Rogue Element, a Chicago-based design firm that specializes in higher education and sustainability, won 67% of the proposals they submitted.

Why do they win so many jobs? Principal and owner, Allison Manley, says their clients tell them exactly why they are chosen and half the time, they say it’s the proposal itself that sold them. “They tell us it’s clear and concise and they could understand what we were going to provide for the budget we quoted,” says Manley.

Manley’s secret to being clear and concise? Regurgitation.

“Sometimes clients just want to make sure you understand them. Regurgitation is really helpful. If you repeat back to the client what they’ve said they want – ‘This organization wants the following things….’ they see that and think, “They get us.” Even if you’re just repeating back their own words.

Want to see exactly what Rogue Element’s clients consider “clear and concise”? Find it in the Designer’s Proposal Bundle.

Listen to our 15-minute interview here.

November 10, 2011

Podcast: What’s in copywriter Bob Bly’s proposal/agreement?

Bob Bly, who has been a freelance copywriter since 1982 (and made millions doing it) generously shared his one-page agreement in the new Proposal Bundle for Copywriters 

I interviewed Bob on the Marketing Mentor Podcast to find out more about his agreement. Here’s an excerpt… 

Is it safe to skip the agreements—and get right to work for existing clients? Bob says: 

You always need to have, for every job, even if it’s an old familiar client, a written agreement which the client approves. My philosophy is to keep it as short and simple as possible while covering all the salient points. We email it to the client. All they have to do is email back that they approve. New clients pay half the fee up-front.

When it comes to rush jobs, Bob says: 

Since we have a standard agreement, it takes less than three minutes to put in the particulars of the job. Time is no excuse. Just because it’s a rush job doesn’t mean I can’t send out the agreement. 

What about the excuse, they “won’t be able to cut the check in time”? 

Bob makes it easy by accepting Paypal, credit card and wire transfers. 

Find out more about the specifics inside Bob’s agreement. Listen to the full 15-minute interview here



The Tagline Series