Creating client proposals to win new business can feel like a major drag and just another distraction from your main objective: delivering exceptional value for your clients. Even worse is investing extraordinary time and resources to create a presentation showcasing your services, agency team, experiences and proposed plans...only to have the prospective client disregard it because the proposal doesn’t speak directly to them or align with their expectations. To help you create an effective proposal that highlights your agency’s strength and conveys an aligned message with the brand you’re pitching, we featured a few tips below on how to create proposals that win the right kind of business.
Align Your Proposal With Your Prospective Clients’ Goals & Brand
Brands see pitches from freelancers and agencies on a daily basis, and in many cases they are generic templates with a few tweaks here and there. In such a competitive industry, it is essential that take time to personalize your pitch to align with your prospective clients’ overall brand and strategy?
To truly partner with a brand, show why your team is the right team for them to choose. A more personalized connection between your business and your prospective clients’ business is extremely powerful.
Here are simple steps to do this:
- Reference a recent campaign they did, and how you could build off of it
- Show that you understand the company history
- Display how your work culture and goals mesh with theirs
- Cite specific reasons why your agency can help them with their problem, rather than just showing them what you have and can create
Focus First on Building A Relationship
Ultimately, business decisions come down to two things: do they want to work with a particular agency, and can they deliver?
While it’s tempting, and rational, to begin proposals with objective data, case studies and awards won, it’s actually more effective to connect on a human-level. Establish a rapport first, and then back up your people-skills with a plan and track record that will support your pitch and show you can in fact deliver exceptional results.
Your goal is for the prospective client to understand the vision and feel comfortable working with you. If you engaged immediately with data, you’ll likely bypass the opportunity to build genuine engagement and the prospective client will view you as a commodity, rather than a partner.
Focus On the Problem You’re Solving
Far too often agencies lose their focus, and unintentionally become overwhelming, making their pitch extremely difficult to understand. In your initial pitch, your goal should be to focus on the most difficult problem at hand that you and your team can solve, and clearly show how you can achieve this.
As time progresses and the relationship is strengthened, then you can explore other areas to work with your client, but pitching everything upfront will only dilute your pitch.
It’s also worth noting that while referencing awards and accolades can help in terms of social proof, it does not replace a fixation on the clients’ problem. It's essential that you highlight your firm's competitive advantage, and how that will help you and your agency address your client's primary issue. The client simply wants their problem solved in an easy-to-understand process.
Work Together During the Proposal Process
The best way to ensure you’re tailoring your proposal to a business that you’ve identified to be a great match is to ask them for input on your proposal. Rather than basing your entire proposal on the basic information provided to all competing agencies, work directly with the prospective client to show them your collaboration skills while test-driving the relationship.
The best results come when you treat your clients as partners. By working together on a small sample project before agreeing to a long term engagement, both parties will understand each other much better. You will also get a better sense if this particular engagement is poised for success, before investing a significant amount of resources into it.
(If their process forbids collaboration, you can engage with vendors and third-party influencers who already work with them. There's a lot be learned from third-parties, and this can be very easy to accomplish. LinkedIn and other social media tools make it easy to find common links...so reach out and build your network at the same time.)
Incorporate Your Skills & Creativity into the Proposal
Don’t be fooled thinking your proposal needs to look or feel a certain way. Think outside of the box. As an agency trying to showcase your work through past experiences and vision, nothing can match actually doing some upfront work to prove your worth and standout from a flood of proposals that may all essentially look the same.
For instance, if you’re a package design agency, create a thoughtful, physical package to ship along with your proposal, even if your proposal is all done online. If you’re a web dev shop, why not turn your proposal into a mini-site? Creative agencies could build a scaled down version of their campaign vision and blend in the proposal that way.
These companies you’re pitching don’t want to be sold to, they want to be blown away by your creativity and ability to execute, so do just that. You’re only limited by your creativity, and quite frankly, that’s what you’re selling. So, the more creative and effective you are in the overall experience of your pitch, the greater the chance is that you’ll win more business and cut through the noise.
Client proposals aren’t necessarily your first point of contact with interested companies (as they’ve likely already seen some of your work, your site and potentially had prior engagements with you), but it is your first point of direct contact with them to solve a specific problem. This is why it is crucial that you take the extra time to develop an experience that will capture their attention. Case studies and jargon can only go so far, but where others don’t want to go or cannot go due to their lack of creative resources, is exactly why you have an opportunity to win business by investing upfront and creating a personal connection before the engagement is even discusses. So, go out there and outdo the competition not just in the marketplace through your work, but also in the boardroom as you pitch potential clients. If done correctly, you’ll see a major impact on your agency’s growth.