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Kylie’s 7 tips for creating a killer proposal that wins new work

By HGB , Feb 21 2016
Winning work is always a great feeling, but when you’re winning it for a client, the success is all the more sweet, writes HGB’s creative director, Kylie Harcourt.

Developing client relationships is a key part of my job – and one that I love. Not only do I get to work on interesting projects for them, I get to see their business grow. I recently had an experience with a client that was hugely satisfying and gave real evidence to how your marketing partner can not only make you look clever, but help you win work.

Partnering up

A lot of companies only use the services of a marketing agency for the big, above the line, sexy stuff – advertising campaigns, reinvention of brand etc. The ultimate goal is, of course, to increase sales, or in the education realm, to increase enrolments.

But, what about letting your sales team collaborate with your marketing partner to win work?

You know that big client you’ve always wanted, the one you’ve never quite been able to lay your hands on? It maybe, that you need the expertise of your marketing partner.

My story

Recently we were in one of our client’s boardrooms discussing, you guessed it, marketing strategy. As a sideline conversation they mentioned a pitch they were about to present to a very large business that had historically been held by a competitor. They asked if we could do a nice cover page. I mean, really?

We reviewed the whole proposal.

Our client had provided great content that was speaking to the prospect directly, answering their problems and detailing how the relationship would work together. But what it needed was differentiation from the other pitches. It needed to be the one that stood out from the others.

The result, our client’s proposal presented them as an outstanding company with vision, one that had really thought about who they were pitching to, one that showcased their expert knowledge, added value, and answered the needs of the prospect.

So what did we do that was different?

Top tips to look clever

Forget about looking good, you want to look clever. Here are my top tips to look clever and win work, starting with a nice cover page:

  1. Stand out: Create an outstanding cover page that speaks to the prospect’s industry. Show them you’re thinking about them, not you. If you’re pitching to a strawberry farm, use a strawberry image with a clever catch phrase. When all of the pitches are lined up on a boardroom table, which one do you think will stand out?
  2. Summarise: Add an executive summary up front. Of all the detailed information you are about to supply to the prospect you want them to remember these five or six points right to the end.
  3. Show some style: Don’t write pages and pages of boring stuff to illustrate how you work, develop some infographics Infographics are visually appealing, they tell a story using illustration and are particularly good for demonstrating the process with which your company may work.
  4. Seek success: Describe how you make your values active in your environment. Your values are important. What you believe in defines who you are and if your values align with your prospective client’s values you’ll have a higher chance of success.
  5. Speak up: Include case studies about how you’ve made a difference to similar companies. Provide statistics on the improvements you’ve made and include testimonials from current clients. Case studies can be used across multiple mediums – in proposals, on your website and in newsletter communication. Because of this, I suggest having these professionally produced as the investment is going to go a long way.
  6. Showcase your skills: Clients want to buy your expertise, but they also want value for money. Prepare a table which illustrates how you can deliver a higher level of skill to the client, compared to how they may try to resource this – success is not always defined by price. Companies like to think they can provide the equivalent resource in house, but the reality is that person is stretched across multiple roles and doesn’t have the specialised skills and knowledge required.
  7. Set up for success: Make a generic proposal template so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every proposal. Get your marketing company to develop this in Microsoft Word, setting up styles in your brand fonts and colours. Include colourful infographics and editable copy that staff can edit.

So, was our client happy?  Hell, yes. Not only did they win the big client, they won the second one too!

The moral of the story? You don’t have to do it all on your own. Use your marketing partner for more than just great advertising. Lean on them to help you create clever presentations with a winning edge.

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