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Proposal writing – gauging your audience

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Friday November 19, 2010 )

Show me a proposal that is full of eye popping images and light on content, I’ll show you a company that’s not getting the contract…from me anyway.

Web development companies tend to have this awful habit of creating beautiful looking proposals that are totally devoid of meaningful content. And by content, I don’t mean buzzwords, I mean stuff that really matters.

I was given a web design proposal to review recently that was impeccably presented, but so full of holes as to how certain goals were to be achieved.

The company in question wasn’t a one-man show, it was one of Australia’s better known design shops and they figure they quoted to complete the work was astronomical.

Their major mistake was incorrectly or not even bothering to gauge who would be reading the proposal. It was clear it was geared towards those new to the online world with cash to burn or CEO’s who have recently moved over from the offline world and still don’t totally get the interwebs.

My graphic design skills are quite limited, but I can still appreciate good design. What I do know well is how sites work, search engine optimization and the importance of suitable, relevant content – and this mob failed on addressing all three points; even to the point of using simple industry jargon incorrectly.

Their secondary mistake was the first few pages being all about how good they were; which really acted as an initial red flag. A bit of self-promotion certainly doesn’t go astray, but people are busy – keep the guff to a minimum and get to the point, being: how you are going to help the prospective client and show them you at least have a basic understanding of their industry. If you want to beat your drum a little more, leave it until the very end.

I’m not saying that fluffy, vacuous proposals don’t work; I’m just saying before you shoot off a proposal, find out a little more about the folks who will be reading it and who the stakeholders in the company are that will either give you the nod or shoot you down in flames on the basis of the proposal. It may take a little bit of extra time and care, but if you’re gunning for a 5 or 6 figure job, it may well be worth the effort.

Related: Proposal templates


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