B2B Proposals – Are They a Form of Marketing?


Two years ago I sat through a panel where experts gave their advice to small business owners about how to succeed in business. One of the speakers told everyone he did not believe in writing proposals because they were too much of a time investment. Instead he believed you should get paid to write your proposals for potential clients. I never agreed with this advice. I always viewed writing a proposal as a way for organizations to internally clarify what they would be delivering and for what price. Recently, I have started to look at proposals from a different perspective, as a marketing tool.

Over the past year I have probably put out over 200 proposals. The feedback I receive is that our proposals have a great amount of detail and clients appreciate how much thought I put into them. Often times, this gets us to the next round with the client.

I know you’re wondering what my secret sauce is, and you know what I’m going to tell you. Here are the key ingredients I share with perspective clients in our proposal that people value most.

Overview of Potential Project:

At the beginning of each of my proposals I outline the goals and intended outcomes of the project. I try to use the language my clients use to ensure we are all on the same page, but it is a good marketing technique. Use the words of your customers to build a better relationship.

Quick Review & Recommendations:

Depending upon the type of project, I review items that may be of concern to me and that they may want to look into to decide if they’d like to work with me. I also provide a few surface recommendations or high points they should consider. Marketing for me has always been about investing in a relationship. By giving feedback I am illustrating to my potential client my style of communication and the intellectual investment in their business.

Assumptions & Process:

Not everyone has the same background and not everyone has worked on the same projects in the same way. I find it helpful to share a list of assumptions about how we like to work and what we expect from our clients. Marketing to your customers means educating and informing your audience. Giving your potential client a way to understand what you do and the process you follow illustrates how you value both your time and their time.

Clear Pricing Breakdown:

In most cases, it has been said that clients jump right to the numbers. If that’s true, then give them what they want. Breakdown the costs in a clear way with supporting details to each line item. Marketing can often be about giving your audience what they want, but be sure you are supporting it with detail.

Pride in Your Work & Team:

Each and every business is different, but no matter what, you need to toot your own horn a bit to your potential client. Add case studies or images of successful projects. List your team members and their involvement. Be sure to tie it together for your potential client to see that you value your team as much as you value their business. At the end of the day, people need to know that they matter.

Make it Pretty:

For me I find that when it comes to marketing, the presentation can make all the difference. Taking the time to make sure your proposals are well organized, use the same styles, fonts and layout will tell your prospect you care. Whether your service business is accounting or design, people want to feel like they matter, and good design is a great way to validate that feeling.

For organizations that create proposals as a way of closing business, think of your proposals as a way of marketing your business and connecting with your prospect.

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