Business

How to Write a Winning Proposal

Written by Leah Layzell
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This is a guest blog by Dave Ferguson, Founder, Perfect Event Proposals. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, let us know here!

Every growing company wants more business!  From interviewing almost 200 event planners I’ve discovered that the overwhelming majority have no idea about what really makes a proposal appealing to a company.

I decided to write this post to teach you what in-house planners really want from your proposals and how you can stand-out in the crowd and win more business.

In the event world, the first step to landing a new client is usually a referral, receiving an RFP, or even a cold-call/email to a company to get their business.

If good fortune is shining down upon you and the company is interested then you may be asked to provide a proposal for the event.

This is your opportunity to shine, but standing-out amongst the massive amount of competition can be difficult, especially if the prospect is reviewing 5 or 10 proposals at once.

I frequently speak to experienced planners that still find the proposal process confusing; Or those who are frustrated with trying to write proposals without essential information – like a budget; or those that really don’t know what the most important considerations are when creating a proposal.

To help you, I’ve interviewed in-house planners that send out and review proposals for their companies.  I’ve quizzed these planners to find out everything you need to know to make sure that your next proposal hits a home run & you get the job.

I was expecting to hear that it was based entirely on financials or familiarity with the company but I was blown away by the answers I received:

There are two main areas that your proposal must address:

  1. Budget is vital no matter whether a budget is given or not.  You need to get a Yes to the questions “Are they within the budget?” or “Could they be within the budget?”.
  2. Reputation and perceived level of service are also hugely important to the shortlisting process.  If you have not worked with the potential client before then you will need to prove these in your proposal.

So how do you make sure that these areas are not only covered but covered in a way that will allow your proposal to stand out brighter than all the others?

1 – Budget

If there is a budget then make sure to stick to it.  Feel free to add optional extras to show flexibilty, creativity and innovation but the budget should be adhered to.

But, what should you do if there is no budget given?

Emily Obukowicz, Event Planner with tons of experience working with large companies to select independent planners based on their proposals, answers my question:  Why do companies send out RFP’s without budgets and how would you suggest a planner responds?

“The executive team would usually pass down some specifications for an event but they may not have any idea of the budget themselves”.  They often use the RFP process as a fact finding mission so they can figure out the budget they will need. Emily also says that the “proposal is usually a starting point for the budget, not the end point” and that they would usually go with a mid-range budget knowing they will probably add more to it.

So if you are faced with writing a proposal and have no budget information how should you handle it?

Emily says that showing flexibilty with pricing, perhaps giving low, medium and high budget options or different packages would be the safest route to take.  You don’t even need to go as far as three options but the important point to take away is that if they feel you can accommodate the budget, whatever it may turn out to be, then you will be placed at the head of the pack.

2 – Reputation & Perceived Level of Service

If you’ve worked with the company before then you will have no problem here, but if you are a totally ‘blind applicant’ and are looking to acquire a new client then this is where you have your work cut out.

Luckily Emily gave me a number of awesome tips to make sure you stay ahead of the pack.

  1. Design & aesthetics – First impressions are just as important with a proposal.  If your proposal looks professional, creative and polished then there is a good chance your service will match up.  Occasionally, if they are receiving a lot of proposals to review then the first cut may be based purely on design alone.
  2. Attention to detail – Next comes a closer look.  Spelling & grammar are obvious things to check but formatting and answering all of the questions in the order they were given are also important.  These being flawless will make the internal planner’s job easier and the idea of working with you will be more appealing. Not to mention that the quality of your work will be perceived through the proposal.
  3. Innovation – Being seen to go the extra mile with renderings, video, slideshows or anything at all that will make your proposal stand-out from the rest will get you noticed and improve the chances of your proposal being chosen.
  4. References & testimonials – The best approach here is to do a bit of digging and try to find out if any of your past clients or current testimonial cases has a direct connection with the client.  Make sure to highlight instances where the potential client may know your past clients or provide references and contact details clearly.

So, address the budget, even if not given, and make your proposal STAND OUT.  Any type of innovation or something that sets you apart from the competition will make a huge difference.  Try different designs, add more images or video but don’t forget about accuracy and attention to detail.

It’s also worth noting that Emily repeatedly made the point that small and medium sized event planning companies actually have an advantage over the larger ones as they are more likely to value the business and go the extra mile to make the event a success.

So if your company is on the smaller side and you’d not considered finding RFP’s for corporate jobs then perhaps you should start checking them out.  They are easier to find than you’d imagine.  Check out this free report for three super simple tips for finding RFP’s in your city today.

Dave Ferguson Portrait 2About Dave

Dave is passionate about solving problems and making our lives as Event Planners faster, easier, more fun and profitable. His entrepreneurial background and desire to find out what problems really need solving prompted him to begin interviewing Event Planners to find out our biggest pains and frustrations. 200 interviews on and Dave is set to be launching Perfect Event Proposals, a proposal creation, management & tracking platform especially for Event Planners, this summer. His goal is to save Planners, DMC’s & Hotels more than 50% of the time it takes them to create proposals & to bring them into the 21st century with web-based proposals that include video & tracking. Dave hopes that this will give planners more control, help prevent burnout & greatly benefit Planners and their families.

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Leah Layzell

Project & Directory Manager at The Meeting Pool
Leah is a virtual administrative, technical and creative business manager based in Essex, United Kingdom. She has worked with a range of industries and clients from local government, eCommerce, event management, non-profit, construction and many more. She specializes in assisting sole traders and small businesses with their technical support, design, projects and administration so that they can run their business with ease
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