That Solo Life: Co-hosted by Karen Swim, founder of Words for Hire, LLC and owner of Solo PR Pro and Michelle Kane, founder of VoiceMatters, LLC, we keep it real and talk about the topics that affect solo business owners in PR and Marketing and beyond. Learn more about Solo PR Pro: www.SoloPRPro.com
Monday Mar 13, 2023
How PR Pros Can Rock That Proposal
Monday Mar 13, 2023
Monday Mar 13, 2023
The proposal. That key to landing new business for public relations professional and the tool that we love to overthink and get just right. Solo PR Pros often work alone and wonder if the proposal has the right elements. Is it comprehensive enough to win business? Does the proposal have the right look and feel. Today, we talk about how you can rock that proposal without wearing yourself out.
Michelle Kane (00:01):
Thank you for joining us for this episode of That Solo Life, the podcast for PR pros and marketers who work for themselves, people like me, Michelle Kane, with VoiceMatters, and my wonderful co-host, Karen Swim of Solo PR Pro. Hi, Karen. It's another week, another episode.
Karen Swim, APR (00:16):
Hey, Michelle. How are you doing today?
Michelle Kane (00:18):
I'm doing well, thanks. Yeah, I can't complain. Can't complain. I know in recent weeks we've talked about business development and making sure that that remains a healthy part of our company. Duh. Of course,
Karen Swim, APR (00:42):
Michelle Kane (00:43):
You know, those things we love, we love to overthink or underthink or get just right. So we're going to talk about how to rock that proposal to make sure you lock in all of your new business.
Karen Swim, APR (00:54):
Yeah. I actually, I don't hate proposals. I really don't. And I, over the years, I've really refined my process. So I think the first way to rock your proposal is to ensure that you have enough information to actually write one. I never write a proposal - there are rare instances, rare - I never write a proposal unless I've had a conversation, because there are times that you talk with someone and through that conversation you then decide you don't want to submit a proposal, you don't want to put anything in writing. So I'm saving this time by having a conversation where I'm pre-qualifying that customer first. If after a conversation, you know, and during that conversation, I'm not looking at it as like, I'm desperate for business
Michelle Kane (02:24):
Yeah, that's, that's very true.
Karen Swim, APR (02:26):
Step one is have the information that you need before you ever put one single thing on paper.
Michelle Kane (02:32):
Yeah. And an important component of that is, I know this has happened to me, and it's not to say it's not a judgment of good or bad, but sometimes you'll speak with organizations and the conversation will determine that they don't quite yet know what they want or need. And that can take a couple of roads - then let's talk about a proposal to do an audit and make some plans or, and I had this come up recently with an organization, oh, we need this help blah, blah. I'm like, okay, well what exactly do you expect from us? Well we, we just need help. I'm like, okay, I, yeah. I can't propose based on that
Karen Swim, APR (03:45):
Michelle Kane (03:46):
Ah, don't, you know, I'm like, ah, no, no,
Karen Swim, APR (03:53):
I completely agree. And this is a time that you also on your vetting call, because there's so many people when they talk about proposals, they start right in the middle and they're writing it and, you know, somebody will approach you and say, Hey, we're looking for proposals. Then say, that's great. I'd love to, you know, set up a quick call to get a better understanding of your needs. Writing a proposal. And this is, you know, RFPs sometimes, this is how that happens as well. I do not do RFPs with the exception if we're invited, it's a small number of firms and I have some personal connection. So it means that I either know the firm, the company that's inviting us to participate and we can have a phone call prior to submitting an R F P, or I've been referred by someone, a trusted source, and I still, with every RF p like to have a phone call before we put anything on paper.
Yeah, don't be afraid to ask for budget ranges if they don't know, throw ranges out. And usually I'll go high. Just say like, well, the reason that I'm asking is not to pin you down to a number, but to understand how to, to craft the scope of work. We don't want to propose, you know, let's say a $30,000 a month program if that's not in your range. I have always gotten a number, I've always gotten a number by being honest, because that is one of what we're all trying to do. So don't be afraid to throw a number out and to explain why you're asking. Because again, we think of the proposal as a tool to get the business. The proposal really should be a recap and a validation of what you've already agreed to and discussed. So by the time we get off of this first call or second call, if there's more than one, we already know that we want to move forward in business together. We know what the scope of work is, we know what the budget range is. We know you know, how our agency approaches the, the work. And so that proposal is really just validating everything that we've already talked about. Right. And, and so the next step really should be, yes, let's move to contract. Sometimes it doesn't happen that fast, but again, you want to treat your time preciously and not be just spitting out proposals to people without having these conversations and without having the information that you need.
Michelle Kane (06:23):
Right. Right. Because over time you'll realize what a drain that is of your energy and also of your time. And, and even within a scope, you want to start to set those boundaries to protect against scope creep. You know, what does this specifically include? I know I will base it on, this is what the scope includes. If you wish to have us do X, you know, if things grow we'll need to discuss that and how it affects budget, that kind of thing. And overall people will be reasonable. They may say, oh, you know, I only have this much budget. Okay, well we can still accomplish this for you. Yeah. So, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing. You'll resent it. And it also sets the expectation or establishes the expectation with the prospect that yeah, this costs this much. So if you really want this is what it's going to take.
Karen Swim, APR (07:31):
And I, you know, so let's move into, okay, you've done all this, you've done your pre-qualification, you've gotten your information, and now you're sitting down to write a proposal. What should actually go into that proposal? One of the things that you want to make sure that you do is that you take very good notes. I use Otter AI for note taking by the way, so that I can fully lock in and listen. But you want to reflect back what they told you was important. So yeah, again, this is why you're uncovering this information. If they told you that they have a new product rollout coming in Q3, and, and this is like the biggest, you know, product enhancement or the biggest launch that they've done, you want to include that into how you're approaching the work. And you want to talk about how you're going to handle this in the proposal.
It needs to be about the customer and very little about you. And the about you part should come at the end. You want to lean into, okay, here's what I heard. Here's what we discussed for, depending on the customer and their approach. Like some, you know, some customers really don't want a big proposal, they just want a memo that is quick and dirty. Like, here's what we can do and here's the that we can do it for. It doesn't even need to have an about your company or any of that other stuff. It can be just like a one or two page quick menu, here are the services that we're going to offer based on our, you know, broad outline. Here are a couple of budget options, let's go. But for bigger budgets, you often are going to have to do a little more work. Right. And that's okay.
You can have your template. You know, sometimes we have a design template that we use that we had somebody do for us that we use over and over and we just customize it. So for bigger budgets, you're going to want to give them some insight, not only in the services that you're going to offer, but your approach. What's your methodology on how you do the work? Because that's important. How will you measure success? I am finding that measurement is one of the most important things that you can put into a proposal these days because people want to understand that they're not just giving you this big chunk of money every month and saying have at it that you're going to have some way to quantify what you're doing, what's working and what's not working, and don't be afraid to address how you will adjust and pivot if you see that a pro a pro program is not working as you projected it to work.
That's, you know, be a grownup about this. You want to be transparent. So definitely share how you work, what's your methodology, how do you approach this thing and give them some insight into how you think. So for example, when we do really, you know, big proposals and, and they're not big in terms of the length of pages, we will include some creative ideas like hey, you told us this. Here's some things that we would do with that. You told us that you're going to this show. Here's what we would do with that. And we come up with creative ideas and we put those in the proposal. We do not do those for every single client. We don't do those on projects. So again, your proposal is shouldn't look the same for every single thing that you are going after. You want to tailor it to that client's style.
You want to tailor the elements to what you heard on those discovery calls or call and make it really about them and speak in their language. So if it's a manufacturing client, you don't want to talk to them about a bunch of stuff that is not in their wheelhouse. You want to make it plain, and this is all marketing your proposal is, you know, yeah. A it's marketing. So it's marketing piece their language. You want to put in things that matter to them. You want to talk about their business, how you'll approach it. Because the goal is to show them that you listened on that call, show them that this is thoughtful, that you were thoughtful in, in the elements that you're providing. That this is not some plug and play. Like I just took this proposal, stuck your name on it and here have at it here the budgets show them that you really did put some work into this. Yeah. Doesn't mean that it has to take you, you know, 20 hours to do this, but you really do want to show that you're thoughtful.
Michelle Kane (12:03):
Yeah. Absolutely. And a lot of times when you're speaking with a client, it may be outside what they say their goals are, but you may hear some things that need to be addressed so, include that too. And it doesn't have to be massive. It's just like, okay, so I heard you say this. And we recommend solving for that pain point or you know, reaching that goal by introducing this into your, into your marketing or pr you know, whatever you're writing this for. Because that also shows that you're already to a certain extent invested in their success and their wellbeing and that you're looking out for them. And it's all those little subtleties that, not that you're trying to pull the one over on them, but you know, it's all those little subtleties that really will hopefully put you at the top of the pile because they know, oh, this person isn't just doing an exchange of, you know, input.
Karen Swim, APR (13:11):
I totally agree. Sorry, we just had a little internet hiccup. But I also would say that because I know sometimes we're like, okay, what do you put in your proposals? How do they look? I would say the look is the last thing that you worry about. It's really the content that you really need to focus in on. A couple of other little things that you can put in there, I would start with an acknowledgement of the previous conversation and a couple of lines about what you heard and something about their business. It's really nice on the call if you can ask them, even if you know, hopefully you do research before your calls, even if you've discovered who their competitors are and what their strengths are. You want to ask them and say, who would you say are your biggest competitors?
Let them tell you who's important to them because then you can take that information and you know, as you're doing the proposal, you can take a quick look at, okay, where are these competitors showing up in the media? What are the themes that they're talking about? Do they have any thought leadership? You can identify those gaps and then that's something that you can actually put into the proposal. Yeah. You can say, Hey, you know, your competitors, you know, have a lot of news about their financials, but they are not doing any thought leadership. That's an opportunity for you to build a thought leadership campaign. So that's just, you know, a quick example. Yeah. you also you know, I always think that you want to obviously include the budget and you want to be specific in what that budget cover. So what's the scope of work for that budget? It's a good time to call out things that may be extras that are not included. Right. So obviously, you know, like wire management fees or you know, wire distribution fees are not covered. So you should just say, you know, we'll right. Press releases, we'll manage the distribution, but the cost of the wire service is direct build or Yeah. Will, you know, bill it back to you.
Michelle Kane (15:12):
And any other team members depending how you run your business. You know, if you're the type of business that you like to take all the billing and then you pay your third party people or in some instances do you want things to be direct pay or even with social media management that I do, you know, you set them up in the business account and make sure that the ads are built to their credit card. That way you're not on the hook for that stuff.
Karen Swim, APR (15:38):
That's a big one. If you're doing any type of ad buys, then you do want to make that stuff direct pay. It's just cleaner and easier. Yeah. I've done it both ways, but it's nicer for them to just put it on their corporate credit card and then I manage it. Yeah. in terms of team members, I don't know how other people work, but I run an agency. We always include the team structure in our proposal. Who's going to be on your team? And who are those people's roles on the team? We want people to know I never I pay all of my people, period. The client just leaves us as a team. We send them one bill because you know, our philosophy is keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy for the client. I pay people, I pay people.
And, so you need to make sure that you have a cushion for that. If you're going that route, we'll talk about that on a separate call, but make sure that you detail who's doing the work. Because we're a senior only agency. We always make sure that clients understand that we are not just the face of the business, that we're doing the actual work because it's one of our selling points is that we don't have to ramp up. We're not a learning agency, we're not a teaching agency. We are quick, efficient and we know what we were doing and our team has a certain amount of experience and we, that's a selling point for us. So if you are working on a team disclose those team members and what they will be doing as part of their account, I think clients really appreciate when you, if you do work in a team and you say your team will be, because again, it's all of those little attentions to being thoughtful and showing them that this is something that you put together for them and not for just any old client and you're just plug and play.
Michelle Kane (17:32):
Right. Right. And your saying plug and play just brings to mind. And I know those who suggest this, they mean, well, I'm sure you've seen it, you know, people saying, oh, here's your proposal, you know, worksheet, you just pop the stuff in. I'm like, well that might work for your industry, but it doesn't really work for ours where we do have to tailor things. It's, it's not just, you know, you'll get 10 of these and five of those and this is the date or however that might work. Yeah. It doesn't work for, so please don't beat yourself up if, if you get frustrated like I did in the past of well why can't I make that work? What's wrong with me? Nothing. No. It's just not the way our industry works. We need to be Yeah. You know, we need to customize our proposals to a certain extent.
Karen Swim, APR (18:24):
Yeah. I, and, and so when I say plug and play, I Oh
Michelle Kane (18:28):
Yeah. I didn't mean to Yeah.
Karen Swim, APR (18:30):
People just wipe out the name and everything is always the same. Yeah. You definitely want to have phrases that you use, like language that you use, like your bio that's not going to change a whole lot. And so you want to be able to pop up your bio in your team member's bios in, you know, image that you may use. You want to have those at the get go. You want to have a template that you really do use. That makes life a lot easier. Yeah. But I would also say don't be afraid to be creative. I can remember for one client rather than a written proposal, we did a video. Oh, cool. We put together this video and yes, we won the account and yes, years later we go on that account because again, you're tailoring things to the personality of the organization and you know, in this, it's like, here's somebody that really appreciates like wild creativity. Like just do things that are not standard. So we did something very different for that particular client. And we take that approach with all of our clients. We, again, we try to really, and, and you should all be doing this too, you know, again, if it's the quick and dirty person that just wants that memo, do a memo. Don't, don't put in a whole lot of extra that's not going to be meaningful to them. If it's somebody that on your call just, you know, they honed in and they're like, how do you measure that? What's the ROI? You want to make sure that that's front and center on your proposal. So, you know, the, the order of things could vary and what you include could vary slightly with each client because you're matching it to the customer.
Michelle Kane (20:12):
Yeah. And, I love how you, you just took that and ran with it and, and I think all of those things, again, they help communicate to the client that, hey, we get you, it's early days, but we get you and that's going to help, you know, that's going to carry us both far if we work together. And I think that's important.
Karen Swim, APR (20:33):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, if you are looking at your proposal and saying, I'm not sure I'm doing this right. And, and this happens to everybody and I, you know, we know your secret is out solo PR pros because this happens with all communication professionals. We are always questioning if we're doing this right or if we're good enough. And so
And that's Proposify. For the cost of that tool, you will make that 10 times over if you win even one client using Proposify. It's amazing. And if you're somebody like me that, you know, sometimes I do like, I'm kind of a not conventional in the way that I do my work. And so sometimes I'm just in a mood and I just want to j step up or change it up propose I lets you do that because you can apply different looks in different films and you can do different elements and you know, I have crazy ideas that I'll throw into the proposal. Like, ah, I don't want to do the same old, same old that
Michelle Kane (22:44):
Karen Swim, APR (22:44):
I want to say like, I don't know, it's really cheap though, to be honest with you. You pay an annual cost and again, if you win one client, you've already paid for the doc on thing. And so I love those tools that immediately show you an ROI.
Michelle Kane (23:00):
Yeah, yeah. And it can help you get inspired too because how often do we stare at a blank page, even when we're writing something, you just can't get started, you know, so maybe you'll start in the middle. Well, that's okay. That's okay. Because sometimes that's the hardest part, right? Getting your scope and your details in place and then you can bop around and make sure your terms and what you're about and all that. But Proposify, I have used it in the past too. It's terrific. It does give you a little bit of that verification too. Oh yeah. I am including the right parts. Okay.
Karen Swim, APR (23:35):
Yes. That is such a good point. If you're sitting there and going, did I miss something? Right, because I, you know, I do realize that some our solos really do work as a solo. It's just them. And so for you if you're not a member of our group, you don't have that water cooler to go can somebody look at this? Can I see one of your proposals? Am I doing this right? Yeah, yeah,
Michelle Kane (24:00):
Yeah. No, it's so true. So true. So once again, we hope this has been valuable time for you. We know we always enjoy getting on here and talking shop. And please do subscribe if you've found this valuable and please share it around if you think it could help someone else that you know. And until next time, thanks for listening to That Solo Life.