Do you run a lawn care, landscaping, pest control, pool cleaning or other type of home care company? In these days of expense cutbacks and job layoffs, you may be experiencing diminished demand as more homeowners and small business owners do their own work at their homes and businesses. There are probably a lot of other business types planning to jump into your work category, too, so your competition is likely to be growing.
What's your plan for getting new customers and gaining market share in your area? You could go door to door and hand out cards or brochures, or take out ads in the local publications. Those strategies might get you some name recognition, but they're not likely to win you long-term contracts. To get those, you'll probably need to write a proposal.
Right now you may be thinking: Uh-oh, I know my business, but I know nothing about proposal writing. Not to worry&mdash;knowing your business means that you already have most of the information you need to put into a proposal. Now you need to learn the proper structure for a proposal.
Proposals should have basic four-part sequence: introduction, an all-about-the-customer section, an all-about-what-you're-offering section, and finally, an all-about-why-you're-the-best section.
The topic pages in every proposal will be a bit different, because each customer, company, and proposed project will be different. Your proposal might be four pages or forty pages long, but for maximum success, it should still follow this basic structure.
And here's another tip about proposal writing: you don't need to start from scratch unless you really want to. You can make your life easier and write your proposal faster if you start with a proposal kit, which includes templates for hundreds of proposal topics, each with instructions and examples to help you get the appropriate information on the page.
And there are sample proposals in any good proposal kit, too, so you can see what finished proposals might look like (and copy ideas from them). Make sure your proposal kit has templates for contracts, too, if you need those.
Now, let's discuss that four-part structure mentioned above in a bit more depth. The introduction section will be the shortest&mdash;just write a Cover Letter that explains who you are and why you're writing and provides your contact information. Then follow the Cover Letter with a Title Page, which is simply the title for your proposal.
This is likely to be something like "Proposal for Landscape Care for the Martinson Home" or "Maintenance Plan for the XYZ Condominium Complex." If your proposal is simple, that's it for the introduction section. If your proposal is lengthy, you might want to include a summary page of important points (called a Client Summary or Executive Summary) and/or a Table of Contents to help readers find their way around.
In the all-about-the-customer section, describe your understanding of what your prospective customer wants and needs, as well as any concerns and requirements that the customer has. Topic pages that might go in this section have names like Needs, Budget, Objectives, Requirements, and so forth.
You probably already know this information from a preliminary conversation or perhaps even from a request for proposal (RFP). If you don't know all this, it's worth your time to do some research, because proving that you know your client will make your proposal much more likely to be accepted.
In the all-about-what-you're-offering section, describe how what you're proposing to do will meet those needs and follow those requirements. Explain exactly what you propose to do, what it will cost, and how your services will benefit the customer.
Topic pages in this section might have names like Services Provided, Cost of Services, Benefits, Schedule, Guarantee, What to Expect, and so forth. Depending on your business, you might also need to include specialty pages, like an Environmental page for discussing how waste will be handled, an Equipment page to describe what sort of machinery you'll use, and so forth. Stick to the facts in this section; save any bragging for the wrap-up, which comes next.
After you've described exactly what you propose to do, it's time to explain to your customer why you should get the job. This is the all-about-why-you're-best section, where you will include topic pages about your Experience, your Credentials or Certifications, your Personnel, your Company History, etc. If you've won Awards, received Referrals, or have Testimonials from existing clients, you'll definitely want to include those, too.
And in the very last page of your proposal, insert your request for the reader to take the next step&mdash;call your office, set up an appointment, sign the enclosed contract; whatever you want to happen next. This is what is known as a Call to Action.
After you have all the words done for your proposal, take a little time to make it look nice, because it's human nature to favor the best-looking proposal. You could add visual interest with colored borders on your pages, use special bullets or different fonts, or include your company logo. Proposal Kit can help here, too, with specialty packs designed to present a professional appearance and a graphic theme.
Last but certainly not least, it's vital to proofread each page. If spelling and grammar are not your strengths, you might want to hire a professional proofreader to perfect your text, because a proposal that does not seem professional might cause the reader to believe your business practices will fall short of perfection, too.
Send out your proposal in whatever manner is most likely to impress your prospective client: a PDF file sent via email, or a printed copy delivered by messenger, mail service, or by hand.
That's it! Not so hard, was it? Of course, you've still got to write the proposal, but now you understand that every proposal has a basic structure for you to fill in. If you want a big head start toward the finish line, use a pre-designed proposal kit that includes all of this material.
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Article Added on Monday, August 27, 2012
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