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A tip for writing pitch-winning proposals

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Sunday, 02 August, 2009

Content Do you often pitch for projects by responding to a client brief? One thing to mention straight off, is that a written proposal alone is unlikely to win a pitch.

The fact that there is a pitch in the first place, however, already implies a process of assessing which supplier might fit the needs of a client the best. This process could include a presentation of some kind, either formal or informal, where the client gets to meet your team and see first hand, your portfolio and/or your possible ideas in answer to their brief.

Why you won't get the job

Beyond the written proposal, there are many (fair and unfair) reasons why you won't get the job, including the possibility that a winner has already been chosen, a competitor has a working relationship already with the client, the presentation was crap, or the client simply gelled better with another supplier. With these kinds of reasons, there probably isn't much you can do, apart from bitch and complain internally.

The tip

However, one thing that I've found to give yourself a better chance of winning a pitch, is - simply read the brief and respond with a relevant, written proposal intelligently.

Makes sense and sounds obvious right? I know that in a pitch, other proposals are likely to be written well - particularly as todays market is much more competitive than it was during the dot-com boom of the early noughties.

However, through past experience, I've been surprised how easily we usually get through first stage pitches - usually based on the written proposals. This we've found out, simply by asking the client afterwards.

We do put some effort in, and simply read what the brief is, reply with a sensible, well-written proposal, and answer the requirements they need. Depending on relevance, we also tend to throw in a few (written) ideas to get the client interested, use a few buzzwords, and name drop some brands from our client list.

Other people's proposals

There have also been a few occasions where we've managed to see proposals from other companies. Unfortunately, these weren't the competitors who lost to us, but rather other agencies that we've partnered up with, and so therefore, we got to swap proposals before submitting to the client. Its surprising how some of these proposals were actually just generic documents, talking more about what the agencies can do, rather than what they can do for the brief.

When you're faced with a pitch, of course, anything can happen and you can't always predict what your competitors will do. But once you've made a decision to pitch, commit yourself and do a good job of the proposal.

You might have heard about how some agencies win the project by going far out and doing something that is completely opposite the brief? I don't think this will always work and if anything, I'd say leave that to the presentation, not the proposal.

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