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12 Tips for Powerful Proposals

April 10, 2012

Today’s post was written by Matt Hawk, Sr. Marketing Coordinator at Fay, Spofford & Thorndike. You can reach Matt at, on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

Writing a great proposal involves a lot of different elements – planning, graphic design, writing, and editing. Here are twelve tips to developing a better proposal.

  1. Work with your technical staff to identify project issues, highlight team features, focus on the benefits you provide the client, and provide proofs.
  2. Remember that the selection team is often not looking to choose a winner – instead, they are looking to eliminate weaker proposals. Don’t give them a reason to eliminate yours! Be sure to address all of the requirements in the RFQ/P.
  3. Find a way to creatively add visuals! Remember, the proposal reviewer is human: break up the sea of text with graphics that emphasize the benefits you can bring to the client.
  4. Use the language in the RFQ/P – this shows them that you are listening.
  5. Use a style guide. Whatever your internal preference, using the AP Style Guide, Elements of Style, or Chicago Manual of Style will help you make sure that your proposal is consistently in one voice.
  6. Get a dictionary and a thesaurus. Seriously.
  7. Build in review time.
  8. Read the proposal aloud. This helps you catch sentences that don’t flow, or are missing words.
  9. Use simple words. If it’s more than two syllables, think about whether something simpler would work. Avoid jargon.
  10. Use simple sentences. Subject verb object.
  11. Pick your battles. In the proposal creation process, conflict may arise between management, technical staff, and the marketing team. Compromise where possible – but stand your ground when it really matters.
  12. Read a wide variety of subject matter. Reading makes you a better writer.

What would you add to this list?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2012 11:44 am

    You go, @Matt_Hawk! I heard the presentation last week was terrific. #SMPS should ask all of the speakers for their top tips for this blog!

  2. April 10, 2012 11:58 am

    Glad you like these, Karen! We posted tips from Kathy McMahon last month ( and will have more posts in the future!

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