A Guide to Writing Successful Project Proposals

A Guide to Writing Successful Project Proposals

Everything, from advertising campaigns to strategies, starts with a project proposal. As such, companies need to be able to draft and send proposals that are effective and convincing to their audience.

Read on for the ultimate guide on creating engaging and successful project proposals.

1. Understanding the audience

The project proposal isn’t there simply to outline and manage a project; it also has to do the job of marketing the project. Therefore, like with any marketing strategy, the document has to be drafted with the target audience in mind.

This means using language, style, tone, and jargon to match what your audience will expect. This means you need to start by researching your audience, including the levels of experience they have with your product or technology, what their interests are, and what terms they might understand or struggle with.

By developing an audience persona, you can draft a proposal that will speak to them and answer any questions that a particular person would have.

It also guides how much detail you should put in the proposal, whether technical details are required or what the financial implications are.

2. Understanding why proposals get rejected

By understanding why proposals don’t get picked up, it becomes easier to draft yours to avoid those mistakes.

Whether the client isn’t sure you can deliver, has a better price offer elsewhere, or any other reason in your proposal, these are all things you can modify.

The reality is that the majority of proposals rejections come down to how persuasive they are or aren’t.

In fact, proposals usually dismiss a proposal because the data included in it isn’t persuasive enough to convince the client to adopt it, not because it’s missing data altogether.

To avoid this issue, make your project proposal persuasive by emphasizing results that will positively affect the target audience, and countering the possible reasons for rejection with stories and data.

The goal of the proposal should be to explain how the results will benefit the person making the decision the most, so find out who the decision-maker is. The second way to avoid rejection is to make the proposal as clear as possible.

Persuasion speaks to the message in the proposal whereas clarity is how you get that message across.

The decision-maker shouldn’t have to struggle to understand what you mean. Be clear and succinct and only include the necessary information.

3. Monetize the project

It’s important to justify why the project is required and the most efficient way to do that is to add a dollar value to the problem that the project will solve.

Project proposals often fail because they don’t have a convincing enough justification. Technical or creative projects often struggle the most with this aspect because their problems, though major and requiring a solution, aren’t tied to a financial business issue.

To address this, figure out why a business needs that project and what they stand to lose in a monetary way if they don’t approve it. Emphasizing loss is a lot more persuasive than the possible gains.

If possible, use a return on investment analysis to find out what impact the project will have on the business.

The proposal should include the current negative impact a certain problem is having on a business, as well as the estimated positive impact of the project on the business. It should also include the approximate cost to complete the project.

The project proposals that include a strong justification will be a lot more successful than those without concrete financial data.

4. Apply best practices

Project proposals can be quite complex because a lot of research goes into the target audience, all the stakeholders, the relationships between these businesses and individuals, the risks, the financial implications, and more.

The best way to have a complete project proposal that’s submitted on time is to treat the project proposal itself as a project. This means using project management best practices like consulting stakeholders

  • assigning tasks to team members
  • creating a plan and chart to map the whole process
  • developing a communication plan for all the partners identified in the proposal
  • putting a risk management plan in place

This approach may not be necessary for each project as it can be quite a time consuming, but if a project proposal is large as well as lucrative, it won’t hurt to invest additional time and resources in the proposal.

You can also reuse a lot of the work in the later stages of the project once the proposal has been approved.

5. Use a good proposal outline.

A project proposal should be formatted in a clear, traditional way rather than try to shake things up with a modern approach.

Most stakeholders are used to getting information presented in a certain way and looking in the right sections for the information they want. If you start changing the formatting and outline around, you risk frustrating and confusing your audience.

The traditional format is separated in many sections, each of which has its own purpose.

These sections are the executive summary, the project background, the project proposal, the financial information, the authorization, and the appendix. Each of these must be elaborated in detail so the reader isn’t left with more questions than before.

The wording for the sections can vary, but the structure should stay the same, with a summary of the problem, the context of the project, the solution, and the project’s financial and authorization details.

6. Write persuasively

Proposals have to sell the project, that’s clear. The best way to do that is to write persuasive and engaging copy.

If it reads like an academic essay with long sentences that take ages to get to the point, your readers will lose interest.

It doesn’t have to be written like a sales pitch either, but it should at least be written with powerful statistics, testimonials, and case studies at the beginning to get the reader’s attention and interest.

It can be daunting to write a major proposal, but by following this guide you should be able to write something powerful, persuasive, and most of all, successful.

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