This week on our 12-week blog series about running your stationery or calligraphy business, we are talking about some of the key elements that go into putting together a successful proposal for potential clients.
If you’re just tuning in, I am putting together a blog series for 12 weeks that is chalk full of great advice, tips and freebies to help stationers (and calligraphers) run their stationery business to fullest. Below are links for our previous posts:
So while I know that everyone structures their business and systems a little differently, I do believe there are some underlying elements that we can all use as guidelines to put together successful proposal for our clients.
While we would assume this is a given, sometimes in the beginning of your business, you may not realize all the different options that are available to help you with your proposals or systems. For instance, for the first 2-3 years of my business, I was sending proposals individually typed up in emails for each and every proposal I was sending out. No PDF or official documents, it was straight bullet point text with their pricing. Oh then we needed to modify it? I’d send another email typed up. It was unprofessional looking and honestly SO time consuming. After a few years, I upgraded to a proposal template that I designed in InDesign, and I would manually type up my line items and pricing and then PDF to attached to my emails, I was totally professional now! And while, yes, this was a huge step up from what I was previously doing, it was still unbelievably time consuming in the back end for each and every proposal. A few years of doing this and then enters a CRM (client relationship management software) where I can easily create commonly used items and packages to insert into proposals for clients to view, and then if they need adjusting it updates in real time, no more re-PDFing and resending “version 3”, etc. I can now put together a proposal in 15-20 minutes and email to my client to view directly from my CRM. I use Dubsado for all of this and it has been a game changer for my business.
Don’t be misleading
I don’t think (or hope) this would ever be done intentionally, there are times where items may be overlooked or undiscussed in the beginning and it can lead to some sticky situations throughout the process. You have to remember that more than likely your client doesn’t do this everyday like you do, they may not realize that envelope addressing isn’t automatically included, or that they have to provide postage and mail them out themselves, or that they don’t automatically get 10 extras on top of the quantity they asked for. I have learned over the years from personal experience and being in some of these sticky conversations along the way that we need to make sure that all of these items are discussed or at least somewhere where they are able to read through them. For me, a lot of this is included in my initial email that discusses the invitation process, and is also detailed out in my contract and my FAQ section on my website. It also goes back to being professional in your proposal. Detailing out what exactly IS included in their price. Learn from some of my mistakes, while you may think it is assumed, it never hurts to reiterate.
Answer their questions before they’re asked
This is following up to the item above. More than likely this is their first time going through this process and they are counting on your expertise to guide them through it seamlessly. I try to answer as many of their questions before they are even asked. This is done through my initial email they get outlining my process and services, my lead capture form asking specifics questions, and being sure to include any notes when I send over their proposal. I let them know that they need to add on 5-10 extras on top of the number of households they have on their guest list, I let them know that I will give them estimated postage costs later in the process so they will know how much postage to order, I let them know that if they choose to not add on assembly, they will receive all of their items individually packaged for them to assemble themselves. All of these answers that you can answer before they even ask a question can save you some awkward emails and conservations down the road.