You didn't sign up for this. You'd rather be shooting video or editing it to perfection.
But here you are at your keyboard again, stressing about what to say in your next client proposal.
Navigating the confusing world of proposals is a challenge many video professionals must face. The best clients - clients everyone wants to work with - expect to see them before they'll consider hiring you.
For every available project, clients have stacks of proposals to choose from. How can you make yours stand out from the rest and make an unforgettable impression?
Keep reading to find out.
A Significant Challenge for Most Video Professionals
You excel in helping clients tell stories visually. But the people you want to work with won't give you a chance unless you can tell a compelling story in your proposals first.
Boring, generic proposals lead to a lot of missed opportunities. Busy clients just don't have time to read them all. Anything that loses their interest is instantly discarded or ignored. It doesn't seem fair, but clients are judging your ability to do good video work by the quality of your proposals.
A lot of video professionals struggle with proposals because they're more visual than verbal. When it comes time to market themselves with their words, they have a hard time figuring out what to say, what to leave out, and how to tie everything together in a persuasive structure.
A Huge Opportunity to Stand out from the Rest
All of this might sound discouraging...
But it's actually great news. Because many video professionals submit ineffective proposals, the standard for standing out is extremely low. If you're mindful of a few key details, you can quickly separate yourself from competitors and get the attention (and clients) you deserve.
Here's how to do that in four simple steps:
1. Start by Pinpointing the Client's Deeper Problems
The first key element of every proposal is a section called the "problem statement." It's also where a lot of people go wrong.
Generic proposals usually start out by reiterating the project requirements back to the client. They'll say something like:
"Acme Brick Company is looking for a series of 12 five-minute video testimonials featuring some of their most valuable customers. These videos should introduce the customer and show them at their place of business, as well as how each customer uses Acme Brick Company products in his or her daily workflow."
After restating the project specifications, they move on and start talking about all the services they would do to complete the project. This wastes a valuable opportunity to connect with the client on a deeper level.
Think about it. The client already knows what the project requirements are. They wrote them after all! Restating them doesn't do anything to get their attention or convince them you're the best choice.
Effective problem statements, on the other hand, go deeper. They cut beneath the surface of the project requirements and pinpoint the deeper issues. Why is the client offering the project in the first place? The problem statement is the perfect place to answer that.
An improved problem statement could go like this:
"Acme Brick Company is facing a credibility challenge. When the underhanded business practices of one of its competitors, Boring Brick Company, made national news, it cast a shadow on the entire brick industry. Now, Acme Brick Company needs a way to separate itself from the scandal and position itself as a company to trust."
The video testimonials should highlight Acme Brick's long-term relationships with reputable customers and commitment to integrity in the brick industry..."
See how that works? Instead of just touching on the project requirements, we show the client we understand the bigger picture - the credibility problem that led them to offer the project in the first place.
Remember: clients don't want to buy video production or post-production. They want to buy a solution to a problem. Identifying that problem early on takes a bit more effort (you might have to research the client, their competitors, and any recent developments in their industry), but it shows clients you understand them better than anyone else.
2. Offer Benefits and Solutions, Not Statements of Work
Once you've identified the client's problems, it's time to offer your solution in a "proposed solution" section.
A lot of video professionals try to do this by writing out a statement of work. This details all of the services they would provide the client to complete the project.
A typical proposed solution sounds something like this:
"We recommend filming sessions at each of the customer's workplaces. In these sessions, we will film the customer in high definition using a boom microphone and a 16:9 aspect ratio..."
This laundry list of services means something to you, but it probably doesn't mean much to the potential client. Most of them aren't industry insiders. They can't connect the services you're listing to tangible benefits, and their eyes glaze over as your proposed solution blends in with all the rest.
A more persuasive way to go about this is to stick to language clients will appreciate and understand. Instead of just listing the services you would provide, you also connect each one to benefits. You tell a story how your services will create the solution to the problem you identified in the first section.
An effective proposed solution might sound like this:
To best connect with viewers and build Acme Brick Company's credibility, we recommend filming personal interviews at each of the customer's workplaces. We would film in high definition to create a polished, professional look and make the video easy to view from computers, tablets, or smart phones. A boom microphone will help us capture crisp audio even if the customer's workplace is loud..."
This works better because it moves beyond a boring list of tasks. Instead, it describes a dynamic solution to a problem that has been frustrating the client. It doesn't make any assumptions that the client will automatically understand the value of everything you intend to do.
3. Make Your Pricing Easy to Understand
This is the most intimidating part for a lot of video professionals, but it doesn't need to be.
A lot of clients will skip straight to this section before reading the rest of your proposal.
Are you charging a fixed project rate or an hourly rate? A potential client should be able to tell with a single glance. You don't need to worry about all the details or contingencies just yet because you can work those out with a client in follow-up conversations or via a formal contract.
Resist the temptation to break down your price into itemized tasks. Keep your price "high level" to avoid confusing and overwhelming potential clients. Imagine a price tag you'd find at a grocery store instead of a five-page invoice from the auto mechanic. Simple offers - you're willing to create X solution for Y dollars - are powerful offers. No price is easier to understand than a single dollar amount.
You also want to make sure your price is easy to read. No need to get fancy with different fonts or colors. Displaying your pricing in a table or grid is a great way to keep things organized and make it stand out from the rest of your proposal content.
Here's an example from a Bidsketch marketing proposal sample illustrating these concepts in action:
4. Spell out What Interested Clients Should Do Next
What should a client do immediately after reading your proposal?
A lot of people leave this question unanswered. Because things are open-ended, interested clients put the proposal aside, mean to follow up later, and often never do.
Getting someone interested in working with you, but not giving them an easy way to further the relationship, is the last thing you want to do.
After you've hit all the other key proposal elements, set out exactly what you want the client to do to keep the ball rolling and eventually hire you.
There are two parts to doing this effectively:
- Ask for one specific action
- Make taking that action as painless as possible for the client
Remove as much "friction" as possible. Instead of forcing clients to physically mail you a signed copy of the proposal, for instance, give them the option to sign and submit it electronically. Every potential obstacle you remove increases your chances of the client following through.
Over to You
Writing and submitting client proposals is probably one of your least favorite parts of the video business. But it doesn't need to be a nightmare anymore.
Spending a bit more time on your proposals and including the key elements above will take them from bland to compelling. What was once a burden becomes a secret sales tool - one most of your competitors aren't using well - to help you land more clients.
So start today. Win clients over with your words, and they'll give you more chances to win them over with your video too.
What do you struggle with the most in your client proposals? Leave a comment below and share your experience!