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7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

7 Tips for Writing Faster Client Proposals

For a business owner, putting together client proposals or customer quotes (whichever applies to your industry) can feel like the bane of your existence some days. If you invest way too much time and energy into your client proposals, that’s time you’re not spending on doing actual work. Moreover, on the chance that client chooses to work with a different business, your time was a complete wash.

So how can you streamline your proposal process? Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along my entrepreneurial journey that allow me to put together just about every client proposal in an hour or less.

  1. Use a standard template.

While every proposal will (and should) be unique, you will save a lot of time and headache by developing and following a standard template. More than just consistent branding, a standard template will guide you with what information to include where. As you build an archive of past client proposals, you can pull entire sections from these, especially if you’re proposing a similar package of services.

  1. Scope the client’s desired services in the first meeting.

During my first meeting with a client, I leave with a pretty well defined scope of services. That’s very intentional on my part. With a narrowed focus on what my client wants, I can quickly and efficiently put together a proposal and email it to them same-day. I’ve found that producing a proposal on the same day of our meeting keeps the momentum going and often leads to a signed contract within a day or two.

  1. If the client doesn’t know what they want, charge to tell them!

If you find yourself in a meeting with a client thinking “They have no clue what they need! Where do I start?” this is a good indication that the first thing you give that client is a strategy. And by give, I mean get paid to create a comprehensive strategic plan. Working with a client to map out their strategic plan will help you see if you work well together. You will also prove the value of your work while outlining the scope of your services moving forward.

  1. Don’t put a price on anything until you agree upon scope.

This is the third point to focus on the importance of scope. Do you get the picture why it’s so important? If not, let me give you one more reason to consider. Say you create a large proposal for a client, throwing in stuff you didn’t talk about and you’re not sure they really want. You put a final price on it and send it over for review. Then the client comes back and wants you to take out what they feel is about “half” of the services and then wants you to also cut the price in half. This could put you in a really tough position!

Maybe the half they removed consisted of the less time consuming services, so it’s not really an even split. Maybe you gave them a slight discount considering they were going to purchase a larger block of your hours. Now you’re in a sticky situation. You either take the work for less than you would like to charge or have to explain to your client why the price is higher than they feel it should be.

Avoid all of this mess by providing your client with an “idea proposal” for them to first prioritize the exact services they are interested in having you quote. Then quote away! You may even consider breaking down the total price into line-items so if your client should wish to remove a piece of the proposal, it’s clearly marked how this will impact the total price. Which brings us to the next point…

  1. Break down the proposal into small line-items and let the client pick and choose.

If your client has a limited budget, but you still want to showcase the full scope of services you can provide, consider quoting the services out as smaller line-items. For example, a client asks for your help with a direct mail piece and new marketing materials, but you know they desperately need a new website and social media overhaul. Include these extra pieces in your proposal so they can see what each will cost.

I most often see one of two things happen. The client is pleasantly surprised by the price and decides to add the extra services in right now or they create room for it in their business’s budget and come back a few months later to complete the extra work. Whether it’s now or later, it is extra business you may not have gotten unless you presented it!

  1. If the client’s deliverables will vary each month, simply sell blocks of your time.

For a few of my clients, their strategic communication needs ebb and flow from month to month. One month we might focus all of our hours on a single, large project. The next month there may be several smaller projects that take up our time. For these clients, I simply sell them a block of hours that they can apply however they wish. If an urgent project comes up, we can shift the focus of our monthly hours or they can add hours to their retainer. The best part is that presenting this option is a very simple proposal to put together! I show my standard hourly rate and then the various discounts per hour they will receive based upon the quantity they pre-purchase.

  1. Put a 30-day expiration date on all proposals.

Finally, I highly recommend placing an expiration date on all of your proposals. You can determine how strict you want to be, I personally say 30 days from the date the proposal was delivered. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you add a sense of urgency for the client. They realize that if they wait beyond that 30 days, you may take on a different client in their place and no longer have the bandwidth to accommodate their work. This results in closing the contract sooner. Second, you reserve the right to issue a new proposal once that 30 days has passed. If there is higher demand for your time, your price will likely increase. This is a standard practice many industries use and you should too!

To bring it all back together, the key to writing faster client proposals is to be efficient and strategic in your first meeting with the client to leave with a prioritized list of what they want. You also want to develop a standard template, use pieces from past proposals where applicable, and be careful about how you structure your pricing so that you don’t back yourself into a corner. Finally, protect your time and add a sense of urgency to your proposal by setting an expiration date.

What tip for writing faster client proposals did you find most helpful? Or do you have another tip to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

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Posted by on November 20, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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How to Be Your Own News Source (Guest Blog by Beth Ann Matkovich)

The following post comes to us from Beth Ann Matkovich, a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. Please see her complete byline at the end of the article and learn how to connect with Beth Ann!


How to Be Your Own News Source

Let’s face it, not every business or industry has a compelling story to tell.

When markets started turning south in 2008, the president of our firm called a meeting and asked us to brainstorm ways that we could generate income outside of our typical revenue stream. Social media was just coming into popularity, so I suggested that we monetize our intelligence. As the market was falling and things began to move ever slower, I proposed that we share our intelligence with clients and prospects to establish ourselves as industry leaders during the downtime, so that when the recession passed, we would be top of mind when our clients and prospects needed our services.

The Power of Content Marketing

But with no “news” or stories to share, how can companies become their own news outlet? The answer is easy: content marketing. Simply put, content marketing puts you in front of your current and potential clients.

Whether you offer a product or a service, or are a B2B or B2C organization, your knowledge is your product. According to an oral presentation given by Tyler Bouldin, Senior Web Strategy Manager at WebpageFX, the benefits of sharing your knowledge are many:

  • It establishes you and/or your company as a subject matter expert.
  • It establishes you and/or your company as an industry leader.
  • It engages readers and gains followers.
  • It improves retention.
  • It can turn leads into prospects.
  • It fills potential gaps in the sales process.

Start with These Key Questions

But before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to create your content, Bouldin notes that it’s important to identify who you want to reach. Is it existing clients? New prospects? Others? After you identify your audience, describe who they are by creating a persona. Are members of your audience men, women, or both? How old are they? Where are they located? What is their education and income level? What are the pain points that you can address or resolve for them?

The last point is critical, as it is the foundation of your content. But let’s take a step back for a moment. Yes, content marketing is intended to ultimately bring in sales. But the purpose of developing content is to inform your audience and share valuable information. By educating your readers, you become a trusted source of information. Content marketing is not a one-way pushy sales pitch.

Have a Clear Focus for your Content

So what should you write about? According to Bouldin, that question can be answered with another question: What do you know about that will interest your readers? Back to square one, right? Wrong. Consider what changes are taking place in your industry and how it impacts your audience—and most of all—how you can help. What do you do or offer that no one else does or that differentiates you from others? What are your clients’ most frequently asked questions?

Plan Ahead

After you’ve identified your topics, create a plan for sharing your content. Creating a content calendar is a helpful way to visualize what content is posted where, and to schedule topics accordingly around other or related topics or events. Having a plan also offers a checklist of sorts to ensure that the work gets done.

Success is in Promotion

So you’ve identified your audience and topics, written your content, and created a plan to share it. Now get out there and promote it! Bouldin notes that if your company or organization doesn’t already have a blog, create one. This is an ideal venue for your content.

Be sure to share and promote your blog on social media. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when considering social media platforms. You likely won’t attract many 55+ business professionals on Snapchat, so make sure your message is appropriate for the platform and its audience.

You can also create an e-newsletter to get your content directly to your audience. Online tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are popular platforms that can help you track engagement so that you can see who is opening your newsletter and when, and allow you to adjust send times and content as appropriate. For extra mileage, share your expertise with industry trade publications and blogs.

Measure, Adjust and Refine Your Efforts

If incoming calls and foot traffic don’t show the success of your content marketing efforts, get out your measuring tools. Google analytics can give a good overview of your content’s performance and allow you to drill down into pages, users, engagement, and bounce rates.

Just like any other marketing tactic, content marketing is not a once-and-done deal. After creating and sharing your content, measure your message’s effectiveness and start again. Keeping your message in front of your audience will keep you and your organization ahead of your competition and establish you as a valued news source for your readers.

Have you used content marketing to position your business as an industry leader on a particular topic? What strategies did you find to be most successful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!


P Beth Ann McCoy (2)About the Author: Beth Ann McCoy is a marketing communications and writing professional from Camp Hill, PA. She has broad experience with small, non-profit organizations, large international corporations and everything in between. She has written short and long-form content for local and global publications including Harrisburg Magazine, the Central Pennsylvania Business Journal, World Pipelines, and Water and Wastewater International, among others. Beth Ann welcomes new opportunities and can be reached at bmatkovich@hotmail.com.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Guest Blogger

 

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The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take

The Two Week Evaluation Every Entrepreneur Should Take.pngAs an entrepreneur, the only thing that is constant is change. There is an ebb and flow that takes some getting used to – if you can ever really get used to it at all. To make things more complicated, try throwing a family into the mix. That means other little humans rely on you for both time and money to keep them going. You begin carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and after enough time, you forget how to relax and enjoy downtime.

Candidly, I’m describing my personal scenario since I became a business owner nearly six years ago and a mom nearly four years ago (and again just last year). Ever so gradual I have taken on more and more responsibilities in my day. To think back to simpler times, I wonder how I could ever feel like I was busy then. It’s true. Life can gradually add weight to the baggage you carry; you hardly notice as it happens, then all of a sudden it feels like it’s going to bury you.

What I’ve discovered to be effective for “checking” yourself every so often is a simple two-week evaluation that forces you to recognize unhealthy habits that could send you into a downward spiral of stress, anxiety and overload. It can also help you identify where you’re making progress so that you stay on the right track. Take a look at the eight questions I ask and answer every two weeks to gauge my happiness and satisfaction with my business. I highly encourage all fellow entrepreneurs (and especially hybrid moms) to do the same!

Overall, would you say most days you felt happy/positive/fulfilled or sad/negative/stressed?

This questions is so important to note trends in your mood that could signal a need for a change in your lifestyle. To live, even just two weeks of your life, where you felt sad more often than you felt happy is a waste of precious time we have here on this planet.

On average how many (waking) hours a day do you spend working?

Through this question, if you realize you have been putting in 10+ hour work days (even if not consecutive hours) for two or more weeks, your life is greatly unbalanced. This means you’re splitting the other half of your day among sleep, family, hobbies, self-care and household duties. Something is bound to get pushed out!

On average how many (waking) hours a day do you spend NOT working?

This is essentially a follow-up question to the one prior. Say you work 10 hours then sleep 8 hours in a day. It’s a shock to realize you’re giving yourself, your family and your friends just 6 hours of your day, at best. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t this where you would rather spend your majority of time?

Have you felt like you had time to pursue hobbies that weren’t work-related?

I can’t recall (seriously) the last time I read something for fun. That’s sad. In my latest two-week evaluation, I realized I really needed to carve out time for personal reading. It’s a simple fix, like putting down my phone before bed and replacing it with a book. Catching this early will help you dedicate time to your hobbies so you don’t risk losing a sense of self.

Have you dreamt, or woke in the middle of the night thinking about work responsibilities?

If the thought of work is now disrupting your sleep (especially on an ongoing basis), something needs to change. This means you’re struggling to “shut down” after works hours and you are carrying the stress of work with you wherever you go.

What costs you time, and that you don’t enjoy doing, which could be outsourced?

If there’s a responsibility on your plate that takes up a good chunk of your time, you don’t enjoy doing it and your time would better be spent elsewhere – see if it can be outsourced! For me, this was cleaning. For my husband, this was lawn work. It sounds very “real housewives” of us, but when ran the numbers of the value of our time versus employing someone who runs a business doing these tasks, it just made sense. And it might make sense for you too!

Have you let someone guilt you into taking on more responsibilities when you did not want to?

Oh how I struggle saying now! A little pro bono work here and there is to be expected, but if you’re allowing multiple people to guilt you into to lightening their load, while adding to yours – that’s not right! Not only will this cause you stress, it will negatively impact your relationship with the person long-term. Put a plan in place for standing your ground and being upfront with people when you simply don’t want to take on more work.

What is the one thing you want to improve in the next two weeks?

This question is aimed at getting you to set a short-term goal. If you wanted to improve only one thing in your life in the next two weeks, what would it be? For some of you, you might discover it’s the need to let a trouble client go. For others, it might be getting on a better exercise routine or taking up a new hobby to relieve stress. Set this goal today, and in two-weeks you’ll again have the opportunity to see if you made progress toward reaching it.

Are you up for taking this two-week evaluation? I would love to hear what you discover as a result. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Real Service I Provide to My Clients is Reliability

the-real-service-i-provide-to-my-clients-is-reliabilityA question I often receive is what type of services I provide. Well, literally speaking, that’s not a hard question to answer. It’s a blend of communications strategy, content creation, social media, media relations and event planning. But as I tend to do, I have gotten philosophical with my answer. The real service I provide to my clients is nothing more than reliability (okay, and some communications expertise).

Every single one of my clients needs me to be reliable in order for me to be successful with my work. I often deal with busy people who easily get buried under their own workload, so they don’t have the time or energy to micromanage the services I provide them. I prefer it this way. My personality type is built on the foundation of reliability. I can’t not see something through completion, to a fault. But in the case of my business, this has been a big point of success. Here’s why….

Responsiveness

A key part of being reliable is being responsive. During regular work hours (and admittedly, even during non-regular work hours), I give my clients quick responses. Sometimes the response is that I will look into this tomorrow or have the task completed by the end of the week, but it will warrants a response so they know the status of their question. It’s how I would want to be treated and so it’s how I treat my clients.

There’s no reason why I should close my laptop for the day without every email in my inbox receiving a response to the sender that it’s been received and will be handled in a timely manner. Even if I plan to be “out of the office” a day…or five, an auto-responder message accomplishes the same thing. I’ve found that my responsiveness to my clients results in their responsiveness to my invoices.

Consistency

Another big part of being reliable is being consistent. I have clear deliverables for each client that I accomplish for them on a monthly basis (most commonly). They know that if they are expecting a weekly blog and monthly newsletter to be created for them, it will be done just about the same time each and every month. It’s this consistency and reliability that they really pay me for. Often these are busy business owners who would never get to these tasks themselves, which is why they trust them to me.

Proactive Thinking

I strive to answer my clients’ questions before they have to ask them. For example, rather than making them come to me for my thoughts on what should be the topic for this month’s newsletter, I provide several options from which they can choose when I sent over the invoice. This kick starts the planning process and reinforces the value of the service I provide – a key time to do so when also giving them an invoice.

Follow-Up

Finally and most importantly, a lot of my job is follow-up. I’ve venture to say it’s the single thing I do that directly contributes to the success of my business. Some days I feel like all I do is follow-up with people who have fallen off the radar and breathe new life into a project that has gone stale. I’ve gotten pretty creative with the ways I follow-up with clients and leads, so as not to come across desperate or annoyed. By keeping clients engaged, I ensure the success of my work and the likelihood they will continue to contract my services.

Aside from the obvious, what service do you provide to your clients that makes you standout? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Things I’m Doing to Have the Best Year Ever

This week’s blog was written by Bennis Inc’s PR Assistant and Photographer, Danielle Gouger. Click here to learn more about Danielle’s passion and expertise!


5-things-im-doing-to-have-the-best-year-ever

5 Things I’m Doing to Have the Best Year Ever

What defines a great year? For me, it’s challenging myself with new opportunities, improving my health and well-being and spending more time doing things I love with people I love. 2016 may or may not end up being “my best year ever.” What it really comes to is mindset. I’m choosing to put my energy into doing things that will make this year better than the year before, and for that reason 2016 has a pretty good shot at being awesome – regardless of what life might throw my way!

So what am I doing to have the best year ever? Take a look…

Healthy Mind, Body, And Soul

The last few years have been a turning point in my life that has resulted in a lot of changes. From becoming a mom four years ago and single-handedly helping to care for my mother who has had a struggle with multiple health issues, I haven’t had a lot of time to focus on myself. So 2016 has really been the year of turning 30 and learning the importance of making time to take care of myself as much as I make time to care for others. I have recently joined a gym and plan to pursue fitness and make my health a priority. This is this first step toward a healthy mind, body and soul and I’m so excited for this next chapter!

Pursuing Career Path

Ultimately I want to work in the photography field, and although I am not quite there yet, I feel I have learned so much over the last several months on working in the Public Relations industry! I have a clearer direction of where I am headed and what it will take to get there. I plan on utilizing the rest of this year to set myself on the right path for the future of my career. I am just starting this journey, but am happy that I have discovered my true passion. I am getting serious about goal setting, both short-term and long-term, and am determined more than ever to work to my full potential!

Making More Time to Connect with Family & Friends

Since becoming a mom myself, I have truly realized the importance of being connected with family and friends and investing in these relationships. This year in particular, I have begun to reestablish a relationship with my father, which means the world to me. This has also helped me to reexamine my other relationships and to work toward staying connected with those who contribute to my life in a positive way.

Pursuing a Passion

In lieu of working on myself mentally and physically this year, I have made time for one of my favorite hobbies and passion in life, which is live music. Before the demands of motherhood, I used to see a lot of great live bands by going to concerts and shows as much as I could. By allowing myself time for me this year, I have made it a priority to bring back that passion and adventure that really sets my soul on fire. In fact, I have put a checkmark on my bucket list this year, by attending a Paul McCartney concert, which happens to be, hands down, the best concert of my life thus far!

Traveling

Until this year I used to consider myself a gypsy, as I moved around a lot and was never truly able to settle in some place I could call home. I believe in a lot of ways that had to do with having the itch to travel and experience new places and people. As much as I love to travel, I recognized my need for establishing a home base. One of the greatest blessings this year is becoming a homeowner. I plan to balance the stability of having a home with the adventure of continuing to travel as much as I can. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than by taking my daughter to Disneyland for the very first time for her birthday in November! It’s truly a magical place where everyone can be a kid at heart.

What can you do to make 2016 your best year ever? It’s not too late to stating making some changes now that you’ll be proud to have accomplished before 2017.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Life

 

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How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

How to Use Pinterest to Grow Your Brand

Pinterest is a stand-alone Visual Social Network centered on sharing images that link to content. Depending upon your business and industry, Pinterest can be a powerful tool for marketing your products or services and growing your brand. Even individual people can grow their personal brand through the type of content they share or “pin” to their boards.

Whether you have a well-established and popular Pinterest profile, or whether you’re just getting started (like we are at Bennis Inc), there are many tips and best practices for growing your influence. Here are just a few of pieces of wisdom we have gained from our personal experience with establishing a business presence on Pinterest. Take a look!

Plan Your Pins to Win

Start by creating just a few board topics that are directly related to your business and brand. Focus on getting 3-5 boards filled with interesting and quality content before spreading out to create new boards. As potential followers explore your profile, they will be more impressed to see several quality boards than a ton of boards that are hardly utilized.

As you explore Pinterest for content to share (in addition to sharing your own content), you may come across other users that really sync with your brand. Follow them! Not only will this provide a stream of quality content for the future, you just might earn their following in return.

Establish Yourself as an Expert in Your Field

Remember, Pinterest is all about visual content! In order to get noticed, you need your pins to visually stand out. This may mean creating some custom graphics that include the title of your article within the photo. You’ll see this is a very popular way people share content on Pinterest and that’s because it’s effective! People easily grasp what your content is about, which increases the chance they will click and share.

While it’s okay to re-pin other users’ content, you want to also share your original content (i.e. blog, articles, images) to establish yourself as an expert in your field. For example, a photographer won’t get too much respect if he is only sharing other people’s photos that are not his own. Be genuine, just like you would on any other social media platform!

Share Your Content Across Other Social Media Platforms

Speaking of other social media platforms, you can really leverage the full power of your content by taking what you share on Pinterest and also sharing this on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

Additionally, you want to be sure people who are reading your original content, such as on your website or blog, have an easy way to find you on Pinterest as well as pin your content to their own boards. This is as simple as adding some social media buttons to the top and/or bottom of every post. Though it may seem obvious, it is often overlooked!

How have you navigated your business strategy on Pinterest? Share your thoughts and ideas by commenting below!

And don’t forget to follow Bennis Inc on Pinterest! We’re just getting started and have a lot of great things coming soon.

 

 

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Delivering Happiness: How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

Whether you are an entrepreneur growing a small business or a CEO of an established company, you likely understand the importance of “delivering happiness” to your clients. Your clients expect to receive quality service and products from you – that’s standard. But what really makes your business stand out is going one step further to provide them with unexpected, but much appreciated benefits. These benefits are the reason people will come back to you time and time again for more business.

So what can (and should) you do to provide more than just your basic goods and services, but to really deliver happiness? Take a look at these four tips.

Tip #1: Share your advice or expertise at no charge

No one likes to feel like they’re getting “nickel and dimed.” It usually takes one a few minutes of your time to share a little extra advice or expertise with your clients. For example, someone might ask for advice on getting more likes on their Facebook page. Rather than stick them with a costly proposal right off the bat, offer one or two simple tips to establish credibility and build trust. You shouldn’t invest too much time in free advice, but giving just a little at no charge will almost always come back to you ten-fold in future business.

Tip #2: Form a friendship…get to know about them, personally!
Solid connections and meaningful relationships are at the heart of every successful business. Keep this in mind as you cultivate your client relationships into friendships. Really get to know your clients and customers. Remember their birthdays, the names of their children and their hobbies. Not only will this give you something to make small talk over at your next meeting, it will also demonstrate your listening skills and attention to detail. Clients who are friends are more likely to be satisfied with your service and stay loyal to doing business with you in the future.

Tip #3: Resolve any issues promptly and for free (as long as reasonable)

Solving a problem promptly and effectively is a great opportunity for your business to create happy clients. Use the “customer is always right” motto and resolve the issue without sticking your client with a bill for it (so long as it’s a reasonable request). Yes, you may lose a few bucks in billable hours, but you will more than make up for it in future business from a happy and loyal customer. (Note: if this proves to be a reoccurring theme with a client, it may be time to weight the cost-benefits of the relationship altogether).

Tip #4: Follow-up to see how they’re enjoying your product/service

Timely and friendly follow-up is key for delivering happiness to your clients. You don’t want to be intrusive or annoying (like that waiter that pops over 7+ times during a meal asking if everything is okay), but regular “check-ins” can help to nip any issues in the bud before they leave a lasting negative impression. Clients may not be inclined to bring up an issue thinking it’s too small to initiate a conversation about it. But if you present an easy opportunity for them to speak up by being the first to ask, you’d be surprised how some little adjustments early on will keep a client much happier in the long-run!

How do you go above and beyond to provide your clients and customers with more than just goods or services? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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