Proposals that Win Work

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on November 19, 2012

Proposal pageLately, we’re working on A LOT of our clients’ proposals and interviews.  The economy has especially affected the building industry, pushing a growing number of firms into competition for a shrinking amount of work.  Recently, I attended an SMPS event where we got to ask developers and owner’s reps directly what they’re looking for in hiring design and construction firms.  The discussion naturally turned to proposals, and I’m pleased to report that we’re doing pretty much everything right.  It sounds boastful, but our exhortations to respect the reviewer’s time by using tight writing and visual organization to create a package that is inviting and easy to digest are dead on.  Besides the obvious, such as, “Use the right job and owner name in the proposal,” (gotta love ‘save as’), here are a few suggestions direct from the VIPs who review these bad boys and decide who to hire.

1 –Answer their questions directly and in the order they’re asked – with clear, minimal language.

2  – Put the most important information front and center.  Use a one-page cover letter to give them plenty of reason to hire you (i.e., precisely relevant experience, experienced people).

3 – Focus on the specific needs of the job.  Spend less time on mission, history, and standard procedures and instead, tell them exactly how you’re going to accomplish the work at hand.

4 – Present the individuals who will be on the job day to day, in addition to management.  Make sure their resumes show their qualifications for the job.  Include headshots, but make sure they don’t look like mug shots.

5 – Use layout and design to make key information stand out.   A picture really does go a long way, whether it’s a photograph, a callouts, or clear infographics.

Remember that your proposals directly reflect on the professionalism of your firm and allude to both your capabilities and your attention to client needs.  As one said, “If you can’t put together a responsive proposal, how can you possibly handle a much more complex job?”  If you could use some help putting this into practice, I know some real experts . . .  and keep your eyes peeled for a post coming soon with tips for interviewing.



Layer Cake Creative is a strategic marketing agency specializing in communications, design, publicity and online marketing that enrich your brand and support your strategic and sales goals.  This Denver marketing firm specializes in promoting professional services such as architecture, construction, engineering, law, finance, and real estate.

Kimberly MacArthur Graham, founder of Layer Cake Creative, is an expert in professional services marketing with 20+ years in the design and building industry.  She’s especially proficient in marketing communications including technical or creative writing and editing, articles submitted for publication, and brand messaging.

Posted Under: Marketing, Proposal Assistance

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