“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ― Victor Borge
We take business proposals very seriously around here. And we know that you do, too. But, as you may have noticed, we like to spice things up with some fun and even irreverence, on occasion. There’s a reason why we put some slack in our necktie knots and joke around a bit (aka our CEO dons a trucker hat more often than Ashton Kutcher.) It’s because no one likes stuffy – not even stuffy business types.
We’re always talking about the best ways to write a business proposal, but one topic that (oddly enough) doesn’t get much love, is how to keep your prospective clients awake while they read it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But wait, I sell pacemakers. That’s as serious as a…”
This article is for those of us who are in the business of, well, pretty much everything else. Perhaps this doesn’t apply to medical suppliers and government contractors, but for the rest of you, particularly those of you working in digital, perk up, close all those other tabs in your browser, and share a laugh with us. We promise to keep it, you know, not quite as serious as a…well, you know.
Having fun is important because it builds rapport, and that leads to trust, which leads to loyalty, and before you know it, someone wakes up pregnant. (That was just a test to see if you are awake)
Let’s take a look at how you can create business proposals that are anything but boring.
1. Tell a story (make it good!)
Newsflash: people don’t like to read about businesses. They like to read about people. Your business proposals should tell your story and hint at “theirs.” That’s what your customers are looking for: How does this proposal fit into my story?
If you can compel your customer to believe that your offer is part of their story-in-the-making, the battle is won; victory is yours.
Keep in mind, though, that they don’t want your life story. They want you to pick up the story where it leads directly to them. If, for example, you started doing web design because you were tired of looking at lousy webpages, tell you customer that in the context of your business proposal. Then, convince them why their business is too good for their current website. You don’t have to start with, “When I was five years old, I picked up a Raspberry Pi and…”
2. Keep it simple, Mr. Melville
Okay, so we know you’re a literary genius of the caliber of Herman Melville, waiting with baited breath for the chance to harpoon your customers like a whale, all the while positively bursting at the seams, ready to break out the Shakespearean literary devices, poetic cadence, and Toulmin argument, or whatever else you may remember from your Liberal Arts degree, but, uh, no.
We’ve told you, and you’ve heard elsewhere, just keep it simple, stupid (KISS). But we really mean it. And it’s not about the level of literacy or even the attention span of your reader. The most compelling reasons to keep a business proposal grammatically simple is because complicated language is hard to read and it doesn’t really inspire anyone to do business.
The longer and more complicated your statements are, the harder it is to make them fun and engaging. Keep the sentences (and paragraphs) of your business proposal short and the overall tone fun, actionable, and forward-thinking.
3. Brand your infographics as boring (until now)
So everybody has infographics going on all over the place. Yep, they’re readily sharable, so infographics go viral with ease, making them really popular. People love hard statistics and data, often preferring those things over written content, so that’s part of the reason for the prevalence of infographics around the Web. But this you knew already.
So, you probably want to include some infographics in your business proposals. Indeed, we’ve told you the “short and sweet” of it before.
But, how many thoroughly boring infographics have you seen? A ton, no doubt. Heck, there’s even a whole website dedicated to the worst infographics on the Web. And you definitely want to avoid ending up on that site, as you sprinkle infographics throughout your content.
So, what makes an infographics fun?
Visuals should be easy to take-in in a quick glance
Even the most serious of data can usually be related to fun, welcoming characters
Information overload is just bad
Suspense is worth (like) a dollar; comedy is worth ~$10
Action is worth more than those things
You infographics can go in a lot of different directions, but humor is always a plus. And if you can lead the viewer to a clear action, or support a broader call-to-action accompanying the graphic, then you’re laying the smack down on infographics.
Maybe just don’t do this:
4, Hyperbole is the enemy of credibility
This is the greatest blog post ever written.
Wait just a minute, no it isn’t!
You no doubt realized that as you read that sentence. That would be a superlative-laden, over-inflated statement and it’s something that can creep into a piece of writing faster than you can blink an eye.
You might not make such a bold, and easily debunked, statement as that one, but here are some other places where adjectives, specifically qualifiers, especially in their superlative and hyperbolic forms, get us into trouble.
“Brand X is the foremost authority…”
“ACME Anvil, Co. is the leading maker of…”
“Widget Co. is the professional’s choice…”
- “Blahblah are the pioneers of…”
The above phrases, and their ilk, should be left out of your business proposals because making bold claims, without statistical support, diminishes the credibility of your statements. Words like “foremost,” “leading,” and “professional’s choice” are blatantly advertorial and just plain cliché. Your customers will see right through that kind of sales writing, so avoid inflated claims like the plague.
Are you having fun and building rapport with your customers?
Well, if you’re not having fun, what are you doing? And, more importantly, what do your prospective customers think you’re doing? You might be among an inbox full of sales quotes — you’ve got to stand out and be memorable.
Not every company has the benefit of being able to have fun within its business proposals, but if you’re among those who can, why don’t you liven it up a bit?
Humor holds the reader’s attention better than anything else. As long as your humor is couched with a beneficial offer and legitimate supporting data, your prospective customers will appreciate your proposal. Regardless of exactly how much fun and humor you are comfortable infusing into your business proposals, throwing in a little for good measure sends a positive signal to your customers, telling them you’re approachable and human.
And, when the customer is wading through a stack of boring proposals, yours may catch their eye, just by being anything but boring.
How do you build rapport in your business proposals? Is humor a part of your approach to customers, or do you keep a stiff upper lip? We’d love to know if we’re right about this whole “fun and engaging” shtick, so please let us know in the comment space below.