Executive Summaries: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

The Executive Summary is arguably the most important part of any proposal; it not only summarizes the features and benefits of your solution, product or service, it also makes your strongest pitch for being the best provider in the marketplace. If you want your Executive Summary to work hard for you, you need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Does the Executive Summary respond clearly and concisely, right at the beginning, to the customer’s major concern? The start of the summary is not the place to explain how long you have been in business or how your product works. It is the place to say, “You are worried about x; we will solve the problem with y.” The details may be left to the proposal itself, but the Executive Summary must begin by telling the customer that you understand and can solve the problem.
  2. Does the proposal back up the Executive Summary (and vice versa)? Often a disconnect occurs between the Executive Summary and the proposal because they are written and reviewed by different people. The writer or reviewer of the summary might make assumptions about the product or service that are no longer true, without reading the proposal to check. Cross-references may have changed. Make sure that everyone is on board with the facts and that the Executive Summary and proposal are consistent.
  3. Does the Executive Summary include a next step? Because the Executive Summary is often the only part of the proposal that is read, make sure the customer is told what comes next, whether that is a tentative start date or a contact at your company who can respond to questions and concerns.

Especially if your proposal has been written by several company employees, you need to make sure the Executive Summary speaks with one voice, addressing the customer’s expressed needs, supporting the proposal content and including a next step. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, we take pride in our ability to quickly absorb proposals and then write, edit and proof Executive Summaries so that they represent your company and its solution in the strongest possible way. Contact us today.

Writing the Perfect Proposal

Recently, I rewrote a proposal for a small company with a unique green product. The original proposal had five problems:

  • It stressed what the company offered and ignored the problem potential customers were trying to solve.
  • It listed features of the product rather than benefits.
  • It neglected to point out where the product differed from others in the marketplace.
  • It overloaded the customer with attachments and links.
  • It assumed the customer would know what to do next.

Ineffective proposals arise for very good reasons: most often the writers are so close to the product (or service) and so enthusiastic that they no longer see it through the customers’ eyes. Moreover, they are so sure the customer will agree with their enthusiasm that they pack the proposal with every bit of information available; and then simply assume the customer will initiate a personal meeting or conversation.

Belief in your product or service and loyalty to your company and customers are excellent traits and should appear in any proposal. However, you yourself wouldn’t make a purchase based solely on a sales person’s enthusiasms; neither will your customers. The perfect proposal:

  • Identifies the problem or mission of the customer.
  • Focuses on benefits to the customer.
  • Differentiates the product or service to ease the customer’s process of choosing.
  • Delivers the message clearly and efficiently, keeping overall length (including attachments and links) to a minimum.
  • Gives clear contact information and a reason for the customer to contact you, preferably in person.

At TWP Marketing & Technical Communication, we have over 25 years of experience writing proposals, from letter proposals to books, that give customers the information they want in words that excite their interest. We can do the same for your proposals. Contact us today.

Before You Start Writing

Before you start writing any marketing copy, whether a blog, newsletter, website, success story, proposal or article, you should know the answers to these four questions:

1. What does your customer want? Your marketing copy must provide a solution for the customer’s problem. You have to know the problem, be able to solve it, want to solve it and know how to communicate all that to the customer.

2. Where do your customers hang out? Do they search the web or newspapers? Are they more likely to read an article in a magazine or a story on your blog?

3. How much time are you prepared to spend? A regular newsletter or blog takes time; so does tweeting and maintaining a Facebook presence. Do you have the resources?

4. What is your deadline? A website or proposal that is four years in the finishing is four years overdue. Your marketing copy can’t start working for you until it reaches your customers.

If you are having trouble defining and reaching your audience or finding the resources and time to complete writing projects, contact me. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, our words mean business.

Technical Proposals: Three Problems/Three Solutions

Are your technical proposals written and/or reviewed by three or more departments: sales/marketing, technical, and project management? Are they completely standardized? Are they written by one person who grabs content from the RFP, former proposals, and the latest marketing copy? Any of these methods can successfully lead to new clients and profitable jobs if you watch out for these problems:

(a) With multiple reviewers come multiple viewpoints. Reviewer A writes a sentence; Reviewer B inserts “not”; Reviewer C adds two more adjectives; Reviewer D deletes everything; and Reviewer E writes an entirely new sentence that has nothing to do with the original statement. Solution: Never ever have more than three reviewers for a technical proposal (say, one each from marketing/sales, technical, and management). Any secondary reviewers must report to one of the main three and resolve any issues within the department.

(b) Each client must plow through the entire, identical, standardized technical proposal to find answers to the RFP’s most pressing questions. Solution: Use the Executive Summary to respond to issues raised in the RFP, directing the client to the correct sections of the proposal for details. Be sure to address every issue, at least in passing, to make it clear that you understand the RFP and appreciate the client’s concerns.

(c) With multiple sources come multiple contradictions, even with data as basic as the name of your product. It’s MISTERROBOT in Section 1, Mr./Ms.Robot in Section 3, and M2R0B0T in the latest brochure in the appendix. Solution: Periodically read through the entire proposal to eliminate contradictory information.

If your company is struggling to create proposals that are accurate and consistent, clearly and concisely written, and responsive to your clients, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. You have problems; we have solutions.