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How to Write a Winning Proposal for Any Client

10 April 2024

Writing a winning client proposal is both an art and a science. Historically, Destination Management Companies (DMCs) adopted the practice of presenting highly personalized proposals to clients, showcasing unique event designs, vendors, and ideas. However, this approach typically involves disclosing your intellectual property, which is only advisable with a client agreement such as a Letter of Intent/Engagement in place. 

As a result, many DMCs must learn how to craft winning proposals that highlight their expertise without giving away their proprietary information. By pitching your team’s unique experience, capabilities, and processes rather than the specific resources and designs, DMCs can showcase their skills and experience, allowing them to win jobs from highly desired clients. If you’re wondering how to write a good proposal without revealing all of your best trade secrets, this article is for you. So, let's dive in. 

How to Write a Winning Proposal

Put your client first.

Instead of thinking about your proposal as a detailed plan for a potential client’s specific event, consider showing them how you can address their needs as a whole. What problem does their event solve for guests? How are you specifically equipped to help them? 

To answer these questions clearly, you’ll need to do your research. Learn as much as you can about your potential client before making your pitch. Comb through their website, study their past projects and events, and learn as much as possible about their clients. 

Market research is the first step in crafting a successful proposal. When it’s done properly, you show your potential client that you understand their business and goals, and are willing to work hard to put their needs first throughout the process. 

Provide a compelling summary.

Detailed proposals are certainly important — but in reality, your potential client may not look closely at each page of your proposal until further along in the process. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to write an executive summary that highlights why you’re submitting your proposal and why they should choose you over your competitors. Remember, this summary is not detailed. It’s meant to showcase your strengths and set you apart. 

How can you highlight your strengths while still catering to your potential client’s needs? Instead of presenting a detailed proposal about their event, reference your own previous events and projects to give clients an idea of your capabilities and creativity. Make sure to include previous projects that are most aligned with your potential client’s goals and desires. Providing evidence that you can do the job at hand is more important than outlining how you will do the job. 

Highlight the client’s ROI. 

At first, crafting a proposal that doesn’t dive into every detail may seem strange. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll discover that writing at a high level allows you to focus more clearly on big-picture solutions and show your potential client the impact your hire will have on their own Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs. You want your client to feel confident in the return on the investment of hiring you as their DMC partner. 

Your Proposal Checklist

As potential clients look over your proposals, they are most likely looking for answers to a few key questions. They will want to know if you’re accredited because that proves you’re a reputable choice. They may be interested in your approach to vendor relationships or client communication. They will also look for portfolio highlights demonstrating your ability to deliver on their desires. With these things in mind, include these essentials in every proposal: 

An Introduction (Executive Summary)

As mentioned above, you should capture a potential client’s interest from the first page of your proposal. Demonstrate your knowledge of your client’s needs and briefly pitch yourself as the right fit for their upcoming project. 

A Proposed Solution

To build winning proposals without giving away your detailed plans, pitch what specific services you will use to support the event. Instead of providing a list of proposed vendors and a fully developed agenda, communicate what you will do within the scope of work, for example: “We will secure food and beverage vendors from a trusted list of established partners, keeping dietary restrictions and event flow in mind. We’ll also provide a unique city tour, complete with stops at local favorites. Transportation is included for all participants.” 

A Timeline

Before a potential client chooses to work with you, they should be provided with a clear, high-level project timeline, from the moment you sign a contract until the date of the event. This helps them understand what working with you will look like, and what milestones need to be met to keep the project on time.

A Portfolio

This is the place to provide proof of your capabilities! Potential clients need to know they can trust your team and your work, so “wow” them with your most successful, relevant projects. This section doesn’t need to be lengthy – what’s important is that you clearly communicate the project goals and how you achieved them. This is also an opportunity for you to highlight awards your company has received, which helps establish authority and credibility. 

A Quote or Estimate

When you break down your services and offerings in a quote, make sure you provide transparency with clear line items and brief, but descriptive labels. You’ll want to include all relevant costs and avoid any hidden fees. No one likes surprise add-ons, so be upfront about your pricing structure. You can use tables or charts to make your quote visually appealing and easy to read. Including an expiration date on your quote can be a wise business practice. If you do this, just be sure to make this clearly visible in your quote. 

Understanding a client's budget and requirements is crucial for a DMC to deliver a program that meets or exceeds the client's expectations. It is also important to identify the appropriate pricing model to ensure client satisfaction. A flexible DMC who can effectively communicate while working with pricing variables will build trust and cultivate a strong working relationship.

A Call to Action

This is the most important part of every proposal, and yet, many DMCs forget to include it. Provide your potential client with the next steps at the conclusion of your proposal. If you’re sending your proposal online, you can include an option to sign and pay electronically to secure you as their DMC partner. Additionally, let your client know what will happen next. Will you reach out after booking to set up your first meeting? Will you send over detailed vendor and activity information once the contract is signed? Make sure the client has a clear understanding of your process. This establishes trust and helps them feel confident in their choice to hire you. 

With these six essential elements in your proposal, you’ll become an attractive DMC partner to potential clients near and far — and you won’t have to share all of your best trade secrets to secure work. If you want to establish your credibility as a DMC,
join the Association of Destination Management Executives International. ADMEI is the premier membership association for DMCs. With a global presence and respected reputation, ADMEI provides education and resources that can help you build your business to secure projects from respected clients around the world. Creating winning proposals is just the start.

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