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The best information in the world will be ineffective if it is not communicated clearly and persuasively. Yet many proposal teams focus on information gathering, compliance, and impressive graphics, while the writing itself is overlooked—because “everyone knows how to write.”
When a proposal is well-written, it is easier to understand. That makes it easier for an evaluator to grade and, therefore, it is more likely to win points and beat the competition. Having a copywriter on your proposal team could mean the difference between winning the proposal and coming in second.
Writing With a Purpose
What is copywriting? It’s writing for the purpose of selling.
When people think of copywriting, they are probably more likely to think of advertising than proposal writing, but the two are closely connected—both are aimed at persuading the reader to buy.
A common mistake in proposal writing is to describe what your company does, not how the client will benefit from choosing you. A proposal is a sales argument, and a good proposal will present the client with specific benefits that influence the buying decision. This is the focus that copywriting brings to a proposal.
A common mistake in proposal writing is to describe what your company does, not how the client will benefit from choosing you.
The 3 C’s of Copywriting
Copywriting lifts the quality of a proposal in three important ways:
- Consistency: The challenge is to impose a single tone of voice on a long document that includes writing from many contributors. Copywriters use a house style to give the proposal one voice, which helps evaluators by giving them a document that reads as if it were written by one person—not lots of different people.
- Clarity: Technical or specialist information should be written as clearly as possible, in a way that non-experts can understand. The goal of the copywriter is to make the proposal understandable to all readers, not just people with the same specialized knowledge as the subject matter experts (SMEs).
- Customer Focus: The goal of any proposal is to make the client choose you above the competition, but this goal is sometimes overlooked by SMEs, who believe their job is to explain what they do. The copywriter’s ultimate role is to understand how the client will benefit from the proposed solution and to make that clear in the proposal.
Reviewing the Work
A major part of the copywriting review is seeking clarification from the SMEs about any points that are unclear. The review process makes the SMEs look at their own writing from an external point of view, which helps the copywriter to highlight the specific benefits being offered to the client. In other words, the copywriter serves as a kind of proxy for the client before the proposal is submitted.
From this perspective, two of the most useful phrases in a copywriter’s vocabulary are “I don’t get it” and “So what?”—or phrased more politely, “What does this mean?” and “What is the benefit to the client?” By taking a devil’s advocate role and asking questions about things that may seem obvious to the SMEs, the copywriter can greatly improve the readability and customer focus of the proposal.
Reaping the Benefits
Good writing is not just about conducting a final proofread to correct mistakes and typos. It is about presenting the expertise of your company in a way that is easy to understand and that maximizes the chances of winning new business.
In a competitive proposal situation where an evaluator is working through several long proposal documents, many of which may seem very similar, copywriting gives you an edge that will make you stand out from the competition.