Make Every Proposal Count

Your profile, portfolio, credentials, references, and feedback establish your credibility and showcase your skills – but, in most cases the first (and possibly the last) impression you make on a potential client will be through your bid proposal.

Whether you submit a proposal on one job or 100 jobs, you’re only looking for one outcome: to be hired. Here are some ways to make every proposal count:

Know the client.

Some clients have posted a number of jobs. Check out their previous projects and get a feel for their business and the skills they tend to need. Also check out their feedback, both given and received: you’ll get a feel for how they like to work and communicate, and you may also get a sense of what’s most important to them (timely communication, frequent status reports, asking lots of questions early in the project, etc.)

Ask questions.

Use private messages (PMBs) to get clarification and additional information. You’ll not only better understand the project, but you’ll begin to build a working relationship with the buyer.

Tailor each proposal.

You may be tempted to use standard text in your proposals. Don’t. Each client and each job is unique; your proposals should be, too. Clients can more easily ignore proposals that appear to be boilerplate or generic, so, if you do cut-and-paste, tweak the results to ensure you specifically address the client’s needs. Every proposal should read like it was developed specifically for that particular client.

Stress the benefits.

Your proposal isn’t about you – it’s about the client. The client wants help meeting a need or solving a problem. While you should certainly describe yourself, make sure you describe the benefits and advantages of what you will do. And if you can, explain how you can add additional value or features to the project.

Don’t oversell.

Avoid overstating your skills and promising more than you can deliver. State exactly what you will do and use facts to back up your skills and experience. Provide relevant samples or links to previous work – the more relevant, the better. Buyers can get a sense of your design skills if you include a sample of a brochure you created, but if they need a website created, providing links to sites you’ve designed will be much more effective.

Get to the point.

Clearly explain your services, features, and benefits. Be concise in demonstrating your skills and experience. Include one or two quick descriptions of previous work you’ve done – work that is applicable to the project – and refer the client to your profile and portfolio. Longer is not always better.

Also, avoid jargon. Elance is a global workplace, and word usage varies from country to country. Get rid of catch phrases and just say what you mean in simple, clear and everyday language.

Let your personality show.

Share your enthusiasm for the project or the client’s business. You and your potential client will work together on this and hopefully many more projects – give them a chance to see you as a real person.

Review your proposal as if you’re the client.

Put yourself in their shoes: How would you respond if you read this proposal? Is it engaging? Does it clearly state the benefits you’ll receive? Do you feel confident the provider can deliver? Do you get a sense of the provider’s excitement and interest in the project? Bottom line, would you consider hiring this provider? Forget what you know about your skills and work ethic – focus instead on what your proposal says about you and what you’ll do.

Critiquing your own proposals can be tough, especially if you do so moments after you finish writing. If that’s the case, take a few minutes to review old proposals you’ve written. They won’t be as “fresh,” and you should be able to critique them more objectively. Chances are you’ll find things you wish you’d done differently – apply what you learn to help make each new proposal count.

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Investing in Technology: Investing In Your Business

Barack Obama and John McCain differed on many things – social issues, economics, foreign policy and more. One of the things that also differentiated their campaigns was their use of technology. What can your business learn from how two politicians, in the most closely watched contest in most of our lifetimes, used technology?

Traditionally, Republicans have led Democrats in the use of technology to reach and organize local organizers to drive “get out the vote” campaigns. However, in this election, according to all “Monday morning pundits” one of the reasons the Obama campaign was able to rally an army of volunteers and voters was due to its superior use of technology.

What about your business? Are you investing in the right technology and strategically using it to maximize productivity in your business?

Here are some technologies you should be investing in and planning to maximize for 2009:

Customer Database

Most all of you have a decent handle on who your customers are and what they want, but this is something you have in your mind only. If you do not have your customers in at least a basic database, you will be limited in your ability to see new opportunities. For example, maybe you are getting more customers in a nearby state. With customer profiles you can easily see a trend that over time new customers are coming from new zip codes. With this information you could consider opening up a new sales office, or doing some local online marketing via zip code and etc.

The Mobile Office

One of the advantages of mobile technology is that you are not limited to “work” being defined as a place. Instead “work” as it should be is defined as what you do. Where you do it is irrelevant. Investing in the right hardware, software and wireless connectivity solutions means that information, such as a fax, is never only available to you, “when you get back to the office”. It is available wherever and whenever you are working.

Email Marketing

I think that the popularity of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media avenues have dimmed, just a bit, the importance of email marketing. With email marketing, you build loyalty with your existing customers, encourage new customers to continue to buy from you and make potential customers aware of the products and services you provide.

Social Media

We’ve read quite a bit about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media services. The constant news can make us at times want to ignore these new forms of communication – but don’t ignore them. Social Media, if used correctly, can be an important element in your marketing and outreach to existing and new customers. Social media lets you easily keep in touch with an audience and build a community of loyal customers around your product. When implementing social media, it’s not just about sending press releases via Twitter, but it’s about genuinely being a part of the conversation happening in these communities and creating new conversations.

Hosted Applications

Software as a service, cloud computing or hosted applications – they all mean one thing: accessing software over the Internet. Instead of installing software on a desktop computer or local server you access the software via a web browser. Your data and software are hosted on the computers of a third party.

Although there have been concerns of data security and “what do I do if I can’t access the Internet”, the hosted services space has matured and is just as stable, probably more, than traditional software. The benefits of a hosted application strategy are that you have less down time, due to software crashes and can more quickly connect remote workers to office corporate data. Software as a service enables you to focus more on building your business while someone else focuses on maintaining the software you need to operate.

Investing in Technology: Investing In Your Business

Easy SEO for Joomla and Drupal

In most cases, a website content management system (CMS) is not just an option for success of a website, it’s a requirement. Two of the more popular CMS choices around today are Drupal and Joomla.

But how do you make sure your CMS system is configured properly for search engine marketing (SEO)?

Read below for a short SEO to-do list that will help draw traffic to your Drupal or Joomla website.

SEO Tips for Joomla Websites

The Joomla CMS has been a popular choice for websites for a few years now. Early on, it lacked in SEO features, but it appears to be strengthening in this area. Follow these steps to help make your Joomla site SEO-friendly:

1. Choose an SEO extension for your website, and install and configure one extension:

  • Joomseo. This is an easy to install, but not quite as flexible as other options.
  • Search Engine Friendly Patch. This is also easy to install and optimizes core code, not URLs.
  • Sh404SEF. This is a little harder to set up, but the most useful in the end. Basically, if you’re willing to take the time, this extension is the way to go.

2. Be sure to choose a template that focuses on the text rather than images.

3. Write great content for search engines to find. Yes, this one is obvious, but can’t be emphasized enough.

SEO Tips for Drupal Websites

SEO is very, very easy with Drupal. There are a few modules that will all but automate the onsite SEO value of any Drupal site. Follow these steps to make any Drupal website SEO-friendly:

1. Install and configure the following Drupal modules:

2. Write great content for search engines to find. It’s just as important with Drupal as it is with Joomla ;-).

3. Be sure to use smart ‘node’ titles because these are your H1s and Titles.

4. Also, be sure to use pager, a post setting manager, to break up a long list of nodes.

5. I like to use a custom CCK, Content Construction Kit, field to create a content field that allows a custom teaser.

Do you have any Drupal or Joomla SEO tips to pass along? Feel free to contribute by leaving your comment below.