Building Your Business: How a Speculative Proposal or Concept Paper Might Boost Your Marketing

A business that’s serious about building its client base always looks for new ways to attract clients. Advertising in the Yellow Pages, promoting your own website and blog, ads in community papers are all part of the marketing mix. However, if getting business depends, to a large extent, on submitting and winning business proposals or project proposals, here’s something you might want to consider; submitting a speculative proposal to a client, or as it is also known, a concept paper.

You have not been asked to respond to a proposal request. This is purely speculative. Then what exactly is it? What you’ve done is looked for and discovered a need. For example, you may have just completed a project and recognized an opportunity for additional work that would benefit the client. Or you may have a process that would help cities remediate soil from industrial sites more effectively, save them money, and restore the site to tax-paying productivity. If you believe that this kind of marketing has possibilities, then search out the needs your company could fill for local businesses and government. And in your networking, inquire about any issues or problems a CEO might want to get resolved.

The best avenue for speculative proposals is with existing clients, those who know your work and respect your abilities. It can also come by referral. For example, we were aware of a hospital that was considering the development of a new functional plan. They knew that we had already completed one for a hospital in another community. We simply prepared a brief proposal, outlining our services and experience, and how we priced out the work. They came back and asked for a full proposal and we got the job.

If you’re thinking of developing a speculative proposal or concept paper to market your business, here are four things to keep in mind:

Can you uncover a viable need?

Your business may not easily lend itself to this practice. Brainstorm it with your team. It may be easier and more cost effective to continue with your existing marketing.

Can you afford the time and the costs?

Preparing even the simplest of speculative proposals takes an investment of time and money. Is it a productive way to use your people?

Don’t develop a full-blown proposal

It’s tempting to get carried away with your efforts, especially if a client has indicated strong interest in what you propose. Unless you have some formal agreement with the client, don’t commit to providing more than a brief proposal outline with suggested costs and timelines.

Your current and ongoing work schedule

If you already have enough work and the ongoing pipeline is filling up, be very careful about committing resources to a speculative proposal unless you have the time and resources available, or you’re pretty certain that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Speculative proposals or concept papers can be entries to the market for entrepreneurs and small or home-based businesses, especially when starting up. Yes, they are an investment, especially of time, but the pay off may be worth it. It may also be a way for an existing business to test interest in a new product or service. If you are considering using a speculative proposal or concept paper as a marketing tool for your business, the suggestions in this article could be useful.

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