SOS-The One-Page Proposal that Clients and Sales Managers Love

After you’ve thought about the way your client answered your seven-question client needs analysis regarding his advertising and marketing efforts (click here for that article), you’re ready to put your conclusions and recommendations into proposal form.

My favorite proposal format is what I call S.O.S. (Situation, Objective, Strategy), a one to two-page, easy to read summary of what I’ve learned from the client, combined with my recommendations on a creative campaign and a weekly budget. The S.O.S. proposal looks similar to a business plan summary, the short synopsis of the 40 pages long business plan that you would put together when applying for a business loan.

Here is an example of the S.O.S. proposal.

Situation: Locally owned Cutler’s Nursery is steadily losing business to national and regional box stores The Home Depot and Lowe’s. Cutler’s strategy up to this point has been newspaper and Yellow Pages price couponing but that is proving to become unsustainable. Cutler’s gross margin of profit is 60 percent after the cost of merchandise…plants, pots, fertilizers, soils, gardening supplies. Average sale is around $60 but the average customer comes in two or three times per season. So the average customer is worth $60 x 2.5 = $150 per year.

Objective: Cutler’s goal is to gain a minimum of 17 new customers per $1,000 per week spent in advertising ($60 average sale x 2.5 visits per new customer = $150. 40 percent (client’s cost of merchandise) of $150 = $60. $1,000 divided by $60 = about 17.

Cutler’s would like to get out of the price war with the box stores and would like to begin selling value over price.

Strategy: We at WXYZ recommend implementing a long-term broadcast strategy we call “To Tell the Truth”. We will make unscripted commercials based on the things Mrs. Cutler and her loyal customers have to say on why it’s in the best interest of Southwestern Michigan consumers to do business with her store instead of the box stores. These commercials will include the following talking points.

1. The soil in our area is highly acidic and many common plants don’t survive here. Cutler’s doesn’t sell plants that don’t grow well in our area. Store employees are all schooled in what grows here and what doesn’t. Who knows what the box stores are selling, and how well educated are their employees?

2. The Michigan unemployment situation is dire. Mrs. Cutler says whenever possible, she only buys from Michigan growers so that jobs stay here in Michigan. The box stores are known for buying plants from out of state.

3. Cutler’s has plenty of parking at the doorstep and Cutler’s employees help you load your vehicle with your purchases. At the box stores, you usually have to park a block away and you load up your purchases yourself.

4. Cutler’s prices really aren’t that much different from those in the box stores.

5. Cutler’s contributes money to local charities like Safe House for abused women.

Besides these talking points, Cutler’s now has the bully pulpit to discuss virtually any topic in a natural, unscripted tone of voice, the same way they would talk to customers in the store. Topics would include for example, teaching consumers what plants grow best in shade and which ones grow best in full or partial sun. Or, what plants use the least amount of water. Or, how to properly prepare planting beds in our region.

This campaign is designed to do several things at one time.

· Educate consumers. Educated people buy more than uneducated people. When people are educated, they perceive greater value and are willing to pay more.

· Catch fish now. People will shop for gardening supplies this week. They may already have the box store in mind. We believe our creative strategy will persuade many them to come to Cutler’s instead.

· Branding-There are those not ready to buy this week or this month. But when they are ready, they should already know to Cutler’s instead of automatically going to the box store.

· Controlling public dialog-As far as our audience is concerned, Cutler’s people are the experts. The campaign raises the bar on how a gardening store should operate.

These vignettes of natural conversation will be edited. Complete recordings can be done with an I-Phone, transferred to youtube and linked to her website.

Cutler’s telephone number is currently 451 6509. But 37 PLANT (377-5268) is available as a redirect and 377plant.com is also available from godaddy.com for $11.99 per year. It’s easier to remember and easier to type than cutlerspotsandplants.com . “Call us at 37 plant or just go to 37plant.com.” Every time they mention the website in ads they further reinforce the phone number and vice-versa. We will help get the number and the new URL and our tech person will set up the redirects.

Schedule-We recommend that Cutler’s owns their category on the station, with 10 commercials per day W-Sun. as discussed.

Cost per week-$XXXXXXXXXX.

There you go. A nice proposal that shows that you’ve put original effort into a better plan for their success than the plan they were previously using. It will serve as your notes during your presentation, so you’ll sound better organized. The S.O.S. keeps you on topic. “He with the agenda controls the meeting.” Most importantly, the proposal is designed to help you draw out any objections the client may have.

Many of my friends in sales management love this approach to proposal writing because the S.O.S. provides a window into precisely what their salespeople are actually pitching, or not pitching to local direct decision makers.

Management can also use S.O.S. to turn chronic whiners into creative problem solvers. Instead of solving every problem for every employee who walks into your office, you could say, “Hmmm…Do me a favor and write me up an S.O.S. on that and then we’ll talk about it.” Hahaha! Now you’ve got them solving their own problems. If that’s not better than a slap across the belly with a wet fish, I don’t know what is.