Breaking Down Business Writing and Proposal Writing

We all know what good writing is. It’s the novel we can’t put down, the poem we never forget, and the speech that changes the way we look at the world. In business, good writing is the memo that gets action, the report that exposes a critical area of improvement, or the presentation that clearly explains a new policy.

Formats in Business Writing

The broad goal of business writing is engagement, but there are several formats of business writing. Each format has its own specific goal:

  • Daily communication falls under Transactional business writing. Most of this writing is by email, but also includes official business letters, forms, and invoices. The style can range from informal to very complex and technical.
  • Another format of business writing is Instructional. The goal of this format is to provide the information needed to complete a task. An effective User Manual might teach a user how to assemble an entertainment center or how to operate a particular appliance.
  • Informational writing is less glamorous but still essential to business. Companies rely on business reports to capture work completed, to record incidents, to finalize projects and recommendations, and to make informed decisions critical to business operations. The organization of the report depends on the kinds of data included and the ultimate purpose of the report.
  • That said, when most people think of business writing, they often think of the Persuasive format. The goal of this format is to convince the reader that a product or service offers the best value. The text is written in a style that presents features, benefits, and added values. It then asks the reader to make a decision based on the information provided.

Process in Business Writing

Regardless of the format, the process for creating a business document is consistent:

(1) Gather information – The writer learns everything about the product or service by interviewing the developers or subject matter experts (SMEs). This might also include conducting outside research or audience analysis.

(2) Plan and organize the information -The writer needs to understand what the research means and how to group related subjects into a coherent  outline. Organizing the document often exposes important gaps in knowledge.

(3) Write the text – The first draft is always going to be rough, but the important thing is getting everything down on paper. Remember, the first draft is never the final draft.

(4) Check the text and information for accuracy – Going back through a business document is frequently a forgotten step, sometimes because of time constraints. A good writer will always ensure their document is correct, to the best of their knowledge, then allow the SMEs to comment.

(5) Make the necessary corrections – As the final step, the writer should correct all errors (spelling, grammar, or otherwise). It’s also important to add missing information, clarify any possible confusion, and perform a final read-through.

In a proposal writing environment, there are a few extra steps added to this process to ensure the response is compliant with the requirements in the Request for Proposal (RFP) and compelling enough to engage the reviewers. This is one of the  daunting tasks in responding to an RFP.

Proposal Writing

Business Proposals are a critical subset of business, and they have an organization, language, and style all their own. The organization is prescribed by the RFP and must be followed exactly to successfully engage the reviewers. Every proposal demands structure… because structure provides clarity, and that’s exactly what you want to give the prospective customer.

With the right structure, your proposal will not only engage the reviewers, but will also motivate them in your favor. Structure requirements can be as unique as the company to which you are responding. Government RFPs can be extremely strict, demanding even a specific font type and size for the response. Bottom line: It’s important to record these requirements during the initial review of the RFP so they don’t get lost in the impending flurry of activity.

The most important parts of a proposal are:

Cover – Most professional proposals create a full-color cover to positively portray your company from the onset and set the tone for the rest of the format and contents.

Transmittal Letter – This letter should be addressed to the person or department mentioned specifically in the RFP. It should function as an introduction of your company to the customer and will usually provide a brief overview of why you’re the best choice to provide the good or service.

Executive Summary – There is an art to writing the best Executive Summary possible, as it is your opportunity to tell your company’s unique story and include relevant information to the issuing entity. The Executive Summary is also an appropriate place  to insert color images to capture attention.

Scope of Work (or Technical Response) — Each requirement listed in the SOW needs to be addressed within the Technical Response. This might include key personnel, specifications, timelines, and anything and everything requested by the procuring entity. This is the time to be very specific and answer exactly the questions being asked. This is not the time to plug in marketing materials of generic responses. 

Pricing — This section of the proposal is typically weighted very heavily for review and engagement. Most RFPs specify a particular format for the pricing, and your response should make every effort to comply with that format (whether it’s a complex Excel spreadsheet or a simple table). There are rarely instances when an RFP will permit pricing proposals that don’t adhere to the proposal’s specific instructions. 

Ready to respond to an RFP?

Because of these inherent differences between business writing and proposal writing, the world of RFP responses can seem overwhelming. The key to an engaging response is knowing the RFP requirements and writing with those requirements top of mind. (That’s not something they teach in Business Communication classes!)

When it comes to understanding the language of RFPs, The Bid Lab has you covered. We have a team of RFP writers at the ready, who deal in these details all day every day. So, if you need help navigating these complexities, start by scheduling a free consultation today! You can also call us at 1-844-4BIDLAB to discuss how to start bidding on profitable government projects. Or, send us a message at respond@thebidlab.com and we’ll get back to you ASAP.