top of page

AM #021: How a Business Proposal Redesign Led to $1.2M in Revenue

Earlier this year I worked with an engineering firm on their new business proposal.

For today, let’s call ‘em “Smith Engineering”

Smith has a solid reputation in the transportation industry with a long list of references who rave about their work.

But, Smith was facing a challenge that other businesses face.

They were struggling to land new opportunities.

Proposal after proposal, they found themselves losing to competitors who didn’t nearly match up on expertise and portfolio.

In today’s edition, I’m going to share 3 simple adjustments we made to their proposal and the results that have come so far.


Smith’s biggest issue: A complex (and boring) proposal that wasn’t converting new business.

Smith had been using the same proposal for years.

And after cycles of cloning and tweaking the document, it lost its magic. (We've all been there...)

It was desperate for a revamp.

Here are the 3 simple, yet strategic adjustments we made to the proposal.

Adjustment #1: Revamp the Cover Letter in the Business Proposal

The cover letter is the gateway to the proposal.

The goal: To move the reader to the next page.

We shifted the focus of the cover letter from monologue → dialogue

→ Less about Smith Engineering

→ More about the client’s needs, and how Smith can address them

So, instead of an “intro to Smith Engineering” -

The cover letter became a compelling invitation to explore the proposal in more detail.

Adjustment #2: Transform References into Case Studies

References are great. Case studies are better.

The goal: To illustrate what it's like to partner with Smith Engineering

So, instead of drafting up a “contact sheet” with names and phone numbers, like this ↓

References Sheet

We created case studies that:

  • Showcased the firm’s skills and solutions in real-world scenarios

  • Demonstrated their ability to address different project challenges

  • Showcased the impact their work had on past clients

  • Shared their commitment to forging strong client relationships

...and, we also listed the reference with contact information on the case study.

Like this ↓

Case Study Template

Adjustment #3: Polish up the design

The visual presentation of the proposal is more than just an aesthetic touch.

The goal: to create a proposal that was inviting and complementary to the quality of their service.

I view visual design as having a dual purpose:

  1. To convey a sense of ethos, values, and brand identity

  2. To offer a seamless and flawless reader experience

Instead of making design an “afterthought” - we integrated it into the strategic planning.

We used design to:

  • Reinforce messaging (charts, graphs, infographics, icons, etc.)

  • Express brand identity

  • Establish a connection with their reader

  • Ensure a seamless reader experience

The results:

Their revised proposal has helped them land $1.2M in revenue so far this year, exceeding the division’s annual revenue goal within the first half of 2023.

The lesson here on proposal-building is this:

  • Get centered on solving your client’s problems: Angle every element of your proposal around this focal point

  • Less monologue, more dialogue: Guide your prospective client through a dialogue that demonstrates you’ve done your homework, understand their unique needs, and have the team and resources in place to help solve them

  • View design as integral to the reader experience: A polished, professional design makes it easy and enjoyable for your reader to journey through your proposal. Reduce friction with a clean, simple structure & design.

Well, that's all for today.

Want weekly marketing strategies, tactics, tips, and trends?

Join small business owners and marketers leveling up their marketing and branding by subscribing here.


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Looking for more marketing tips? I share my marketing learnings & lessons on LinkedIn. Follow along here.​ ​

  2. Want help with your content strategy and system? Duplicate my content studio here, and make it your own. ​

  3. Need help with marketing? Book a strategy call here

bottom of page