Thursday, July 2, 2009

Seth Godin about books...and Learn to Write Proposals on proposals

Seth Godin, one of those people (whose blog you should read even if it's not about your field of work specifically had a post about book covers today. You can read it here, or I've included it below.

As I often do, I thought about parallels with
proposals. A proposal cover doesn't have the same power as a book cover - it may have visual or graphic impact, but more often than not it's goal is to look professional and to provide identity to the contents inside and the brand values  of the organisation that is submitting it.

But if the blurb of a book cover is what provides the catch, the hook, the interest that gets us to spend our hard earned money to see what the rest of the book says maybe that's what the executive summary in a proposal should do. A good executive summary should generate enough interest in the reader to make them want to read the rest of your proposal.

But the ways your executive summary achieve this are very different.
  • Solving problems - you demonstrate a clear understanding of the need and how to resolve it
  • Credibility - you can show authority and make the client trust you
  • Value - the benefits you bring to the client are worth more to the client than the costs you propose
  • Proven - you have done it before
  • Visual - graphics help get things noticed and increase understanding and interest. What can you graphically represent to notch up the interest level.
There are surely others...what can you do in your executive summaries to make the reader want to read the rest of the proposal? Because some people deciding whether to give you the business may not judge you on your proposals cover...but they will judge you on your executive summary.

Is the purpose of the cover to sell books, to accurately describe what's in the book, or to tee up the reader so the book has maximum impact?

The third. It's the third because if the book has maximum impact, then word of mouth is created, and word of mouth is what sells your product, not the cover. Tactically, the cover sells the back cover, the back cover sells the flap and by then you've sold the book. If those steps end up selling a book that the purchaser doesn't like, game over. So you have to be consistent all the way through and end up creating a conversation after the purchase. Books are better at creating conversations than most products (when was the last time you talked about a pool cue), but there's lots of opportunity here, no matter what you make.

Some ways that a book cover can accomplish its mission:

  • Iconic (because iconic items tend to signal 'important')
  • Noticeable across the room (you see that lots of other people own it, thus making it likely that you'll want to know why)
  • Sophisticated (because this helps reinforce that the ideas inside are worthy of your time)
  • Original (why bother reading a book you already know)
  • Clever
  • Funny
  • Generic (reminding you of a genre or another book you liked, not generic as in boring)

I don't know about you, but I judge books by their cover every day.

P.S. "Books are better at creating conversations than most products"...most products maybe, though not mobile phones...especially if it starts with an i...