Using proposals to help you make the sale–part 2
In our June 1996 column we explored how you can use proposals to strengthen and enhance the image that your agency presents to your client or prospect. In this column we want to look at three low-cost and very effective technologies (scanning, digital cameras and color printing) that you can use to make your proposals stand out even more from your competition.
Your customers and clients have come to expect a high level of quality and sophistication in the materials they receive from the companies they do business with. This affects their impression of you and your agency and how they look at the quality of your products and services. I’ve said this before, and it deserves repeating, marketing proposals do not sell insurance. People buy from people. Proposals, however, do provide prospects with one way to get a feel for the quality of you, your agency, and the products and services you provide. Scanners
One of the easiest ways to jazz up a proposal is to add your prospect’s logo to the cover page and to the footer of each page. You may be surprised at how easy and inexpensive this is to accomplish.
The easiest and least expensive way to achieve this customized look is by purchasing one of the new personal scanners that are now available. In general, they’re much cheaper and somewhat less sophisticated than more expensive scanners. They can’t handle color (and some can’t even scan 256-level gray scale), resolutions are typically limited to 300 or 400 dots per inch (dpi) or so. And although a few offer automatic sheet feeding of up to 10 pages at a time, many are limited to a single-page sheet at a time. These smaller units aren’t designed to scan reams of reports. Instead, they’re built to grab information off paper documents on the fly. The software that is packaged with most of these scanners is easy to use and, in most cases, is very capable. I recently purchased a Visioneer Paperport Vx scanner, and I have been very pleased with its performance.
To insert a company logo into your proposal is a simple threestep process. First, you scan the logo to create the graphics file. You can obtain the logo from a copy of the company letterhead or from a business card you have received. Many times the only source I have for the logo is the business card. The problem with this is the small size. What I have done is to enlarge the business card using the zoom feature on our copy machine to blow up the image I want to scan to a more acceptable size. The larger the graphic file you use, the better quality the final output will be.
Second, you may want to “clean up” the image using a graphics software package. Most scanners come with some type of image manipulation software to allow you to change the image. The software that came with the Paperport has a “clean page” function that will analyze a page and automatically remove the small specs the scanner can pick up off the page. This is a time-saving function I find myself using over and over again.
Finally, you insert the image you have created into the proposal document with your word processing software. I use Microsoft Word for Windows for my proposals, and in that software you simply use the Insert Picture command to place the graphics file in the document where you want it to show up.
I realize this is a small item in the scheme of things. I have always been surprised, however, at the reaction of prospects and clients when they see their logo on your proposal. Digital cameras
The next logical step from scanning a logo is to add pictures to your proposals (and to your company submissions for that matter). These could include locations covered, special equipment, or even photos of the staff that will be handling the account. We talked in the last column about having a “service team” page in your proposal. With a digital camera you can add photos of the people who will be handling the account to help personalize your staff
There are two primary ways you can add photos to your proposals:
1. Taking pictures using an ordinary camera and then scanning them just as we detailed above;
2. Or using one of the new digital cameras now available.
One of the downsides of using a regular camera is the time and expense involved in getting the final digital photo. You have to take the picture and get it developed. If it is at the beginning of the roll, you have to wait until the roll is used up, or waste the film in the camera if you need the photo right away. You could use a Polaroid camera, but the quality just doesn’t seem to be good enough. Once you get the picture developed, you will need to scan the picture to create your graphics file.
A simpler and far easier way is to use a digital camera. Until recently these cameras have been expensive (starting at $1,000 and going up from there), so it has been difficult to justify the expense for most agencies. As in other areas of the development of technology, the price of digital cameras is falling to the point where it makes sense to look to them as an alternative to the film-based cameras.
Capable color digital cameras are now available in the $500 price range or lower. (Kodak just announced a new digital camera that will sell in the $350 price range.) One such camera is the Epson PhotoPC color digital camera. (Call InsurFax and ask for document #340 for information on this camera.) This camera looks, feels and acts like an ordinary film camera. The difference is that a computer chip inside the camera stores the pictures you take digitally. Instead of taking your film to the one-hour photo processing store, you take it to your office and connect it with your computer and download the pictures onto your hard disk. You can choose between two picture resolutions:
high mode, which allows you to take 16 pictures at one time, and standard mode, which gives you 32 pictures.
At less than $500, it now becomes reasonable to consider replacing the old Polaroid in the office with a digital camera. Pictures may not be worth a thousand words, but they sure will help to enhance your company submissions, marketing proposals, newsletters and other promotional material. Color printing
Just a few years ago, color printers were just too expensive for the quality they produced to be considered for your office. That has definitely changed. Good quality color printers are now available for under $500, and just about any agency should seriously consider adding one to the office.
You can purchase two types of color printers-inkjet and laser. For many years I turned my nose up at any kind of inkjet printer. The inkjet technology was lower cost than laser, but it just didn’t have the quality output I felt was needed to present to clients. That has also changed. The color laser printers are just too expensive for all but the largest agencies to consider
We first purchased an Epson Stylus inkjet printer about 1% years ago for under $700. This printer changed my mind about the quality of inkjet printers. This printer has been a work horse in the agency since we purchased it.
Why use color? Color adds pizzazz to proposals. But beyond the eye appeal color adds, there are some practical uses for colors. In tables, graphs, charts and lists of data, color helps to visually separate objects that in black and white seem to blend together. We have found this especially useful in graphs we put together comparing loss-sensitive workers compensation proposals using charts. Plotting the ultimate net premiums at various loss levels using color for each company proposal makes the chart stand out and very easy to understand.
We also use color for our normal proposals, primarily to help visually separate the information on the page. We use blue for page headings and red for exclusions or coverage exceptions. When you use color, you need to remember to use it sparingly and tastefully. Improper use of color can ruin the appearance of a document faster than improve it.
You need to keep in mind a couple of things when you are shopping for color printers. First, the output speed is not generally fast. In color mode, printing two to three pages per minute is the norm. The faster the speed, the higher the cost. Second, there are a number of different types of color printing Terms such as dye sublimation, inkjet, thermal wax, plastic-based polyfusion and others describe different methods of creating the color image. Each has its merits and problems; but for normal agency use, the inkjet printer seems to be the all-round best. Finally, color printing costs more than black and white. Printer color is made up of yellow, magenta (red), cyan (blue), and black. You need to purchase color elements separately. Also, really good looking, eye-catching color printing should be printed on special, plastic-coated paper, which also adds to the cost per page.
Your customers and prospects have come to expect a high level of quality and sophistication in the materials they receive from the companies they do business with. Scanning, digital cameras, and color printers are all proven technologies that will help you not only meet but exceed your clients’ expectations and improve your relationship with them.
Steve Anderson is a producer at Cadenhead Shreffler Insurance in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He also heads American Insurance Consultants (AIC), which provides consulting services on how to maximize profits using common sense technology. He is a member of the TAAR network and can be reached at 800657-6181 or by e-mail at 72157.512 @compuserve.com. To obtain additional information by fax on the topic discussed in this article, call InsurFax, AIC’s fax-on-demand system, at (817) 589-4530, 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Request document number 340.
Copyright Rough Notes Co., Inc. Aug 1996
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