Good ideas need a proposal in support. Here’s a checklist of seven key topics to help improve your proposals.

It is not written with any particular industry or type of product or service in mind. The further reading list contains more guidance, some of which relates to specific areas.

1. What is the problem?


  • Needs: What precise problem is being solved by the proposal?
  • Targets: Who’s problem does the proposal solve?
  • Methodology: How is the problem to be solved according to the proposal?
  • Business case: What business purpose does the proposal serve?
  • Value: What is the nature, size, and value of the opportunity?
  • Security: What are the risks and security measures for the parties?

2. How is the problem solved?

  • What product or service is offered and how will it address the problem?

3. Is there a workable business model?

  • Who will do what, for who, and by when, to add value or make money?
  • What arrangements are proposed or in place for the following:
  • Achievement of differentiation or a distinctive presence in the market (see the graphic below)
  • Pricing model definition and adjustment in response to market feedback
  • Document management, project management and workflow management
  • Accounting for billing and other financial management
  • Technology support
  • Process definitions, alignment and supporting technology

4. Are resources available?

  • What are the critical resources required (time, people, capital etc) to properly attack the opportunity?
  • Will action follow if the proposal is accepted? Are all arrangements in place, resources secured, and all people ready, willing and available to deliver?

5. What is the competitive environment?

  • Who are the existing and potential competitors?
  • What market dynamics or counter-strategies exist if and when competitors fight back?
  • What existing and future substitutes might replace the proposed offering?
  • What makes the offered venture, product or service better than that of substitutes?
  • What is the existing and future competitive advantage of the offering?
  • What barriers to entry exist for market entry or market share protection?


6. Whose on the management team?

  • What are the required competencies for successful execution of the project?
  • What are the track records and ability of the team to execute the project?
  • What is the level of team morale, commitment and loyalty?
  • What performance measures will guide and motivate the people involved?

7. Are legal considerations covered?

  • What disclaimers and legal notices should be in the proposal?
  • Whose “legal road map” (eg terms and conditions) is served by the project?
  • What intellectual property can be legally protected?
  • Is that intellectual property documented or registered?
  • In what document is intellectual property ownership recorded?
  • Who will own or control any intellectual property and on what terms
Noric Dilanchian