Figure Captions, the Unexplored Selling Frontier
Given the following table:
|Number of Personnel||Position||Responsibility|
|1||Project Manager||Management of the project|
|1||System Architect||Software architecture|
|1||Data architect||Database architecture|
|3||Business Analyst||Identification and documentation of all business and system requirements|
|2||Web Developer||Implementation of code at the presentation layer of the system|
|4||Java Developer||Design, development, and implementation of the business layer components for each application element|
|2||DBA||Implements the database structures|
Which of these two captions is more compelling?
Figure 3-2. Project Team Composition. Number of people and responsibility for positions that will staff the application development effort.
Figure 3-2. Project Team Composition. Our team is organized to maximize individual technical strengths in order to efficiently and concurrently perform the activities required to deliver a quality application. At no time during the course of the project do all 14 personnel work fulltime. Number of personnel working concurrently ranges from five to 12, and the latter number only during peak development time.
It's a no brainer. The second caption is rich in information, reads--almost--like a mystery novel, and enhances the content found in the table. In contrast, the first caption is bland, repeats the table headers and provides the reader with no additional color with respect to the information presented. So, why, oh why, do we get so much of the first caption as opposed to the second caption in proposals? In my mind, figure captions are one of the routinely underutilized selling elements of a proposal.
Given that a proposal is basically a selling document, I like to have any and all words presented in it, well, sell. Figure captions are made up of words, so I invite you to put them to use to sharpen the selling aspect of your proposal. Figure captions have the enviable characteristic of almost always being read by anyone who is doing more than just scanning through the proposal. They sit underneath eye-catching graphics (or they should) or information summarizing objects such as tables and are used by an interested reader to get the gist of the information presented in the figure. So, what better time than now to use them to sell?
With this goal in mind, you should force yourself to always have captions do one or more of the following:
- report the benefits of your product, solution, or approach
- support the theme and hot buttons developed for your proposal
- provide some rhetorical shock value that will stump the reader and force him or her to really think about the information conveyed
- complement and enhance the information reported in the figure they support
- avoid bland repetition of the figure's content
- break the monotony of heavy duty text that may be required in a section, e.g. technical exposition
The consistent adherence to the above objectives for captions can help you enhance your proposal by delivering your sales message through another delivery mechanism. Captions are rarely overlooked, sit on prime real estate on the page, allow you to be creative and add color, and compound your selling message.
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