January 27, 2010, 12:12 PM — Teachers use this trick, and Hollywood productions have an elaborate set of rules for this. Yes, a seemingly minor detail like changing the color of a few pages of a proposal can make a huge impact. The words matter most on a proposal, of course, but putting important information on different colored paper magnifies that impact.
If you have kids, you've seen the pounds of paper they bring home from school, especially at the beginning of the year. Smart teachers print signature forms on different colored paper from the rest of the information so parents can find, and sign, those important pages. In Hollywood, changes to shooting scripts use different colored pages to indicate changes each day. Actors and production folks know that a pink page, for instance, has been changed more recently than a light blue page.
Do the same for your proposals, both internal and external. Your executive summary? Not the same color paper as the body of the proposal. The signature page? Another color. Put the most important information on non-white paper, and those pages will stand out automatically.
This takes extra work, but the results justify the time and effort. If you've ever put out a request for proposal to multiple vendors, you know the submitted proposals are long, complex, and many body pages get skipped over. They're also all white, except for the binder or maybe a cover page. Imagine how much one proposal, printed on nice paper stock with contrasting colors for he executive summary and signature pages, will stand out in that stack. Make that proposal yours.
You can overdo this, of course, and turn your proposal into a riot of color and laughter at your presentation. Don't do that. Avoid neon paper colors unless you're printing an invitation to a kid's birthday party. Last week we discussed how to Leverage the Tactile Lure of Good Paper. When you buy that good paper, get an additional two subtle color variations. Pick colors that match those in your logo, such as a light green if you have forest green on your stationery logo.
Limit your proposal package to three paper colors: primary paper in white or off-white, for the majority of the pages, and different colors for the summary and signature pages. Make that a hard and fast rule, because some co-workers have no aesthetic sense, and will unthinkingly pick hot pink for a signature page if not guided properly.
Make contrasting paper color the rule for all proposals, and follow that rule. And save that hot pink paper for tacking up bulletin board announcements of the company softball team.