With most government contracts (and many private sector contracts) now going out to tender, business small and large are often faced with the daunting task of completing and submitting a bid in order to retain or secure new contracts. Jason Cooney says, when putting together a marketing proposal, it must be on brand, in line with key messaging, and consistent with the organisations external communications.
Jason Cooney, Director of Tsaks Consulting offers up these strategies you can employ to write a compelling bid or marketing proposal:
A thorough bid/ no bid process
Prior to commencement, qualify the opportunity. There is significant opportunity cost involved in putting together a bid or proposal. Review the bid and ensure your experience and expertise align with the opportunity and prior to embarking upon any further preparatory work ensure you make a sensible decision on whether not it is worth your while to submit a bid. This is a challenge for marketers who often have competing priorities and a range of lead generation strategies at their disposal. Marketers need to weigh up the contract value and opportunity cost and make a strategic decision.
Develop winning themes
These are similar to your key points of difference or key sales points. It is imperative that you establish them, ensure that they align with your client’s needs, and that they are interwoven throughout your bid including your executive summary.
Win themes are similar, but not exactly the same to the key marketing messages that are generally pushed out as part of any marketing strategy. Your win themes need to focus on and be tailored to the client – not the general market.
Be detailed and concise
Write in simple English and use the active voice. Most procurement personnel will read through numerous tender bids for any one contract, so it is important to be concise so you do not bore the reader.
It’s also important to be detailed and provide evidence. Where a single paragraph can be summarised into a sentence, a single sentence is fine. Once you have written that sentence, provide further detail and evidence to produce a fact-filled informative paragraph.
The language you adopt in the bid needs to align with the language you use in your content marketing and general marketing.
Personalise your bid
It is important to personalise your bid or proposal. Take the time to insert quotes from your proposed team throughout the document (not just in the CVs) and introduce key team members and their proposed roles. When detailing your previous experience, talk about which members of your team were involved in delivering previous projects.
The reader will want to know that your proposed team has experience working together and the expertise and capability to deliver. It can be a good idea to insert a ‘Message from your CEO’ to talk about your bid and how you propose to deliver on the contract.
Again, you need to ensure the message is consistent with all of your external communications. For example, if your Managing Director is the face of your business, and features consistently in your online, social and other marketing avenues, you need to feature them throughout the bid. Alternatively, your external marketing may involve a lot of apprentices or Indigenous workers. In order to ensure consistency in messaging and a personalised bid, it is a great idea to include quotes from the same workers that feature in your marketing.
Include graphics and infographics
The key to graphics is quality and meaning. You need to include graphics and images that convey your key messages. If your bid or marketing proposal is proposing a complex solution, this is best presented in the form of an infographic.
Where you are including images of your team members, or alternatively, previous projects, ensure to caption the images and include real life images of your team in action. This helps develop credibility within your bid and it helps personalise your bid.
You also need to ensure the colours and shades used in graphics and infographics are consistent with your overall branding and style guide.
Provide evidence within your marketing proposal
Any company can write what they like about their experience and expertise in a bid. You need to develop credibility in the eyes of the reader or the reviewer. You can do this by providing evidence such as:
- Letters of support from subcontractors
- Letters from recruiters or community organisations talking about how you will support. apprenticeships and deliver other downstream economic benefits to the local community.
- Testimonials from previous clients will all help evidence your capabilities and track record. Don’t include a generic capability statement or other generic marketing material. This will generally frustrate the reader. However, appending quality evidence to your bid will enhance your bid.
Answer each question comprehensively
Most tenders and bids are reviewed and marked based on a weighting criteria. This means each question is given a weighting and is marked against pre-determined criteria. A comprehensive response to each question is required in order to score well in each question and submit a successful tender response. This means to be the successful bidder, you have to provide a comprehensive response to each question.
A good approach is to assess each question, brainstorm what they are asking for, and develop a basic structure for your reference that covers your response. Sub-headings or bullet points may be appropriate for this. Once you have put in place a structure and response template for the question, you can then proceed to write the response.
Project manage your response
Tenders and bids can become very messy very quickly. There are lots of moving parts in the marketing proposal or bid preparation process, and you will be gathering content and information from different stakeholders. It is critical you put in a compliant bid. In order to do that it is best to create an excel schedule or list of the questions and a system to monitor the progress of your response. This will ensure you complete the bid comprehensively and ‘tick all the boxes’. Tenders can seem simple at the start, however, will become increasingly complex.
Meet your clients needs
When developing your responses, focus only on your own clients’ needs. Look at it from the point of view of your client. They will be assessing multiple tenders and proposals from your company, as well as your competitors. They will be assessing the tenders against their own needs.
Therefore, you need to put forward a bid that addresses their needs – not a bid that focuses on your own capabilities. This may seem counter-intuitive, as the win themes and solution you put forward may not be the same as what you see as your key strengths. However – you must stay focused on the client.
Write a compelling executive summary
The executive summary is critical and will set the tone of your bid and put the reader in the right mindset. We recommend writing the executive summary once you have completed the rest of the bid. Don’t just re-hash and summarise different aspects of your bid. You need to put forward a compelling case, that highlights your win themes, around why you are the right choice. You need to lay a strong foundation for the rest of your bid and address all the relevant criteria.
The weighting criteria varies for price – often between 20 and 50%. In order to secure a contract, you generally need to submit competitive pricing, however, it is important not to discount irresponsibly just to win work. It is better to do no businesses than bad business.
Put forward a quality tender response with mid-market pricing, and you will be in a strong position to secure your contract and make a reasonable profit.
Leverage on the brand equity you have created through your marketing efforts to raise prices where possible and ensure you are viewed as a credible, reputable supplier.