by Mark Protheroe, founder of The Bid Team
As an entrepreneur you have the business idea, developed the solution and have found a core group of good clients. It is now time to introduce your business to the rest of the business community. During this process you will, by some future clients, be asked to provide a proposal, tender or bid for a piece of work. While there are subtle differences between the different documents here, we are going to treat them the same as the approaches you should take to completing them are the same.
It is always flattering to be asked to produce a proposal by a new client but first you need qualify the opportunity and decide if the investment that you will need to make in producing the document is worth it. Once you have made that analysis and decided that the return on investment is worth it, you now need to produce the proposal. The driving issue is that the proposal document set should reflect your brand and convey exactly the brand messages that you have on your digital media outlets. There should be a consistence to everything you do including the production of proposal documents.
Here are a few points to consider:
Look and feel of the documents.
Any document that you submit to a potential client has an initial impact and you want that impact to be positive. You want the potential client to think, just by looking at the document, that they want to do business with you. It is worth considering: what impact you want to have, how do you get that impact from a document and how do you make it consistent with your business’s digital presence.
There are some templates available through various packages, but these are used quite a lot and unless you tailor them heavily, they will not stand out from the crowd. It is worth investing time in producing a document template that reflects your brand and colour scheme. Consider what you are going to put in the document. Large text flows are better in portrait and with smaller font sizes, but high graphic or image driven content is best in landscape with larger font sizes. There should be a cover and for long documents section dividers, all reflecting your brand. If you decide to use imagery on the front and dividers, then be careful that those images are “free to use” or with no copyright.
Images from the internet are usually protected and should not be used on published documents. Once you have your look and feel sorted, you then need to decide how you incorporate your client’s corporate image. It is usually a good think to represent the client’s look and feel or colour scheme as this provides a subliminal partnership message. Be careful when looking at this as a clash of colours could have the opposite message. Never use your potential client’s logo on your submission, this is your document and there could be restrictions on the use of their images. Finally test out the design by printing with dummy content or viewing in the media that you will be submitting in.
Graphics and images content.
The use of graphics and imagery is highly recommended, but they need to be relative and specific to the topic that your proposal is responding to. There should also be a consistency across all graphics and images that reflects both the client’s corporate image and your own.
Reflecting your client’s corporate image reinforces the partnership message and will help with the overall impact but it has to be done in a manner that works and is not just two colours clashing. Picking the right colours and getting the graphics or image colour washes produced for each proposal is important. Reusing standard graphics reduces their impact, making subtle small changes specific to each client, is worth the investment. These will be seen and will give the message that you consider them to be an important client and have invested in the relationship.
The choice of writing style might not strike you as the most important that you will have to make but it can have a big impact on the way your potential clients view your brand. A formal writing style may work if you are pitching to an established legal firm but may be inappropriate for a newly established tech company. As in all cases the style you adopt should reflect your clients’ businesses and your business. Whichever style you choose there are a few key facts that you should always consider such as “client first” and “benefits not features”. Client first means that you structure your sentence to have the client first – don’t start with “we will” or “we have” start with “you will” and “you will receive”. This makes your proposal sound as through it about them and hence focused on their business.
Similarly, when you talk about the products or services you offer, you should be talking about the benefits to the client (with evidence) rather than a dry list of features. These two points are easy to say but a lot harder to put in practice. If you can use them then your proposal will resonate with the clients that are reading them and ultimately deciding who will win the work.
In conclusion a proposal document is an important statement about your company and the services or products you provide. It needs to stand out from the rest and reflect the personality of your business. The impact of the proposal needs to say what you would have said if you were presenting it to the client.
Mark Protheroe is the founder of The Bid Team and has secured over £11 billion of business for clients through bids. He has worked internationally, bidding and implementing projects across Europe, South America and Asia. He has developed a methodology that offers organisations services to improve, manage, support or outsource their bid process and hence increase their win rate.