using microsites to supplement standard RFP responses

How to win more RFPs using multi-media microsites

using microsites to supplement standard RFP responses

In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a notable increase in firms using microsites to supplement their standard RFP responses.

Here are some of the reasons our clients tell us they do this: 

  • It has helped increase conversions by as much as 50% 
  • It differentiates them from the competition
  • It helps them to show (rather than tell) potential clients that they are digitally forward 
  • It takes minutes to create personalized content experiences, once the base template is set up, but adds a real “wow” factor
  • It helps inject humanity & personality into proposals in a way that a PDF can’t
  • A microsite provides powerful customer insights to help inform follow-up and to refine the offering for the next pitch. 

In this article, we’ll reveal best practices for creating compelling RFP supplementary materials, share an example template and explain how you can get a free sample template, in your own branding.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a RFP? 

  • A request for proposal (RFP) is a project funding announcement posted by an organization for which companies place bids.
  • The RFP outlines the bidding process and contract terms and guides how the bid should be formatted.
  • RFPs allow the requesting company to get multiple bidders.

Source of definition: Investopedia

What are the usual RFP response formats? 

When a firm sends out a RFP, it often specifies the format in which the response should be presented. 

Typical response formats include: 

  • Rigid Q&A format, delivered via a portal (this is usual for RFPs issued, for example, by government agencies, where security & standardization are high priority) 
  • PDF document 
  • PowerPoint / Slide Deck 

Usually the recipient of a RFP will then respond with: 

  • A cover letter 
  • An overview or executive summary of their proposal 
  • Details of the key deliverables
  • A summary of the project milestones, delivery dates 
  • Their qualifications / credentials 
  • A copy of the legal agreement for review / approval 

Why should I supplement my RFP response with a microsite? 

Here are our top 5 reasons for supplementing your RFP proposal with a site:

  • It allows you to add multi-media content such as video, to bring your proposal to life and capture the attention of your busy & distracted audience 
  • It provides a central resource for you to store call recordings, presentations, important documents etc. as the relationship develops. This gives your prospective client a single destination to go to, to retrieve information about your company – i.e. no more shuffling through emails.   
  • It allows you to include additional information to cement your value proposition e.g. thought leadership articles, case studies and so on. 
  • It allows you to organize your content using website navigation, making it easier for key stakeholders at the client company to find what they want to know 
  • It gives you detailed insights into what your audience is looking at and when, and who they are sharing your proposal with. 

Can you show me an example?  

Sure. Click here to see an example of a RFP microsite template. 

win more RFPs with microsites

What should I include in my RFP response site?  

Bearing in mind that your RFP response may have been submitted via a portal, PDF or PowerPoint, the objective of your supplementary microsite is to add color. 

Here are some ideas for what to include:

Navigation: Maximum 7 pages – any more and the site becomes overwhelming and unappealing. 

Home Page: Key messages including an executive summary and, ideally, a personalized welcome video. With Zoomforth, you can record this video in a matter of seconds, right in the app, and it will automatically embed it for you. 

Proposal Page: You don’t need walls of text here. Just the highlights. Include timelines, tables and a Q&A section to make it easy for the viewer to find the info they want. 

Team Page: This is often the ‘most viewed’ page so be sure to include high quality images (or better still, videos), bios and contact info for each team member that will be involved in the project, should you win the bid. This is a great place to get creative!  

Resources Page: Think of this as a document library where you can add the legal agreement, pricing documents, slide decks from your oral presentations, video call recordings and more. 

Insights Page: Use this to add a curated set of articles, showcasing your credentials in the area for which you are being considered. Add case studies and testimonials or display logos of past clients. All of these things build trust. 

About Page: By all means include boilerplate wording here but we suggest you leave space for a personalized intro, to show that you are relating your experience to the RFP. 

Contact Page: Give the prospective client an easy way to contact you once they have looked at your site. With Zoomforth, you can easily build and embed contact forms, within the app. 

If everyone is doing this, how will my sites stand out? 

The beauty of the microsite format is that there are so many more options for creativity than you have with file-based communications such as PDFs and slide decks. 

Just as your main marketing site is very different from your competitors’ sites, so your microsites will be. The only limitation is your imagination! 

It sounds like a lot of work. How long does it take to create a microsite? 

The real work is done upfront. Once you have the basics in place, each individual site can be pulled together in a matter of minutes.

When you join Zoomforth, we’ll do the following for you: 

  1. Set up your branding in our system, in line with your brand guidelines, to include your fonts, colors and styles
  2. Create a Style Guide in your branding – this is a library of beautifully designed components that you can just copy and paste into the sites you are making 
  3. Create a template RFP Response site in your branding 
  4. Teach you how to use the platform. You don’t need any coding or design experience – it’s all drag & drop.  

You can then add your core content, i.e the elements that are likely to stay the same from one proposal to another. 

You can also build out all your team members’ bios and store them in our media library. This will enable you to just pick & choose the relevant team members to include for each project, whenever you create a new site. 

Once that’s done, you will have your Master Template. 

After that, it’s simply a question of creating a site from the Master Template (which takes a few seconds) and then adding any personal content (which takes a few minutes).  This might include: 

  • Adding the client company’s logo to the site header
  • Adding a personalized welcome video 
  • Populating the project timeline / pricing table 
  • Adding some curated thought leadership articles 
  • Adding a personalized intro paragraph to the About Page 
  • Uploading any initial documents you want to share. 

How do I get a free branded sample RFP response template?  

If you’d like us to mock up a sample template in your branding, please complete the request form here and we will send this to you in the next 7 days. 

A digital transformation strategy meeting

Does your sales content strategy need a digital transformation?

A digital transformation strategy meeting

Every year brings a new set of business buzzwords. Last year we reached out, touched base, circled back, disrupted, doubled down, and grabbed the low-hanging fruit. 

This year, as we lean in to the new normal, everyone’s pivoting, getting agile, going cloud-based, bringing forward their digital transformation agendas and leveraging their sales content strategies. 

But what do these things actually mean, and should you be doing them, too? 

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive (sorry, couldn’t resist) into the subject of digital transformation. 

We’ll give you a 4-point strategy, or framework, that you can use to:  

  • decide what kinds of new software to invest in and;
  • ensure a successful roll-out. 

This digital transformation strategy can be used to evaluate your software needs in any area of your business. 

Since it’s currently a hot topic, we are going to use sales content as an example, as we work through each of the 4-points of the framework. 

Let’s start with some definitions.

What is a sales content strategy?

Sales content includes all of the assets that help you sell your product or service. 

It can include published literature such as brochures and sales decks, as well as online content like product landing pages, thought leadership articles, videos and social media posts. 

A sales content strategy is simply a plan of how you’ll use the content you create, in an engaging, cohesive way, to influence sales. 

In the past, most sales literature took the form of a PDF or PowerPoint deck. 

New and emerging technology, such as digital proposal software, is causing enterprise firms to review their sales content strategy, in a bid to keep pace with the times. 

This brings us to the term, ‘digital transformation’. 

What does digital transformation actually mean?

Digital transformation is the act of replacing manual processes with digital ones, or replacing older digital systems with newer ones. 

As a concept, it is far from new. 

Growing up in London, I distinctly remember the first personal computer arriving at my school in the early 80’s. It was a Sinclair Spectrum with a range of just 8 colors, but to us kids it was magical! Overnight, it changed the way we interacted, learned and played; the very definition of digital transformation. 

Fast forward 40 years and the digital revolution has permeated every part of our lives, from our social interactions to our business transactions. Technology continues to evolve and we continue to find new and innovative uses for it. 

Billions of dollars are spent on digital solutions each year. And yet, according to McKinsey, a staggering 70% of transformation programs fail to reach their stated goals. 

Ouch. So why do so many digital transformation programs fail? 

The chances are, it’s because there was a lack of thought in one of more of the four steps we’ll be discussing below (and, spoiler alert, it’s probably Step four).  

Four steps to a successful digital transformation strategy

Ok, let’s get started. 

Because there are so many exciting technologies out there, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking one of them might just be the silver bullet that will really move the needle for your firm. (Ok, I’ll stop with the annoying business buzzwords, now.) 

So how do you decide what to invest in? And how do you ensure that your purchase is going to lead to the right result? 

Answer – you don’t start with the tech at all. 

Here is the golden rule. Technology should support your strategic objectives, customer proposition, operational processes and company culture, not determine them. 

A good digital transformation strategy will consist of four key elements: 

  1. Strategic focus 
  2. Customer focus 
  3. Operational focus 
  4. Cultural focus 

Let’s work through each of these to look at how you might evaluate the need for an upgrade to your sales content strategy. 

1. Strategic focus – What’s it all for?

Your digital transformation plan should seek to solve one or more of the following strategic challenges: 

  • To increase revenue 
  • To decrease costs 
  • To improve efficiency 
  • To reduce risk 

Start by articulating which of these apply and get really clear on the problems you are trying to solve.

  • Increase revenue – in which department or distribution channel? By how much? By when? 
  • Decrease costs – in which cost or profit center? By how much? By when? 
  • Improve efficiency – in which processes? To what end? 
  • Reduce risk – what kinds of risks and impacts are we talking about? 

Once you have outlined the problems, it’s much easier to define clear strategic objectives. For example, in the case of your sales content strategy, your objectives might be: 

  • To increase revenue in the pursuits team by 50%, year on year, by the end of 2021. 
  • To take 20% off the cost base for the pursuits team in the new fiscal year.
  • To be able to respond to RFPs within 3 days rather than 7 days. 
  • To demonstrate our digital capabilities to our customers, to differentiate ourselves from our closest competitor. 

Now you have your high level objectives front and center, it’s time to think about your customer proposition. 

Being clear on the strategic focus helps you stay on track.

2. Customer focus – Surprise and delight

The second step in a good digital transformation project is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. 

Most firms think of the customer from their own perspective and so it’s common to see objectives like: 

  • Increase brand recognition and loyalty 
  • Increased traffic to our marketing site and landing pages 
  • Increase sales conversions 
  • Grow the community of followers on social media

These are all great aspirations, but what’s in it for the customer? Consider questions like: 

  • How will a makeover of our sales content strategy actually help our customers? 
  • How will their customer experience improve? 
  • What feedback have we received from them on our current processes? 

By considering their perspective, you’ll be able to set some customer-focused objectives for your project. If you’re struggling to do this, try writing them as stories, by finishing the following sentence:  

As a customer I want:

  • Timely and relevant information at each stage of the buying process.
  • Information presented visually to make it easier to understand. 
  • A single, central place I can go to, where all the important information is stored.  

The more you can narrow down your objectives and those of your customer, the easier it will be to determine whether a digital solution is needed and if so, which kind. 

3. Operational focus – Think processes not systems

The third step in creating an effective digital transformation strategy is to look at your operational processes. 

Notice, we are still not talking about software at this stage!  Questions to ask yourself include: 

  • What processes are working well and which need to be improved? 
  • How will improved processes help us deliver on our strategic objectives and / or our customer proposition?
  • Which departments will need to be involved in setting up any new processes?
  • Which departments will maintain them once they are up and running?
  • What kind of training will we need to provide? 
  • How will we know the new processes are working? What will we measure? What data will we need for that?  

For example, in Step 2 we identified a need to present our customers with information in a visual format. Things to consider might therefore include: 

  • We’ll need the in-house design team to create the visuals 
  • We’ll need the compliance teams to check the visuals meet regulatory and brand standards before they’re published 
  • We’ll need the marketing team to make last minute adjustments to copy and also distribute the visuals to prospective customers 
  • We’ll need to provide training to the marketing team to ensure they have the skills to administer the assets we create 
  • We’ll want to measure the change in lead numbers, sales conversion rates and average sale values
  • We’ll need the business analysts to set up the relevant reporting to ensure we can track progress. 

Resist the temptation to drift into discussion with regard to new systems or solutions at this stage. Focus instead on the processes you need to upgrade and the teams needed to operate them. 

When you’re done, it’s time to consider the most important ingredient of all. The one that will make or break the success of any digital transformation project. Your people. 

4. Cultural focus – the key ingredient

Several years ago, I was called in to help a financial services company expand its business. 

Six months prior, the company had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a revolutionary sales content software that claimed to pinpoint a customer’s deepest emotional drivers for purchasing financial products such as insurance and investments. It would then generate a report, using cleverly targeted keywords, to convince the customer to buy. 

The software company claimed that anyone using the system could emulate the most skilled salesperson in the company and achieve the exact same sales quotas. Imagine – every member of your sales team being able to perform to the same standard as your very best! 

So did it work? No. 

Within a few months of implementation, sales had dwindled to almost nothing and more than half of the national sales team had left the company. 

I came in to steady the ship and here is what I found. 

  • Only a handful of the team had been consulted on the purchase of this software before the senior leadership went ahead and bought it. All had counseled against it. 
  • The team prided itself on its personal service and relationship building. This automated system took away their ability to have a real conversation with their clients and to build trust. 
  • Using the system took twice as long to conduct a fact-finding call as before, as the client had to go through a screening call, fill out the online questionnaire and receive the automated report before they could talk to a human. This caused several customers to drop out of the process before the end. 
  • And perhaps the most depressing (albeit amusing, in hindsight) finding was this: 98% of the 5,000 customers who went through the process were apparently looking for “peace of mind” and “value for money” as their key emotional drivers for purchasing financial planning products. You don’t say! 

The moral(s) of this story?

  1. When considering a digital transformation, whether it relates to your sales content strategy or any other part of your business, consult widely, consult early and consult often. 
  1. The success or failure of any new software will depend on its adoption by your people, so ensure they have a say, early on. Make sure they have the bigger picture, know the objectives and have a chance to discuss and evaluate options before you commit.
  1. Don’t lose what is good about your current offering in the race to automate things. You’ve heard the old adage that ‘people buy people’ and it’s as true today as it ever was. 
  1. And if something looks too good to be true, it probably is!

It’s time for your digital transformation

Ok, let’s recap: 

  • Step 1 – identify the strategic objectives that are driving the need for a digital upgrade to your sales content strategy.  
  • Step 2 – look at things from a customer perspective, to make sure their needs are aligned with your own. 
  • Step 3 – think about the departments that would need to be involved if you make changes, and the processes that might be affected. 
  • Step 4 – consider the key people who would need to be involved and begin to consult with them on potential solutions as early as possible. 

By going through the 4-step digital transformation framework above, you’ll end up with a much better idea of the kind of software you might need to help solve a particular problem.  

It will also help you build a compelling business case, if you need to seek budget approval for any new purchase. 

You can then head to Silicon Valley with a clearly defined shopping list, safe in the knowledge that you have a team committed to the success of whatever digital solution you purchase. 

Happy shopping! 

Ready to go digital? Discover how Zoomforth can help you.