sales proposal

Here’s why you should send a microsite with every RFP response

sales proposal

Are you part of a busy bids team responding to requests for proposals (RFPs)? Are you tired of flicking through massive RFPs and sending equally bloated responses? 

While RFPs have been an integral part of the procurement process for as long as any of us can remember, there’s often no need to limit yourself to responding to one by enclosing a text file.

Zoomforth’s microsite builder technology allows you to create miniature websites that really make presenting your bid more exciting for both parties. They’re more fun to put together than Word documents and for the receiving party, they’re also a lot more interesting to engage with. 

Here are four strong reasons why you should make microsites – and not documents – your default methodology for sending in RFP responses:

They’re great for overcoming the remote communication barrier 

These days, we’re all getting used to working with one another in remote contexts. Of course, there’s always something quite distant about communicating with people over the internet.

The key to maintaining that personal touch is using whatever technology you have at your disposal to humanize the relationship. There are a few great ways to do that, and they all involve elevating how you communicate by using more immersive forms of media than text:

  • Including photos in your bid
  • Including embedded video objects or videos 
  • Including audio snippets or podcasts

These can all help break down the sense of distance between you and the evaluation committee and you can include all of them when you sit down to create microsites. Some of the creative ways we’ve seen all these techniques pulled off:

  • Custom photographs of the team pitching for the business
  • Video presentations. These work particularly well for executive summaries.

These days, digital natives are sitting in the buying seat – and they expect experiences rather than dry information

The millennials of this world have left their Playstations behind and are now holding down serious office jobs as buying managers at businesses (actually, they might still own a PlayStation). 

What divides millennials from any generation that came before them is that they’re true digital natives, having grown up with technology. 

Unlike Gen Xs, who are advancing to executive roles, and Baby Boomers, some of whom are now nearing retirement age, millennials can often be found sitting at the head of purchasing departments and making influential decisions on buying committees. 

As such, they bring an entirely new set of expectations to the table. Many digital natives actively resist forms of technology that they view as “old school” — and if the best you can manage for a bid is a Word document, then your offer may be headed straight for the shredder. They’re also looking for information presented in the form of an experience that they can navigate through. 

To impress digital natives, give them the kind of experience that they thirst for in non-professional contexts. Microsites resemble much more closely the kind of experience that they’re likely to find engaging. 

Digital is the norm these days

Online selling has evolved over the years. During the present remote-first era, digital experiences have become the norm. From that perspective, microsites can provide a much more powerful user experience:

  • Different media types can be leveraged to explain points in a more immersive manner than by using just a text document
  • Menus can be used to make the document navigable. From the perspective of buyers, this is incredibly useful as it means that different parties of an evaluation committee can focus on the parts of the proposal that are pertinent to their role.

Microsites provide a self-service bidding experience

While the remote-first era certainly poses some challenges for salespeople — for one, there’s that gap of human communication to work through — on the other hand, it brings with it some advantages.

One of those is that remote salespeople have been forced to find new ways in which to communicate. An advantage flowing from this is that they can use processes that make it easier for purchasing committees to consume information whenever it suits them. 

This is, essentially, the move towards asynchronous communication – when two parties don’t need to come together at the same time in order to exchange information.

Consider the difference between:

  • Communicating a bid by putting together a Word document and then following that up with an extensive Zoom committee interview.
  • Sending over your bid as a microsite which contains embedded video that can be consumed whenever those on the committee have time to watch through it. 

The first process is outdated and synchronous: everybody has to show up to the meeting whether they’re in a good frame of mind for it or not. The second uses heightened technology to deliver a richer experience and the information can be accessed on-demand. 

Create a microsite next time you need to submit a digital proposal 

For the time it takes to get used to an easy drag and drop editor, shifting to a microsite-first bidding mindset can be seen as a quick and easy win in the battle for winning RFPs. It’s a great way to overcome the remote barrier; they appeal to digital natives; and the buying committees you’re trying to woo will positively love the fact that they can see your bid whenever it’s convenient for them to do so.

To learn how you can create compelling RFP proposals with Zoomforth’s no-code microsite platform, request a demo today. 

rfp response

5 keys to writing an effective RFP response

rfp response

What is the key to writing an effective proposal in response to an RFP?

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the key to getting ahead in the ultra-competitive world of bids and pursuits is showing that you’re not just another RFP-responder. You need to demonstrate that you stand out from the crowd and have unique capabilities to get the job done. Otherwise – welcome to the slush pile. 

In this blog, we wanted to share some interesting uses of our microsite technology that we’ve seen from among our clients. These are ideas that can give your bid an edge. But, of course, it’s not an exhaustive list. Every month, Zoomforth clients continue to share innovative best practices with us that are helping them win business in industries as diverse as accountancy, real estate, legal, pharma and IT. We’ll also share some other key tips based on what we’ve seen clients not doing right. 

Ready? Let’s go. 

1. Humanize your team, and your bids, with video 

Right now, we’re witnessing an explosion of the use of video in marketing. That’s why we’ve baked full video functionality into Zoomforth. Using our platform, you can record, link or upload videos directly into your digital sales proposals. 

Something that can really give your bid an extra edge when writing an RFP is if you include a team video allowing those thinking of hiring you for the project to get up close and personal. 

In the new remote-first environment that we’re all living in, video is one of the most effective ways to forge real human relationships despite the distance between us. 

Thankfully it doesn’t take a lot of effort or investment to get started. For the price of a basic camcorder and some microphones, you can put on a basic production and then embed the video pitch. 

One of our favorite uses of video: a client put their bidding team in front of the camera to share why they were excited to be pitching for business with the brand they were trying to woo. This is exactly the kind of thing that can help you stand out from the masses. 

See here for more video best practices

2. Mimic your client’s language

One of the subtle but clever ways to make sure that your bid response gets the attention it deserves is to study the way your prospective client sees the world and try to mimic it. We’re not only talking about the language that your prospect uses, although that’s a good start, but also the visuals that they choose to communicate their brand with.

For example, if your client refers to their mission statement as “disrupting the shipping industry” then don’t start writing an RFP response by asserting that you’d be eager to help them “change the name of the game in freight.” Small points of dissonance like this can communicate to your client that you’re not on the same page about their challenges. To win business, you want to show your client that you speak the same language.

That means how you communicate and speak visually too. One of Zoomforth’s most useful features is the ability to set up proposal templates with core content that you can then use to create the bones of a site. From there you can personalize your content, swap in imagery that will resonate with your audience and even add their brand fonts and colors if you wish. 

3. Showcase your previous best work

Whenever you’re sending in an RFP response you want to highlight:

  • How good you are
  • How good others say you are
  • What you’ve done previously and what results you’ve obtained

It’s usually a good idea to include any relevant work samples alongside your RFP response. As always, these should be presented as attractively as possible by using case studies, graphs, photos, and infographics.

Consider showcasing:

  • Video testimonials from your previous clients. These can be short one minute video interviews. If you can get buy-in from your clients to use these, they can be used to support multiple bids. They’re a great ROI asset. 
  • Embedded PDF case studies.

4. Include thought leadership

Thought leadership involves leveraging your thinking about key industry developments in order to impress prospects with your knowledge and expertise.

Unlike content marketing, it’s not necessarily about driving leads through inbound marketing funnels. Rather, with thought leadership you’re trying to reassure a high-level audience of your competency and vision for the future of your industry. 

It’s a good idea to include, alongside your RFP, any relevant thought leadership that you or your organization has authored. Start building this thought leadership library before you require it. Then, link out. 

5. Pay attention to the brief

This is, without doubt, the most common cause of frustration among buying audiences. 

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, before initiating an RFP, a whole process has to be undertaken that involves assessing whether the resources and time required to apply can be justified. 

During this evaluation phase, have a second pair of eyes available to make sure that the spec set out in the RFP is being understood correctly. It’s much easier to draft properly the first time than it is to revise something based on misunderstandings. 

Every RFP response is a chance to shine

In order to maximize your success every time you go through the RFP process, we recommend evaluating each RFP response opportunity on its own set of merits.

The biggest danger for RFP responders: getting into the habit of regurgitating almost the same material for every bid opportunity that comes in the door.

The key to success? Being able to reuse those aspects that remain common across bids —like the skeleton template—and customizing everything else.

Every RFP response is a new chance to find a clever way to get your bid in ahead of the competition. These 5 tips should set you off in the right direction!

To learn how you can create compelling RFP responses with Zoomforth’s no-code microsite platform, request a demo today.

win RFP proposals

These 10 B2B sales tips will help you win more RFPs this year

win RFP proposals

Have you been struggling to see your RFP win metric move in the right direction? Do you feel like your competition is winning out on those juicy bids you’d love to win and you can’t figure out why?

We’ve provided a lot of tips in our RFP series so far. Those include:

  • The value you can derive by using microsites to send bids and cultivating the resulting data
  • How to get a professional process in place for responding to RFP opportunities 
  • Why maintaining relationships with key decision-makers at RFP-issuing organizations can allow you to get an edge on the competition and close the deal

In this post, we’d like to offer some B2B sales tips to turn your potential customer into the latest addition to your roster. The idea is to help you stand out from the crowd. Because when you’re competing in a down-to-the-wire B2B bid, that’s exactly what you’re going to have to do to land the business.

1. Use microsites

One of the most dreaded sights in the world of B2B sales is the 100 page PDF that has to be trudged through in order to discover what a prospect has entered as a bid. 

In order to elevate the bid review experience for your reviewers, you can send a microsite instead. A microsite is essentially a miniature website.  You can use it to divide your bid into pages. It doesn’t have to be exposed to the internet — in fact, Zoomforth supports multiple secure means of authentication. 

2. Develop some great templates

Busy firms that rely on winning procurement opportunities aren’t able to write every bid that goes out the door from scratch. That’s why the secret to making your bids team a slick machine is to develop a comprehensive template library. Zoomforth supports both templates which you can base sites off and themes, which configure template-based designs.

3. Always include a cover letter and executive summary

Even when the bid doesn’t make explicit that these are required. Remember that your bid response is going to be read by a few different sets of eyes. One of those might be a high-up stakeholder in the organization who’ll want a very quick download on the essential terms and parameters that you are proposing. An executive summary tailored for this audience can be invaluable. 

4. Make sure to sprinkle in some social proof 

Your RFP bid is going to provide you with plenty of space in which you can talk about how great you are and what you can do to validate the trust placed in you if you win the bid. But don’t forget that to be really convincing, you’re going to need to also show that others think that you’re great too! Have a skim through your bid. And make sure that there’s ideally at least one testimonial or reference to a case study in the mix. It can make a powerful impact. 

5. Make sure that you include some statistics

From a writing perspective, your proposal should contain a balance of concrete language —facts and figures to support your arguments —and abstract language, which are the ideas and concepts you’re presenting. If you don’t have statistics of your own to rely on, then you can find ones from a trusted third party provider such as a national statistics body or an independent website. Management consultancies also produce detailed reports into happenings within an industry.

6. Resist the temptation to pad

Reviewing in detail a bunch of proposals is not an easy job. Be respectful of the RFP committee’s time. You may think that adding a lot of filler text is going to result in a longer RFP response that will automatically make your bid look more serious. From the company’s perspective, the unnecessary verbiage is unlikely to be appreciated. 

7. Study how the client uses language and emulate it

Here’s one that RFP writers often skip over. Study the firm who you are trying to win business from. Take a look at their marketing materials and anything else that is public-facing. Can you find out something about how they view your industry? If they have a certain take on a key issue or favor one acronym over another, for instance, then it makes sense to try to subtly meet them in the middle. Telling a company that they’re doing it all wrong is unlikely to impress.

8. Format it for easy skimming 

You want to make it as easy as possible for the bid committee to skim over your RFP and jump straight to the important parts – or the parts that impact upon their job function. This is, after all, a document that may be passed around (physically) and only glanced at during busy client meetings. This is another reason why many clients have success with the microsite format – it allows bid authors to easily silo information in certain pages. If you’re going for a static document format bid then make sure to use lots of formatting to make it easy for somebody reading the bid to jump to the right section. 

9. Evaluate if it’s worth bidding on before starting the process 

As we discussed in our blog post about setting up a great bid team, you have to be very cognizant of the resources involved in bid-writing in order to begin winning lots of them. The majority of firms that have success with the bid process engage in a go:no-go process before even committing resources to pursuing the bid. This process aims to use some kind of standard logic to objectively determine whether a bid is worth the time and effort involved.

10. Finish with a compelling ending

Don’t forget to include some kind of compelling conclusion to the bid. You want to start out with a summary. Then spell out all the details. And then, towards the end of the bid, circle back to those top-line benefits. This sandwich-like formula makes the bid extra skimmable. Somebody reading the document can follow through a well-thought-out train of logic, seeing exactly how the proposer is capable of executing the project. 

Bidding on projects is always a competitive game. Follow these tips to maximize your success rate. 

If you’d like to know how Zoomforth can help you win more business with digital RFP responses, request a demo here.

rfp response

What I wish I knew before I responded to that RFP

rfp response

Have you ever had that great sales opportunity that came through the pipeline and looked oh-so-promising? Did you ever watch in dismay as your bid went totally ignored and was won by the competition?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then you may have wished that you had a sidekick called content analytics.

Content analytics can take your bid win rate to the next level. In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the advantage that this kind of customer engagement data can bring to RFP response writing. Once we’re done, you should be in a better position to understand why and when it makes sense to back a static document with a living online resource.

The problem with traditional bidding formats 

When it comes time to enter a bid, the format that most writers reach for is the tried and trusted Word or PDF document. This is typically used to convey longer bids. Occasionally, a presentation built in Powerpoint or equivalent software is the favored approach.

While it’s certainly possible to craft very engaging bids using these media, ultimately there’s one glaring problem: neither yield any data. And in today’s data-driven climate, that’s often considered unacceptable.

In fact, minus tracking open rates and downloads (both of these are possible) you’re going to be none the wiser as to how your target readership–the bid committee—has engaged with your proposal. You won’t know whether they’ve read it. How many times they’ve read it. Or what parts of the proposal they found the most engaging. So long as this is the case, you’re going to be flying blind.

And there are two problems with flying blind:

  • In all likelihood, you’re trying to get better and win more bids over time – iterative improvement may even have been baked into your KPIs. If you don’t know where you’re succeeding and failing then that iterative process becomes challenging  
  • Not only does this make it challenging to improve on future bids, you don’t receive any data about whether this proposal was so much as opened. The deeper the bidding process goes, the more this can become a problem. For instance, if you progress all the way until the award stage of the proces, you may still have no clues as to which members of the purchasing committee are your internal sponsors and which have yet to even engage with what you’ve proposed.

If you’re looking to develop a better RFP sample and elevate how you respond to request for proposal opportunities with better results then you should consider using something like a microsite generator to yield more useful information.

By sending in your bid as a microsite, or by using a microsite to showcase supplementary material, not only are you demonstrating that your firm embraces newer ways of doing things, you’re also creating a living web resource with baked-in analytics that will allow you to study the engagement levels on every proposal that you send out. This creates a new tranche of data that your team can use to bid on future opportunities more effectively. 

To learn more about Zoomforth’s analytics capabilities, click here

Data analytics

What kind of analytics can I collect using Zoomforth?

With Zoomforth you can wave goodbye to data-less presentations. In fact, every single bid you send out as a microsite can be a data-magnet, swooping in all sorts of engagement metrics every time the bid-issuer engages with it.

Zoomforth uses its own syntax to log and record engagement data. These include:

  • Visits which occur whenever somebody lands on your microsite. 
  • Visitors that access your site. 

We also present you with detailed data so that you can get a more granular feel for how your site is performing. You can access a daily visitor count as well as top content summaries. Together, these will give you a much richer insight into whether and to what extent your target readership engaged with your bid.

How can heightening your data game help you win more business and land more bids?

Let’s drill down a little bit into how you can take data and convert it into actionable insights that can help you win more bids. Each of these chunks of information can be collected through Zoomforth without you needing to set up anything customized – it all works out of the box.

Who looked at your proposal

Perhaps the most valuable piece of analytical data that our clients find instrumental is knowing who looked at your proposal. Knowing who read your proposal can make the process of identifying internal sponsors and opponents that much easier. As you continue through the bidding process, you’ll have to work to address any unvoiced objections coming from the doubters and convince those who are on your side that you really have what it takes to deliver on the project.

When they looked at your proposal

Zoomforth also allows you to keep tabs on when your proposal microsite was accessed. It can be very useful to identify repeat interest from certain users as, again, this can signal heightened levels of engagement. Additionally, it can help you identify lags in momentum. If your bid was viewed a few times over the course of a day but nobody’s touched it since – a reminder could be very useful.

Who they shared it with and what that person looked at 

Zoomforth can also collate data on internal sharing activity. When internal stakeholders at the company pass on your microsite, this can signal that your bid is under active evaluation. But there’s so much more that you can learn. You’ll also want to keep track of what information those readers engaged with. Putting the two together can help you to identify internal pools of support at the organization.

What they missed

Don’t forget that zero views is a form of data too! You’ll want to pay attention to the parts of the microsite that were viewed, which were viewed most actively, and which were not viewed at all. The last of these is particularly important as it can help you to focus your energies on highlighting parts of the proposal that slipped through the gaps.

On the flip side, you’ll be able to determine which part of the site proved to be the most popular. And which saw the least engagement. Again, by establishing which parts of the site readers engaged with, you’ll have an easier time identifying what worked and what you can do more of next time. 

How far through the deck they got

The bounce rate is a crucial metric in website analytics. With Zoomforth, you’ll be able to see how deep into the site hierarchy they made it before clicking away. Knowing this exit point is a valuable piece of data. You can focus your efforts on making this section more engaging. 

Don’t forego the data advantage when you’re next bidding

Next time you’re bidding on a project, consider sending a microsite rather than a presentation. While presentations are tried and trusted vehicles for conveying a lot of information quickly, they don’t tend to be the most effective or engaging format for recipients. Additionally, you do yourself out of a treasure trove of data whenever you use them. By heightening your technological game you can leverage more data and win more bids.

Learn how Zoomforth’s data analytics suite can give you a head start on your competitors, request a demo here.

sales proposal

Zoomforth joins PwC Malaysia’s Marketplace

sales proposal

Need a microsite solution for your business? Just pop one in your basket.

If we said, ‘online marketplace’, you’d probably think, Amazon, Etsy, Ebay.

But there’s a new kind of marketplace in town. Well, in Kuala Lumpur to be precise.

PwC Malaysia has launched an innovative B2B e-commerce platform, PwC’s Marketplace (marketplace.my.pwc.com), offering B2B digital solutions directly from the firm and selected third-party organisations.

Clients and prospective clients can browse and buy a range of business solutions, from data automation tools and digital communication software, to tailored financial and reporting solutions. 

Chris Baradaran, Head of Digital Ventures at PwC Malaysia said of the initiative: 

Chris Baradaran

“Organisations from multinational companies and government-linked companies to government bodies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups are at different stages of digital transformation. With our Partner Programme, we hope to support organisations big and small by making available new services and solutions in one digital ecosystem to support their transformation journey.”

Zoomforth to offer microsite solution via the platform

By joining PwC Malaysia’s Marketplace Partner Programme, Zoomforth will become one of the first third-party solutions to be offered via the new e-commerce marketplace platform.

PwC Malaysia LinkedIn Press Release
See LinkedIn announcement here

Zoomforth will offer its no-code design software to firms of all sizes, to enable them to create personalized, branded microsites for a wide range of use-cases.

In particular, Zoomforth hopes to attract the attention of sales and marketing teams that are looking to move away from traditional PDF and PowerPoint-style communication in favor of digital content experiences for their customers.

Video: How it works

Wendie Michie, CEO of Zoomforth commented,

Wendie Michie

“It’s been a real pleasure to work with PwC Malaysia over the past year, as their team prepared for the launch of this exciting new service. We’re proud to have been invited to showcase our own software on the platform; this will enable us to reach a range of potential customers in the Asia Pacific region that we might not otherwise have access to.”

Mr. Baradaran added, “We’re delighted to welcome Zoomforth to our Partner Programme. The global pandemic has caused a number of businesses to look for new and engaging ways to communicate with their clients, and microsites can enable them to do just that.”

The service launched in November 2021 so, if you’re in the market for a secure website-builder that’s easy to use, go ahead and pop Zoomforth in your basket.

About Zoomforth

Zoomforth is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based in San Francisco, USA. Zoomforth offers no-code / low-code design software that enables enterprise teams to create beautiful, branded microsites that are interactive, trackable and secure. For more information, please visit www.zoomforth.com.

About PwC 

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 156 countries with over 295,000 people who are committed to delivering quality assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

rfp response

5 best practices for responding to RFPs

rfp response

RFP responses are the bread and butter of many businesses. Unfortunately, sometimes bids and pursuits teams are in such a rush to get responses out the door, that not much thought goes into how to write them as effectively as possible.

With sound RFP project management, it’s possible to write great RFP responses which help the business put its best foot forward. Here are some of the best practices for doing exactly that.

1. Put the customer and their needs first

Think about the RFP process from the other side of the table. The procurement management and team are busy and by definition are almost guaranteed to be receiving a number of different bids on the project they put out to market. 

Naturally, most RFP responses are going to require that users invest a lot of effort in talking about themselves: their team, their capabilities, and their prior experience in rolling out projects like this. 

However, the core of the RFP responses should be on the company and how you’re going to be able to solve their problem. Look over the text that you have written to date and ask yourself:

  • Is all of this focused on the value that our solution could bring to the potential client?
  • Do we make an effort to link back our competencies to how we could help them, specifically?
  • Are we sure that we really understand exactly what the client is looking for here? Have a think through the spec and try to really appreciate what they’re after.

2. Make sure to include an executive summary

RFPs vary widely in terms of the level of detail required from respondents. But even if it’s a short writing project, it’s a good practice to include a short executive summary in order that readers can more quickly glance between its sections. 

You can choose to include the executive summary in various places. It’s most traditional to put it at the start of the RFP response. If you’re including a cover letter – which is always a good idea – then the executive summary can go immediately after that. Alternatively, you can include an executive summary at the end of the bid. This might make more sense in relatively short proposals when you want to give an executive a quick snapshot of the information you have presented to date. 

3. Prioritize the best opportunities

We’ve discussed elsewhere in this RFP series how important it is to institute a formal process for keeping track of those RFPs which your company is pursuing. Besides having a solid project management system in place —although this needn’t necessarily be more complicated than a spreadsheet — it’s also often a good idea to appoint a project manager whose job it is to keep on top of the bidding. 

One of the most essential parts of that role is looking at the RFP opportunities coming in the door and then ranking them according to the likelihood of success. This is essentially the same process as lead scoring for direct business opportunities and the same rationale underlies it: it doesn’t make much sense to pursue opportunities with low value or a low chance of success. 

4. Get in before the stampede

You’ve probably heard the saying before that projects tend to magically extend to reach up to a deadline. This is true for RFP responses too. 

However, there are a lot of potential advantages to getting in early. For one, your proposal might be read before others are. Secondly, cutting things down to the wire every time puts your response team under a lot of stress. We’ve discussed before how it actually takes a whole team of people to work on your average proposal, ranging from content writers through to graphics designers and admin staff. Sending in RFPs is really a long-term gambit. You don’t want the proposal writing department to get a reputation as being a hotbed of stress and burnout. Instead, make sure that your proposal writing process is managed in an orderly way and that projects are initiated and closed on time. 

5. Send your RFF response as a microsite

Zoomforth has helped its many professional services clients build a new and much more exciting breed of RFP responses: those based on our industry-leading microsite technology.

Zoomforth features everything you need to build a much more engaging RFP response, while still keeping to the formatting requirements that are commonplace in this sphere. 

With Zoomforth you can:

  • Send clients a personalized miniature website with your bid response rather than a static document 
  • Deliver more quickly through the RFP process by building out a template, or multiple ones, and iterating from them
  • Embed audio and video content in order to provide a much more immersive experience for those reading the bids
  • Track audience engagement in real time, to help you decide when and how to follow up. 

To find out more about how Zoomforth can help you stand out from your competitors, request a demo here.

RFP bid proposal win

How to compete with your competition and win your bid proposal

RFP bid proposal win

For many busy teams bidding on RFPs, a consistently good win rate is key to being able to justify internal resources to keep the department running. 

This makes RFP bid proposal writing a pressured environment for many working in it. Standing out from the competition and landing projects is key to survival. Yet as any seasoned bid writer knows, that’s often a lot easier said than done.

We put our own sales team’s minds to work to come up with some secret tips that will improve your success rate and turn those “nos” and “maybes” into resounding “yeses.”

Get into reconnaissance mode to learn what your dream customers need

You’ve more than likely got a very clear idea of who the movers and shakers in your industry are — and which customers you’d love to have on your book of business. If you’re looking for public work, for instance, you might be able to whittle down this list to just a few government departments or agencies.

On the other hand, your industry may be so vast that whittling down your “dream buyer” list may be impossible. The more niche your field, the more likely it is that you can do some shortlisting.

Your objective here is to enter a request for proposal bid on an opportunity before it’s already inundated by the competition. So that will mean being quick off the mark. 

You can gather the information that may assist with the formulation of a bid in a few ways. 

Firstly, you can keep in touch with key stakeholders at your dream companies. By picking up information on the grapevine, you may be able to get wind of what the company’s internal vision looks like–and what pain points it might be looking to draft in external parties to fix. 

Who might these people be? They may hold job titles such as “Procurement Manager.” Or they may handle procurement as one of their unofficial responsibilities. It could be worthwhile investing a little bit of effort into networking in order to get on the radar of these individuals.

Work on your blog and social media presence

Yes, maybe not what you were expecting – but it’s one that a lot of organizations say is key.

Ideally, you don’t want your RFP response to be the first time the buying party has ever come across your name. You could work on developing inroads to the company – as we recommended above. 

Alternatively, you could do whatever you can to get your company’s name out there. If you don’t already have a blog, consider starting one so that you can give your prospective customers —and the world—a flavor of what your capabilities are.

You can use a mixture of common content marketing assets to piece together a detailed picture of where you could bring value. 

Make sure you’re not boring prospects with irrelevant information

Just because RFP processes are often leveraged when companies need to look for suppliers for large pieces of business doesn’t mean that the responses need to be long-winded.

Many companies are under the impression that to look sufficiently “serious” RFP responses need to be just that. This is a mistake. Think of RFP readers the same way as you would readers of your blog: provide too much unnecessary information and they’re going to click away. Except in the world of RFPs, exits mean lost business.

The focus of your RFP response should always be meeting the requirements set out in the spec. At all times you want to keep in mind that you’re trying to prove how your company can meet the company’s requirements – and ideally better than anybody else can.

You’ll probably be expected to include background information about your firm or who the key players you’d envision implementing the project would be if the business is won. Just remember that you should try to keep the background information focused on how your target could benefit from that experience. Try, wherever possible, to highlight those connections and show why the information is pertinent.

One great way to stand out: by using a microsite. First, design a bid proposal template that has space for just enough information. And then iterate on that with your bids. The format alone will put you at a competitive advantage and provide readers with a more engaging means of assessing the strength of your bid. 

Make sure you balance abstract and concrete language 

A common recommendation issued to new writers is to make sure that there’s a blend of abstract and concrete language in the text. Abstract language can be things like ideas and emotions. There’s nothing wrong with explaining why your team was motivated to pursue this bid and how you think it aligns with your firm’s vision. 

But make sure that you balance that out with a liberal sprinkling of concrete language also. When you get the balance right, your reader is left with the idea that you’re both enthusiastic about winning the business and can back up that feeling with proof of your capability to get the job done. Because ultimately, when business is awarded, they’re relying on your ability to follow up words with actions. 

Some examples of concrete language:

  • Projects you’ve completed in the past that are comparable to this (potential) opportunity.
  • Statistics from the industry or from your own previous success rate.

One other ‘must have’ in your bid content: social proof. This can be any external validation that shows that others are just as enthusiastic about your abilities as you are. Testimonials and case study snippets can be woven into the text. When these three elements come together (abstract ideas, concrete statistics, and social proof) the impression about your suitability for the business can be powerful and persuasive. 

Triage your bid-writing resources intelligently

We’ve discussed before how implementing a simple project management system can allow you to turbo-charge your bid writing process and make it vastly more efficient. 

Being able to put together a simple bid decision-making matrix can be key to allowing you to determine which bid opportunities are worth pursuing and which can be safely put on the long finger – or ignored altogether.

Because your sales team’s time is precious and limited, we recommend creating a scoring sheet for ranking any RFP opportunity that comes in the door. Some questions that you can ask: What’s the potential business worth? How high do you rate your chances? Do you have any objective information about the extent of the competition?

Once you’ve gone through this process, focus your team’s time and energy on only the most promising bid opportunities. You can use your bid template to speed up the process too. By focusing more time on a narrower pool of opportunities, you’ll converse energy and use your existing resources more effectively. 

To find out more about how Zoomforth can help you stand out from your competitors, request a demo here.

These 5 things will help make your RFP response process smoother

If your firm depends upon winning bids on the back of RFPs, then you already know that having a good process in place is supremely important. 

If you work on a bids and pursuits team then you know that efficiency is the name of the game. While you might love the thought of being able to spend weeks crafting one response to perfection, in reality, you know that your team may be under pressure to meet a bid-submitting KPI.

At Zoomforth, we’ve worked with many teams who use our product exclusively for sending out RFP responses. They’ve shared with us some insights about the steps they have taken to make the RFP-sending process a smoother and more efficient experience. 

1. Have a system for tracking your RFP responses

Our first recommendation is to institute a system for tracking all your RFP responses. 

Different RFPs have different lead times. Your business is also likely to ascribe more importance to some RFP processes than others.

All this calls for:

  • A system that will help you log every RFP you’re working on by date and flag when a deadline is imminent
  • A system that will allow you to triage the RFP responses you’re working on by importance

Using these two features, you can use decision-making matrices (such as this one) to know which RFP responses you should be working on right now; which you can plan for; and which you could even consider delegating to outsourced partners.

The good news is that such a system doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it might be completely free. A simple project management tool such as Asana actually contains all the functionality required to build a system like this.

You can also:

  • Keep track of who is responsible for managing the response
  • Keep all communication related to the bid in a system that everybody has access to
  • Assign sub-tasks related to creating the RFP response to other team members
  • Add a relevant RFP example to guide the drafting. This could be a bid that your team has previously entered on another opportunity or a bid that you found on the internet from another organization. 
rfp proposal site

2. Know a couple of good RFP response writers

You’re in the middle of crafting a couple of great and high-priority RFP responses that you’d love to see your company win. Then a tight lead opportunity comes in the door or catches your eye. But there’s one problem: everybody on your team is already working flat out on other bids.

This is where outsourced resources like freelancers can be really useful. And you don’t have to make do with a generalist either. Many freelance writers have held in-house positions managing RFP responses on behalf of organizations and have chosen to focus exclusively on RFPs in their freelance iteration.

Even if you don’t require their services right now, it’s worth putting out feelers to see if anybody you work with (or who works in comparable roles) knows of a couple of reliable RFP writers. When you need the ability to quickly scale up your RFP workload without needing to commit to another full-time hire, they can come in very handy.

3. Appoint a proposal manager

A proposal manager assumes overall responsibility for handling the RFP response process on behalf of an organization.

This hire brings value in a few different areas:

  • They have project management skills and therefore can handle the prioritization and tracking work that can sidetrack those who are actually writing the responses.
  • Many proposal managers bring their “rolodexes” to the job too. In other words, they’ve built up strong networks of contacts — perhaps at companies whose projects you are bidding for. These relationships can be extremely valuable. As a general rule, winning business when you’re not known to the company doing the hiring can be significantly harder.

Hiring a proposal manager will also mean that there’s a single point of responsibility for this area of the business: somebody who’s answerable to the question of “what’s going on with our bidding at the moment?” If your bid response process is scaled up enough, this could be a worthwhile hire. If it’s not, sales managers often, in practice, assume this as one of their unofficial responsibilities. 

4. Flag repeat content opportunities as soon as possible

In an ideal world (perhaps!) every proposal would be written from scratch all of the time. But if you work in bids, then you already know that that very seldom happens. Instead, most proposals are a synthesis of totally original content specific to the bid and some boilerplate text added from a library.

As we mentioned in our last blog, Zoomforth has themes and templates features that we built precisely for reasons such as this:

  • A template saves you from having to build a new microsite every time you want to create one for a recurrent purpose – just like this.
  • A theme is simply a CSS file that can be layered onto a new microsite to make its design accord with something you’ve set up previously (padding, fonts, etc).

In the context of RFP bids, we’re going to be more interested in using templates to quickly iterate out new versions. We can create RFP response templates —or even multiple ones for different bid types—that quickly encapsulate common elements.

To be more specific, your average bid response might contain all of the following elements. But as we can see not all of them are going to have to be written from scratch every single time:

  • About our company – boilerplate
  • Our capabilities – boilerplate
  • What we can deliver – customized. Commonly, RFPs ask for both general overviews of what you firm does as well as specifics about how you could address their requirements
  • Bid – a mixture of boilerplate and customized

Leveraging a template-based process for building out RFP responses can enormously cut down on the amount of time it takes you to turn out each bid.

5. Be more selective about bids

Not every invitation to participate in a tender is a summons — and your business isn’t obligated to create a custom proposal for every potential customer that requests it.

Every potential business relationship is a two-way process. And before demanding that all hands in the sales team rush to deck, it’s worth spending a moment to consider whether this piece of potential business is really worth the time it may take to pursue it.

Factors that you may wish to consider:

  • How large is the potential opportunity?
  • Is this likely to lead to an ongoing business relationship or is this probably a one off project?
  • Do you have any intelligence about how many firms are also participating in the tender (or RFP). It’s often the case that the more companies that throw their hat into the ring the lower the chances of success are going to be. 

By using a solution like Zoomforth, you can cut down on the time and effort involved in creating RFP responses. But that doesn’t mean that you should create a proposal for opportunities that are clearly a bad fit.

First, evaluate whether the business would be good for your firm. Only then should you devote the time and energy to actually participating in the opportunity. 

If you’d like to know how Zoomforth can help improve the efficiency of your RFP response process, ask us for a demo.

rfp wins

6 RFP Process Best Practices For The Win

rfp wins

Requests for proposals (RFPs) can be terrific ongoing sources of business for companies — especially those capable of landing government contracts or work at scale.

RFPs get sent out for everything from construction projects to professional service contracts —such as for the provision of accounting, consultancy, or legal services. 

Because RFPs can represent lucrative and ongoing sources of work, many firms have dedicated bid / pursuit teams whose responsibility it is to enter RFP responses. As with many activities, consistency is key. Firms that can really master the RFP response process and stick with it for the long haul can give themselves a leg-up in actually securing contracts. 

Some good news; microsites are ideal vehicles for communicating RFP responses. RFPs are weighty but require responses that are highly personalized and well thought out – without being boring. 

To kick off our series on using microsites for RFP response processes, here are 6 best practices that could shift your win rate in the right direction. 

1. Always, always personalize your RFPs

There’s an open secret among RFP writers: it’s virtually impossible to customize an RFP response from cover to cover. 

Businesses develop boilerplate “about us” sections for a reason: because it’s easier to get it right once than have to describe yourself every time you’re bidding on business. Even large RFP writing teams don’t generally do it all from a blank page.

If you’re sending out multiple RFP responses every week, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to have to rely on some cookie-cutter “filler” material. Zoomforth makes it easy to do just that thanks to its RFP response template offering. 

That being said, it’s still a good idea to rely upon “filler” material to the smallest extent possible. 

You’re expected to engage seriously with the spec listed in the RFP and demonstrate how your firm could help the RFP-sender address the professional challenges they’re experiencing. That’s not the kind of thing you can copy and paste.

2. Go all out on the multimedia content

If you’re reading this post, then you’re probably already using microsites to send RFP responses or are thinking that it’s time to use something that can spruce up your current file-based process.

Nobody enjoys reading reams of text that are presented in the format of a PDF. That goes for those who are evaluating your bid responses too. Make their job as interesting as possible by injecting a bit of variety into what can otherwise feel like a very staid format:

  • Embed videos to show what your team could do on a personal level. Just remember to keep them short (three minutes is a common recommendation, but if you really want to show what you can do, we think it could be stretched to five). 
  • Consider adding audio or embedded presentations if you think that your target audience is likely to engage with content presented in those formats. 

3. Anchor your pricing at a sustainable level

Negotiation coaches will tell you that anchoring is a vitally important part of negotiations. 

The first number either party throws out tends to be given disproportionate weight by both buyer and seller. 

Virtually all RFP responses are going to require some “brass tacks.” So whether you’re providing a simple bid or throwing out a range, make sure that you put some decent consideration into whatever figure you get behind.

While it’s of course always possible to negotiate upwards or downwards from that initial figure, you’re likely to face some resistance. Getting the bid even approximately right the first time is a much more successful approach.

Some concrete recommendations:

  • If there are things that you can’t do for the price, then spell those out
  • Even if you think that the scope of your offer is obvious, likewise, it’s also sensible to be specific and let the other party know exactly what’s included
  • Don’t just think about what bid is going to work for you now. Consider what’s going to be a viable rate for you throughout the duration of the envisioned commercial relationship

4. Be sure to check out some samples

Even if you’re convinced that you’ve got an amazing idea for how to truly nail an RFP response, it’s a good idea to draw upon outside inspiration.

Where can you find examples of RFP responses?

  • The Zoomfroth blog: we’ll be sharing some of the best practices we’ve seen clients do to encapsulate RFP responses in microsites. Watch this space!
  • The Zoomforth gallery: We have some examples layouts for those of you that want to use microsites as part of your RFP response 
  • Google. Search for terms like ‘template RFP response’ and see what comes up. It’s best to look for RFPs from your industry or something comparable. 
  • If you’re networked with some RFP writers, you could ask them to share some of their top tips

Casting a wide net when it comes to RFP responses is a good idea. There are many examples out there that could give you some great tips for how to leverage rich content, like a video for example.  

5. Optimize your RFP response for skimming

We asked a seasoned reader of RFP responses what he thought businesses should be doing better when it comes to authoring compelling RFP responses.

His answer: make them more skimmable.

When bidding on business potentially worth multiple millions of dollars, there’s a tendency for authors to equate length with seriousness. In other words, RFP authors want to write lots of text in the hope of furthering an impression that they’re really serious about winning the business.

But too often this actually makes the bid responses far less attractive for readers. 

So here are some ideas instead:

  • Break up long stretches of text by shortening paragraphs. This is a standard recommendation for online writing – or any type of writing likely to be viewed on a screen. But we think it bears repetition. 
  • Divide pages with plenty of headings and sub-headings to make it easier for readers to skim through.
  • Create a great navigation menu that lays out the highlights of your response as logically as possible. For some tips on how to create excellent menu navigations, check out our post on the subject here.

6. Visuals add a nice touch

With Zoomforth, you can embed all kinds of visuals, from images and video to interactive graphics and news feeds. 

If you’re trying to find a way to show some bar charts in a more attractive manner, then you don’t necessarily need a designer on staff. We love Canva and so do many of our clients. 

Any time you’re trying to present statistical information to show bottom-line figures, consider whether that information could be displayed more efficiently in the format of a bar chart, pie chart, or as a table. 

To deliver bid responses that really stand a chance of making a difference, it’s time to get creative about how you put them together. By using Zoomforth to upgrade file-based bids to microsite-based ones, you’ve already taken the first step. Your next job: make the very most out of our tool to maximize your hit rate. 

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