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. 

Want to learn more? Request a demo now

digital proposals, CTAs

Microsite Design #101 – How to use Calls to Action

digital proposals, CTAs

Calls to action (or CTAs) direct the reader to take some action as a result of landing on your microsite. 

They are usually just a few works like “Request a Demo”, “Watch this Video” or “Start Free Trial” and they can make an enormous difference in how visitors engage with your content. Well-written and thoughtful CTAs are essential to snapping readers out of the text and making the big ask for whatever it is that you’re hoping they do next.

Calls to action are essential signposts that help prevent your site visitor from leaving the site too early. Those might be:

  • Prompting them to download a static resource containing a snapshot of all the information spread out over other pages 
  • Inviting them to open an interactive map to get directions to your meeting 
  • Offering a quick video containing a welcome message or executive summary 
  • Making it easy to request a callback 

Here are our top recommendations for using CTAs appropriately within the context of microsites:

Make Your CTAs clear and unambiguous 

The first point of guidance about creating CTAs is that they should be clear and leave no room for doubt about what the suggested action for the recipient is. 

Again, think of CTAs as signposts. According to Benchmark One, truly compelling CTAs should typically be no more than 7 words in length. You’ll want to keep the font size that you’ve used in your microsite in mind. It’s possible that you’ll want to go with something that’s actually shorter than that if you’re using bigger point sizes.

Some suggested CTAs for sales microsites:

  • Download brochure
  • Get an instant quote 
  • Download proposal 

Feel free to be a little imaginative. Remember that all aspects of your site branding that we’ve highlighted here should blend together. If your brand voice is a little lighthearted, then that should be reflected in your CTA selection also.

Use a clear and consistent visual language 

Typically CTAs are encapsulated within buttons or links. 

When thinking about how you want to communicate your brand, make sure to consider the effects of the colors you choose too.

Brand logo and color palette are basic elements of every branding guide. It should go without saying that your CTA buttons should use colors chosen from this selection. 

Also pay attention to consistency. If all CTAs are yellow boxes, then don’t put an orange triangle on the next page. That will look “off” and consistency communicates professionalism and organization. 

Keep the funnel in mind 

Many of our clients use microsites as an imaginative way to take dull worn-out Powerpoint content and rejuvenate it. They create business proposals that convey information about their product or service in a much more imaginative fashion than can be achieved with just a slide deck. 

However, whenever designing collateral for use by sales teams it’s important to keep the funnel in mind. Audiences should be kept moving through material that’s bringing them continuously closer to actually making a decision or a purchase. 

For example, when you present your team’s capabilities on your ‘Qualifications’ page, you could place a CTA that links off to the page where you present the actual quote for business. 

Some suggestions for how you could word this:

  • “How much?”
  • “Our quote”
  • “Brass tacks please

Just make sure that your CTA is in keeping with the brand voice and the level of formality that you think your audience is going to be expecting. 

Test and gather data to make smarter decisions

Marketers these days are all about leveraging data to achieve better results. 

Therefore, it might be worth convening some focus groups to solicit feedback on how “dummy” users are reacting to the CTAs that you’ve chosen to include in your site. 

Alternatively, you can set up an A/B testing solution by sending two versions of microsites to different groups of recipients. 

According to CXL, which specializes in customer experience (CX) optimization, making simple tweaks leveraging A/B testing can boost conversion rates by 15%. All for a couple of edits!

If you’re going to be creating a Zoomforth template that you can iterate from for many proposals, then it’s definitely worth going to the trouble of cooking up something really good that you can use to build many proposal sites from in the future.

Build your experiments. Leverage the data that comes in. And build something that really works to win your company business. 

Microsite CTA creation at a glance 

Make sure that your microsites stand the best chance at achieving their purpose by judiciously adding a few very impactful calls to action where appropriate. 

Make sure that:

  • All the CTAs you include are as brief and concise as possible. This isn’t the time for nuance. You want to prevent churn by giving your readers clear direction about where you want them to go next. 
  • Always keeping the funnel in mind and build CTAs that suggest a logical sequence
  • You leverage data in order to refine your CTAs for greater impact. 

To learn how Zoomforth can help you increase your microsite impact, register for a place on one of our skills sessions here.

site navigation

Microsite Design #101 – Site navigation

site navigation

Whether you are creating a microsite for a sales proposal, recruitment campaign or internal communication, one of the most important things to consider is how to lay out your content, to make it easy for your visitors to find. 

content layout

In this post, we’ll look at the best ways to approach this, for maximum engagement. 

1. Identify the key content for your site 

Before you jump in and start designing the navigation menu for your microsite, it’s helpful to consider all the content that might live on it. 

This will enable you to group the content logically and decide which are the most important items for your audience to see. 

There are lots of ways to do this but one of the most simple is to use sticky notes. Write a content topic on each note and then stick them on a whiteboard or table – moving them around until you have the content in the most logical flow. 

2. Be ruthless about what makes the cut 

If you find you have masses of content to include, consider paring this back. Remember that people don’t read websites, they only scan – so be ruthless and only include the really important stuff. No fillers. 

Microsites, like the ones Zoomforth makes, are intended to be … well, micro. These aren’t the right resources for trying to squeeze in every piece of information about your business. You can use normal websites for that. 

In the same way that you wouldn’t include every fact in a sales presentation, don’t overstuff your microsites by loading them up with unnecessary content. Keep them lean and interesting and highly navigable .. and your prospects will enjoy interacting with them. Ultimately, that’s the best benchmark of design success. 

3. Keep your navigation simple

design navigation

Once you’ve decided on the content you want to include and in which order, you’ll need to design your navigation. 

Your main website navigation menu should be kept as simple as possible. Aim to limit the number of main menu items to a maximum of seven. 

If you have a lot of content to convey, consider the use of both sub-pages and anchor links, to take the visitor to specific topics, quickly and easily. 

Say, for example, you’re sending out a microsite-hosted proposal and it has a few constituent elements that are likely to be of interest to entirely different teams. In that instance, we commonly recommend creating sub-pages so that those interested in specific areas (e.g. the background of your team, project milestones, qualifications or financials), can jump straight there and not have to wade through the parts of the proposal they’re unlikely to be interested in. 

Another option is to use sub menus to link to specific sections of pages (known as anchor links). We have explainers on how to do anchor links here — so be sure to read that if you are interested. 

4. Don’t mess with tradition 

site navigation menu

Microsites are like any other website so it’s helpful to preserve tradition if you want your audience to navigate your site with ease. 

It’s well known that people will bounce away (leave) a website within the first 10-15 seconds if it doesn’t capture their attention, so don’t make it hard for your audience to understand what is on your site and where to find it. 

For instance, we automatically expect the button that leads us back to the ‘start’ of a website to be called ‘home’. There’s something oddly grounding about seeing it there presented in its usual position in the top left of the menu bar. 

Research into User Experience (UX) indicates that the converse holds true also: when we see something that doesn’t fit into our preconceived notions of what a navigation bar should contain, we tend to assume that something isn’t right about the website. 

Zoomforth sites are automatically set up to adhere to traditional user experience principles. For example: 

  • Your logo will appear top left (unless you choose to amend this) 
  • The home page will always appear on the far left if you have subpages as well
  • The search facility will appear on the top right, if enabled 
  • The main menu will convert to a ‘hamburger’ menu when viewed on mobile 
  • Cookie banners and privacy policy links will appear at the bottom of the page or in the footer if you have one 
  • Social media links can be displayed in the header or footer 

These elements create familiarity for the site visitor which, in turn, helps increase engagement. 

5. Don’t cause your audience to have to think  

web design

More than 20 years ago, Steve Krug wrote a book on website usability called “Don’t make me think” that is as relevant today as when it was first published. The basic premise is that your audience should be able to accomplish what they need from your website quickly and without much thought. 

Now is not the time to get all enigmatic when it comes to labeling your pages / navigation menu (unless that’s your usual brand vibe in which case, go for it). 

How you describe entries matters tremendously. “Our people” sounds straightforward and friendly—even inviting. Whereas “executive team” may sound intimidating and stiff. “Our proposal” sounds like a very classical description for the central points of an RFP response. Whereas in some circumstances “here’s what we can do” might be appropriate and, again, friendlier.

According to research conducted by Tank Design, a branding and marketing agency, labels need to make clear what users can expect to find on the other side of them. That said, there’s still room to add a bit of creative flair here. 

Oddly enough, many commonly used labels actually do a pretty lousy at signposting. When you see a generic sounding navigation label like ‘Resources’ – do you really get a clear idea for what’s in store?

What could be used instead? Let’s take ‘Resources’ as an example. Unless you’re really bundling information that could apply to many stakeholders on the client side, consider pinpointing what kind of resources you’re going to be showing on that page. How about just “Branding assets.” Or “Competencies” if you’re using the resources page to showcase what your team can do. 

Try to be as clear and succinct as possible. Question whether the first title that comes to mind for a link is really the most fitting one. 

6. Be consistent with your calls to action 

What do you want your audience to do as a result of landing on your site? If you want them to contact you after reading it, add a nicely styled contact page. Include access to it on the far right of the navigation menu and / or in the footer. 

Add buttons or links to take your audience to the pages you want them to visit. As a general rule, color-code your buttons as it will help your visitor, at a subconscious level, understand where the action is taking them – e.g. green button goes to contact form, blue button goes to another sub-page, orange button goes to an external resource etc. 

Finally, clearly label your links and buttons so the visitor knows what to expect when they click e.g. “Watch 1 minute video” is better than “View this”.

7. Conduct user testing if you can 

There’s no reason to get overly complicated here. You can just have somebody from your team access your draft microsite. Record them while they’re at it. Ask them to offer a running commentary on what they think about the site layout.

Are they confused? Did a menu link lead them to something different than they expected?

These are all very valuable points of feedback. Consider repeating this test multiple times to get a few different data points. Again, you don’t need to do exhaustive data analysis here. Just try to spot any trends that really jump out. 

After you get the basic order right, make sure that the internal page navigations, if you choose to use them, are logical too. You can test that aspect of the navigation design separately or else run both tests in the same sessions.

8. Be agile

The beauty of microsites is that you’ll receive real-time data on how your audience is interacting with your site, once it’s published and shared. 

This will allow you to refine your site navigation for next time (or even for the current project) based on which content is proving most popular and what is being overlooked. 

It’s easy to move pages, sections and content items around on a Zoomforth site. You can also hide and reveal content at different stages in the relationship with your audience. This will help you keep your content as relevant and easily accessible as possible. 

In summary, stick with tried and tested layouts when you start out. Clearly label your navigation and be consistent with the style and colors of your calls to action. Review your site analytics for insights into how your content is doing and refine as you learn to maximize your impact.

If in doubt, ask to speak to one of our designers. We are always happy to advise on navigation choices! 

Want to learn more? Join one of our free Design Skills Workshops here. 

award, press

Microsite Design #101 – Choosing web fonts

award, press

Within the Zoomforth platform, fonts are controlled within the theme editor. A theme is a set of styling rules which includes font colors, weights and sizes. 

We provide you with a branded theme, using your own brand guidelines, to get you started. This allows you to create microsites, safe in the knowledge that you will always be on-brand.  

Of course, you also have the option to create an unlimited number of themes yourself – using different fonts and colors. You might want to do this if, for example, you are creating a site in your client’s branding rather than your own. 

Here are some tips for how to use fonts effectively in your microsites. 

Follow your brand guidelines

Before you begin, check your company’s visual brand guidelines. The chances are, there will be specific rules on which fonts you can use. 

If you don’t have any guidelines to follow, we’d suggest you start by creating a set, to ensure brand consistency across your media. This can be as simple as specifying what the official fonts and font sizes are to be used for all company resources, and in which colors. 

This will help make sure that different departments don’t go using different typefaces. Remember that when it comes to design, consistency communicates coordination which, in turn, communicates professionalism. 

Just as your use of imagery and video merit brand consideration, so too do the decisions you take about fonts. In order for brands to speak effectively to their audience, everything from white space to font sizes to font types needs to be carefully coordinated. 

Why typesetting is so important 

It’s been years since the invention of the printing press but this doesn’t mean that typesetting has stopped being relevant. Even if a font is “only” going to render on screens and not in print, it still needs to look good. It also needs to fit within a visual organizational structure that communicates to the viewer that planning has gone into it. 

A typographic hierarchy ensures that consistent fonts are used across the typical hierarchy of headings that divide text into more readable chunks. 

At a minimum, you should ensure that you have designated different fonts and point sizes to be used for your headings, subheadings, and body texts. 

Other typesetting best practices that you should include in your brand communication guide:

  • Consider recommending a standard line spacing for text 
  • Include a couple of alternative font options for situations in which designing in your primary brand font isn’t possible. Depending upon what program you’re using, this might sometimes be necessary 
  • As a general recommendation, make sure that you never use more than three typefaces on any piece of collateral, or on your microsite

Aim for fonts with high legibility

The debate between serif and sans-serif font has raged on in the typography community for years. And it’s probably not going to be settled on the Zoomforth blog. This doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook when it comes to thinking about how readable your chosen fonts are.

With the advent of open access font libraries such as Google Fonts, an unprecedented number of fonts have been made available to non-designers and casual web users. Using the Font Import Statement you can add any Google or custom font into your Zoomforth theme. 

Nevertheless, when using fonts that diverge even slightly from the most common options used on the internet, consider these things:

  • How readable is the font? If you’re not sure, then use a Lorum Ipsum dummy text generator, copy and paste a few paragraphs’ worth of filler text, and change it into the font you’re evaluating. Does it look like something your prospects could easily follow along with?
  • Is the font accessible to all kinds of reader? Consider color, size and contrast to ensure your fonts are as clear as possible. Consider the background to your font. Pale colored fonts work best on dark backgrounds and vice versa. 
  • Just because you are using a font that is available in Google Chrome doesn’t mean that your readers will necessarily be able to see it. Most modern web browsers are able to substitute replacement fonts when the user doesn’t have the intended font installed. However, if you’re sending a microsite to a reader that doesn’t have a modern web browser installed, be aware that your dazzling cutting edge font could create confusion. If you want to play it safe, then check out this list of safe web fonts. 
  • Before you publish your sites, view your fonts on mobile as well as desktop to ensure they are still legible on the small screen. 
Zoomforth font editor

Maintain consistency throughout your microsite(s)

Sometimes, you might want to use more than one font, for example, if you want to create contrast between a heading and body font. You might also want to mix things up with colored fonts in some areas, but black or white on others. The key things to remember are:

  • Keep it consistent. Use the same font, font size and weight for all main headings, for example. 
  • Pair fonts carefully. If using more than one font on the site, make sure they work together and use them in the same pairings throughout the site – don’t chop and change. 

Your quick checklist for fabulous fonts 

To make sure that your microsites go out the door with fonts that will honor the message you’re trying to convey in the resource:

  • Stick to your font and brand guidelines if they exist. If they don’t, consider creating them.
  • Check how your chosen fonts render on desktop and mobile, across different browsers. 
  • Make sure your fonts are clearly legible. 
  • Don’t use more than 3 fonts on the one resource.
  • Take advantage of Zoomforth’s ability to import custom fonts.
  • Use a typographic hierarchy to convey headings, subheadings and body copy. 

When it comes to typography, a letter is more than a letter —it communicates something important about what the company and brand stand for and even whether their visual narrative is stand-offish and corporate or laid back and free-flowing. 

If in doubt, ask to speak to one of our designers. We are always happy to advise on font choices! 

Want to learn more? Join one of our free Design Skills Workshops here. 

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