With a marketing background, turning my hand to tender writing has been reasonably straight-forward. What has surprised me, though, is how much tendering has taught me about marketing (and not vice versa). The most compelling submissions are 100% client-centric, and can teach ‘mainstream’ marketers a lesson or two about customer-focused marketing at its best.
Apart from actually answering the questions (the failure to do this, is tender evaluators’ number one pet peeve) the single most important thing you can do to increase your bid’s chance of success is to ensure it is customer-focused. The best tender submissions are exemplars of how to successfully understand and respond to client needs – something which all marketers can learn from. Tendering really is customer-focused marketing on steroids.
Here are some tender ‘hacks’ to make your bid writing life easier and more client centric:
- Find the why. Before you write anything in response to a question, ask yourself ‘why is this question being asked?’ And, once you’ve identified what the client really wants to know… make sure you describe or demonstrate how you will meet or exceed their requirements.
- No more ‘we’. Any sentence which starts with the word ‘we’ (or your company name) is highly likely to be about you, and not the client. Rethink and challenge your approach – rephrase and rewrite starting with the client’s name. Instead of ‘We build the best widgets…’, try ‘You will benefit from our expertise in widget construction because…’.
- Don’t make the client work too hard. Ultimately, being customer-focused is also about being user-friendly. Make your document easy to read, and closely align your answers and layout to the RFx questions. It’s exactly the same approach as sitting an exam – make it easy for client evaluators to mark and score you well (just like they told you at school).
- You and us. Don’t write your bid in the third person! This makes your bid ‘sound’ distant and impersonal. Ideally, you’ll be entering into a partnership with the organisation you’re writing to. Try using ‘you’ and ‘your’ when talking about the client; and refer to yourself as ‘us’ and ‘our’ to give the bid document a more engaging ‘voice’.
- Research beyond the documentation. The RFx documents will tell you what the client wants for the project at hand, but often you’ll need to dig deeper to understand their wider goals and organisational culture.
A good place to start is to consider the client’s vision, mission and values. (Jump on line and research their website, if this information isn’t provided in the bid documentation). Linking aspects of your solution to the organisation’s vision, showing how your company values align with theirs, and using the same kind of language as the client, are all great ways to connect strongly.
Finally, remember everything you do is marketing – from the way you present your bid document, to the language you use … right through to the presentation of USB sticks, envelopes and bid packaging. Don’t let anything out the door (or email outbox) which isn’t a reflection of your business and how you will perform once awarded the contract. Everything you do, and everything you create is a reflection of the attention to detail, professionalism and customer care your client can expect to receive.
Christina Low has a background in strategy, business development, marketing and sales leadership. For the past two years, she has worked as a member of Plan A’s specialist tendering, bid strategy and bid management team, assisting clients (across New Zealand and beyond) to develop and submit compelling, customer-focused tender responses.