Pressure to win never ends. How firms package their contents can make the difference between success and failure.
The pressure to win new business in today’s climate has never been so great. With more firms chasing less work, the market has become highly competitive. Firms have had to adapt. From coaching to education, from strategy to marketing, no stone has been left unturned as firms retune their business development models. This includes how firms design and package their bid documents.
This is hardly surprising. From the outside most firms look the same. They all have fantastic reputations, highly relevant case-studies, client lists to die for; but how firms package their contents can make the difference between success and failure.
Few would challenge this. Surprisingly, from my experience, only a few have done anything to address the issue. Having worked for law and accountancy firms, barrister sets and consultants, I have experienced my fair share of the good, the bad and the sheer ugly bid. Based on this insight, thought I would offer up a few tips for creating visual impact with your bid presentations. Some of these issues are relevant to producing hard hitting credential presentations. Click here for tips on how to creatively develop templates for PowerPoint and Word.
How you look is a big influencer on how people react to you, especially if they hardly know you; which is the case for most tenders. Of course clients want to work with professionals, experts in their field, equally they want to work with people who are dynamic and progressive. Creating a standard, vanilla type document gets you nowhere. Be prepared to be bold and clever to get standout.
Tenders come in different shapes and sizes. The big strategic types to the small run-of-the-mill bids. Firms respond by using a variety of applications, namely Word, PowerPoint and In-Design. There is no right or wrong application for replying to tenders, however, more creativity can be etched out by using In-Design. To this extent, firms should consider using In-Design to create the punch and distinction in their documents; but not at the expense of having standard, boring Word and PowerPoint templates. Both should be pushed to their limits of their comfort zone in the quest for well-designed layouts.
Lawyers and business development people are not designers but with Word, PowerPoint and sometimes drawing programmes like In-Design installed on their desk-tops, some would think otherwise and spend unnecessary time trying to design award winning documents, rather than focus on getting the contents right. Where possible, use designers for the design work albeit as an internal or external resource. They can add flair and much creativity to the end product.
Clearly brand guidelines have a role in maintaining consistency, but some are too restrictive and scupper creativity. Bid and proposal managers, BD folk and, of course, partners want to win business. If existing guidelines and templates hinder this by limiting how far documents and presentations can be designed, then be creative in how you interpret them. What is more important, winning new business, or looking like your other publications?
Most bids include standard contents covering our people, clients, experience, case-studies, structures, teams, national / international coverage, timing, etc. Don’t always default to the standard ways of presenting the information; this includes the use of imagery. Professional services lends itself to clichés, so think beyond clichés to try and achieve impact to your contents. Be inventive in how you present the information; this goes also for how you package hard copies and moving away from using the standard solution of acetate covers with plastic binding combs.
Clearly there is a balance to be achieved in trying to design a document that satisfies the needs of different internal and external stakeholders. But, remember, if you are not pushing how you clearly present your key differentiating messages, brand values and personality, your competitors will be; and when your client has six tender documents in front of them, all roughly saying the same things, they are more likely to reject yours if it’s just another me-too document!
Before their merger with Lovells, the US law firm Hogan & Hartson commissioned us to add some sparkle to their bid and credential documents. This resulted in us creating a series of highly designed, easy-to-use templates and a premium packaging solution for their hard copy versions to reflect the quality of their bid documents.
‘Now we are able to spend time where it matters, on the content, rather than reformatting slides and trying to be amateur designers!’
Jo Michaelides, Marketing Director, Europe & Asia at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells)