Getting bid-ready in January

Getting bid-ready in January

The first few weeks of the new year can feel kind of lacking in dynamism, but you can use this time set yourself up for 12 months of submission success by reviewing your bid library content. You can read my blog on what you need to set up a bid library hereThe more content you can refresh, update and prepare ahead of forthcoming bid deadlines, the easier it will be to complete and submit work. Here is your checklist for your new year bid library and collateral review.

Review and update your standard supplier questionnaire

One of the best bidding evolutions over the past few years is the introduction of the standard supplier questionnaire (SSQ), reducing the administration burden by requiring one standard questionnaire. Review your SSQ and identify the information that will need to be updated throughout the year, for example insurances and finances, and diarise when these updates will need to happen and who will be responsible for providing the information. 

Review bid content

Check-in with the content owners – has the process changed in this business area since this section was written? Are there any other pieces of evidence you can write about to prove your claims? Update the copy with the changes and run it past the owner to get their sign-off. A wide range of information needs to be updated throughout the year, including human resources data and health and safety/RIDDOR statistics. Be clear about who needs to provide this. 

Policy statements

Make reviewing and updating your policy statements one of the first jobs of the year. Check the content – are the aims and objectives still applicable, and can an update be provided on outcomes? Finally, change the date to the new year, create a pdf and you’re good to go.

Update case studies

Case studies should be regularly reviewed throughout the year, but January provides a good opportunity to go through them all to check that copy is written in the correct tense, photographs are current (or final), and any missing information is completed.

Review CVs

There will be members of your team whose CVs are regularly used for bids and pitches, but it’s worth going through the entire library to assess content. Are there any sectors which will be a business development focus over the coming year? Get these prepared in advance, identifying the key projects each person has delivered. You can refer to my earlier blog post on how to write winning construction CVs

Sharpen up your marketing messaging

Which sectors are you targeting this year? Why is your offer in this sector unique and how do you help to solve clients’ problems and issues? Review this messaging and make sure it is robustly evidenced throughout your project examples and other collateral.

Put together draft capability statements and presentations

Putting together draft capability statements, comprising an outline introduction, case studies and CVs will get you off to a flying start if a client asks for a ‘quick document’. While these documents are indeed ‘small’, they can really clog up the efficiency of a bid team and having outlines to hand can come in very handy.

Clean up your content container

However you store your library content, whether in bespoken software or in folders on a server, take the time out to clean it up periodically, archiving anything you longer need (but never completely deleting). This allows the good stuff to be visible when you need it.

Create a roadmap or directory

When I’m building bid  libraries for clients, I create a roadmap or directory of information, to allow easy location of information, as well as providing a starter for ten when answering tricky questions. The roadmap provides links to policy documents and response documents, as well as lists of key words that relate to each section. I’ve included an example bid library roadmap here for you to download and implement for yourself.

What other actions would you include for a new year bid library clean-up? Do you do this throughout the year or at other times?

If you need help putting together your bid library to enable you to get bid ready for 2020, please get in touch.

 

 

Bid writing – what do you actually do?

Bid writing – what do you actually do?

What do you actually do?” – it’s a question I am asked frequently, which is fair enough because to my knowledge, the role and title of bid writer has only really appeared over the past ten or so years.

As a construction bid writer, I work with subject matter experts and translate their technical excellence into readable copy that scores the highest marks in bid evaluations. Managing stakeholders, understanding technical information and  articulating why we are the best team for the project is how I spend most of my working life.  This post takes you through what I do and how I work with clients.

The background

In part, my role has come about because of public sector procurement and the legislation that governs it. Changing requirements have driven transparency around public sector tendering, with responses that demonstrate added value across a whole range of business operations. Private-sector tendering has similar requirements, but generally it isn’t as complex or rule-based.

The evolution of the bid

I have been in work-winning roles in some form or other since the early noughties and in this time bids and proposals have evolved from being a lesson in process management, with good presentation and information management (we call this content curation now), to a sophisticated activity producing high-quality written responses with tailored client messaging about how we will solve their problems and where we have done this before. Bids are scored using evaluation criteria provided in the tender documents and I write to meet these criteria.

How I work with clients

I work with a wide range of clients and although they are diverse in the projects they work on, they are all focused on designing, building or engineering a building or piece of infrastructure.

My initial conversation with them is to find out what the bid is, whether they have undertaken a bid/no bid process, and what the outcome of this was. If they haven’t considered the points I set out in this post, I take them through the process to define whether it’s a worthwhile opportunity. I offer pragmatic bid advice – I want all of my clients to have the best chance of winning any project they pursue and if I feel bids aren’t quite right, I am candid.

Planning out the bid

If we are proceeding, I develop a bid plan with my client, identifying key milestones, deliverables and questions. The responsibility for leading or managing the bid will generally sit in-house with my client. Sometimes I will pick this up but I am usually engaged to support the writing process and this is where I can add the most value to the bid. 

Structuring responses

The critical part of my role is structuring the bid responses to facilitate the answering process. Prior to the planning meeting, I will analyse the bid documents beforehand, assessing the evaluation criteria and the language and structure of the questions to glean as much insight into what the procuring organisation is looking for.

I will then organise a bid planning meeting, to take place either face to face, on the phone or by Skype. During this meeting I will gain further intelligence into the procuring organisation based on relationships and prior working experience and identify examples of previous experience that we can use to illustrate the claims we are making in the bid. These clues allow me to build a picture of the procuring organisation’s challenges and how we will be able to help them. We will develop win themes based on this information. 

I will also use this meeting to identify key pieces of evidence that provide the proof to what we are claiming. Evidence is written up during the next stage. 

Developing the answers

The art of the bid writer is taking the response structures and working with technical experts such as engineers, architects, constructors, and a range of other consultants, to develop and organise content in the most readable, scorable way possible. The actual writing part takes time to write, review and refine. 

My approach is to develop an initial framework or outline, with headings and bullet-points of the proposed content, while I wait for the technical detail. I consider writing responses like a piece of knitting or a painting – by continuing to keep filling in the blanks, eventually it will be complete. On big bids, this process can take a couple of weeks. On smaller bids, I recommend clients develop information libraries, so they have a bank of content to draw from. 

I have found in the construction industry that it’s much simpler to sit with people and interview them to gather the content. By having conversations, I can ask questions that will provide the answers I need much quicker than sending someone off with a blank sheet of paper. Using the information gleaned from the interview, I can put together a draft which can be further developed. 

The future 

I’m not sure what the future of bid writing will be – change is happening so fast that it’s hard to predict how things will evolve. I do believe there will be more automation – currently parts of the process are inefficient and technology would reduce the administrative burden of bidding for work. This would reduce some of the repetition of bids (very prevalent in-house), but I still foresee a requirement for quality content that is strategic in tone and bespoke to the project being bid.

How I can help you

If you need help structuring bid responses or creating a library of standard information, please give me a shout. Next month I will be telling you about how I win work as a freelance bid writer – another question I am asked a lot.

 

Reshaping project information into bid and marketing collateral

Reshaping project information into bid and marketing collateral

My earlier post talked about how to capture project information. In this post I am going to talk about the myriad ways you can recycle and reshape it, to create a range of content suitable for multiple channels and platforms.

Marketing Examples
Bid collateral 
  • Case studies
  • Project information on CVs
Marketing communications
  • PR
  • Awards submissions
  • Online and offline media
Online and social media
  • Website content
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
Submission responses 
  •  Develop a bank of library of project information, ready for a range of questions.
How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

CVs are an essential ingredient in most (if not all) bid submissions, and although they are frequently not as highly scored as other responses, they provide the reader with the confidence that the proposed team will be able to deliver the work and they can the hardest section to get right. Here is my how-guide to writing CVs for construction bids and information capture template to gather the right base content. 

The basics 

The basic information you need to have is: 

  • Name 
  • Role/proposed role (just the role title is needed here, for example project manager
  • Qualifications 

Profile of the individual 

Use this section to clearly align the individual and their skills with the needs of the project, using the client’s language in the tender documents to reflect back their requirements and the contributions this person will make to solve their problems. 

Write an overview of the individual. This needs to succinctly describe the individual, their background, key skills and particular specialisms, such as sector, contract-type experience or building typologies. This section needs to be relevant and appropriate to the project being bid for.

Proposed role on the project 

Clearly explain to the reader why this individual has been carefully chosen for this project by communicating: 

  • how this person will interface with the client and project team, and how often they will see them 
  • who they will report to and their role on project governance 
  • how much time they will spend on the project, i.e. full-time or visiting, and
  • what their specific daily responsibilities will be and the outcomes they will be directly responsible for. 

Key skills 

Including people’s key skills is really important, but they have to go beyond the ‘good communicator’ kind of skills, which are taken for granted. Focus on the skills that speak to the demands of the project, for example meeting client needs and overcoming technical challenges. Include a list of maximum five skills, demonstrating the benefit of each skill by relating it back to the project challenges. 

Projects 

Basic information 

Select projects that are relevant to the bid opportunity and contextualise the person’s project experience by including:

  • project name 
  • dates 
  • values 
  • client 
  • contract type (if relevant) 
  • RIBA workstages (if relevant)  

Demonstrating added-value in CVs 

If there is one take-away from this post that I want you to implement, it’s the piece around how we deal with projects in CVs. Too often on CVs the experience or project section features a list of mini-descriptions, but this approach doesn’t highlight the contribution of the person, nor showcase their specific skills and how they can be applied to the project being bid for. In my view, this misses a really great opportunity to demonstrate the value of the person and the potential of the combined team.

Examples of added value include: 

  • Developing efficient design to exceed minimum statutory standards.
  • Designing an energy-efficient heating/lighting/ventilation system which has had a demonstrable positive benefit for the client, saving them money (quantify the amount of money saved by the client through this solution).
  • Developing a construction solution which saved time, money or both.
  • Working on a site which was occupied throughout the build period.
  • Clear, quantifiable examples of innovation or sustainability.

The nice to haves 

Space is at a premium on CVs – I would recommend keeping them to one side of A4, but sometimes a bid will allow you two sides.

Examples of nice to haves include:

  • personal statements – their commitment to the scheme and what they will bring 
  • client testimonials from previous projects 
  • completion photographs 
  • awards

Keeping CVs on file 

I would recommend that base CVs are kept on file for each member of your team who is regularly included in bid submissions. Also develop sector-specific CVs for your teams. Although these will be updated throughout the year, having the base information ready to be developed will save you a lot of time in pressured bid scenarios.  

Get in touch 

I’ve written CVs for all construction bids, from small projects to big infrastructure programmes. If you need help developing CVs for your bid library or specific submissions, please contact me

 

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Project information capture: a construction marketer’s biggest challenge 

Without a doubt a construction marketer’s biggest challenge is securing and interpreting a never-ending stream of project information to enable quality content marketing to be produced, build profile and win projects.

Project information capture: why, what, when?  

There are some key considerations for project information capture.

They are:

  • Why do we need project information?  
  • What does quality project information look like? 
  • When do I capture it?
Why do we need project information?

Project information shifts your marketing content and tender responses from being descriptive and features-based, to being outcomes and benefits-based. 

From a marketer’s perspective, quality project information is literally worth its weight in gold. I believe its value can be demonstrated in one simple formula:

(Quality project information = quality content) = more projects won + more people in work.

Showcasing benefits, rather than features, speaks directly to client needs and wants, as well as demonstrating innovative thinking and added-value. It also creates amazing bid responses, award submissions and shareable blog posts.

From a purely practical point of view, proactively captured project information goes a long way towards making any kind of submission process a lot smoother.

What does this information look like?

Quality project information clearly shows why your organisation provided a better service to the client and project than your competitors. It will tell a story using examples, evidence, pictures and some words.

First things first 

It may sound basic, but double-check the project details you have on record. Include the contractor, architect, engineers and of course the client. Also find out who the contact is for references going forward.

Speaking with your project-based colleagues (the who bit of the process)

Speak with technical colleagues about projects regularly and schedule a formal interview when the project is completed.

Consider the following points during your conversations:

  • Challenges of the project and the solutions developed to meet them. Challenges will generally focus around key areas of site, programme, budget or sustainability. These issues require innovation and ingenuity to solve them and its these solutions we need to capture and communicate efficiently to our stakeholders.
  • Benefits delivered to the client and project through approach.
  • Examples of innovation, including why the approach or solution was innovative and quantification of the project and client benefits.
  • Added-value examples.
  • Examples of sustainability, quantifying benefits.
  • Examples of cost and programme savings, with the impacts properly quantified.

Use these conversations to develop your knowledge (assuming you’re a desk-bound marketer). If you are unsure of technical language, ask for clarification. And remember the golden rule: evidence, evidence, evidence. Any claim which can’t be backed up by proper evidence or examples shouldn’t be included in any piece of collateral or content marketing.

Information storage 

Using a tabulated format like this facilitates capture, storage and eventual retrieval. You will also find that this kind of format will provide a great ‘starter for 10’ when putting together those pesky last minute PQQ responses.

Challenge Solution Outcome Benefit to the client Examples or evidence
Challenge A
Challenge B
When do you capture project information? 

Please see above about regular dialogue with technical colleagues and a project completion interview. 

I’m a great believer in creating a project sheet right from the project being formally commissioned by the client, so essentially project information should be captured and organised from a project’s inception.

Please don’t leave project information capture to when a job is handing over. Clearly the delivery team will have other things on their minds to be wanting to help you.

Construction Marketing podcast – capturing project information 

For some more detail on this topic, last year I took part in a podcast with Pritesh Patel and Mike Reader. On the podcast we discussed the challenges and provided some solutions. The podcast can be listened to here.

Next steps

If I can help you to to efficiently capture project information, or use it to create amazing content marketing or scheme-winning PQQs, please get in touch and let me know.

Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for project information capture

  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your technical colleagues and know where projects are up to in relation to key milestones. This habit will help all other aspects of your marketing as well.
  • Develop case studies from inception or commission. Key information to gather includes:
    • Client
    • Value
    • Dates (design and construction phases)
    • Services being provided
    • Current workstage
    • Challenges and solutions (ie, what are the issues and how are they being solved?)
    • Sustainability, including how features are being integrated into design and what the expected outcomes are.
  • Keep all the above information updated regularly and encourage joint ownership between marketing and delivery.
  • Always provide quantifiable evidence of any claims made, including statistics.

Quality project information… Why do you never have it when you need it? Actually it’s a marketer’s biggest challenge working in the built environment. Why do we want all this project information, anyway? To me quality information equals quality content and collateral, enabling efficient and meaningful communication about project benefits rather than project features.The advantages of an organised and proactive bank of quality project information are:

  • Developing compelling marketing messages about design and construction approach and being able to evidence them with statistics and client testimonials.
  • Producing quality project case studies which go beyond the standard project description. These case studies score points at PQQ and ITT stage, ultimately winning projects.