27 examples of projects we’ve taken on

Most of you know us as the company behind PropLIBRARY that publishes a newsletter that some of you have subscribed to for 10 years. We had a couple of conversations last week with potential customers that made us realize that we've also worked on quite a few projects, usually with some twists that made them interesting. We’d like to share them with you because they really show the variety of challenges that companies face and provide some creative ideas for how to overcome them. As always, you can take our ideas and run with them on your own or ask for our help.

 

Proposal Reviews
  1. We performed an assessment of 200 pages worth of proposal material for a B2G company so they could benchmark how good their proposals are. This was an assessment based on written quality criteria instead of what it will take to win a particular pursuit. But the results settled some internal conflicts regarding where to put effort to improve their win rates. This cost several thousand dollars, but it helped get everyone on the same page regarding priorities and set the right direction for their collective future.
  2. We reviewed a small proposal for a B2B company that performs market research to help banks decide where to open branches. It was just a few hours of effort and cost them just a few hundred dollars, but helped them figure out how to better approach winning new business.
  3. We reviewed a draft B2G proposal based on a draft RFP to help a company decide how much more effort to put into it when the final RFP hit the street. It required reviewing the proposal and the RFP, as well as a couple of online meetings, but still cost them less than a thousand dollars.
  4. Recently we've started doing reviews followed by training. This ends up working really well when we point out problems with the way it is written. We can teach them how to fix it. We modify the exercises from our library to use text from their proposal that they can work on in a classroom setting until they understand what they need to do to fix it. The training is less abstract and more relevant to the participants because it is based on their own words. It leaves the company with a better capability to get it right from the beginning on future proposals than if we went in and re-wrote it for them.
  5. One company sends us one of their proposals to review every month or two. Over time, we have helped them continuously raise the bar and make sure they are trending in the right direction. Not only has the quality of their proposal writing improved significantly, but the strategic questions we raise when we see their proposals have led to them doing a better job of upfront strategic planning and integrating those plans into their proposals. Over the course of a year this costs about as much as sending a team out for two days of training, only the impact on specific proposals and win rates is much more direct.
  6. A company that had been a long time PropLIBRARY Subscriber asked us to review their storyboards for an upcoming proposal. We were quite pleased when the “storyboards” turned out to really be a Content Plan based on our MustWin Process. They just called them “storyboards” because that's terminology some of their executives were familiar with. More importantly, we were pleased that when we reviewed the Content Plan the problems with their proposal were immediately apparent. The Content Plan made them visible and correctable before the writing started — just like it's supposed to.
  7. A small B2B company wanted to see if they were on the right track, so they sent us a few pages from a proposal that they were just getting started. Our comments helped them correct mistakes before they made those mistakes throughout the proposal. More importantly it showed them how to position things and articulate them correctly so that the rest of the proposal would be much stronger. Since it was only a few pages and an online meeting to discuss them, it only cost them a couple hundred dollars.
    Writing and Re-writing
  8. We worked with a company to re-write and improve their proposal copy, which changed very little from proposal to proposal. When it does change they send it to us. Now their staff focuses on coordinating business development and production instead of writing. It’s not an arrangement that we’d recommend to most companies, but it makes sense in their case.
  9. We re-wrote the main shell that a B2B company used for its proposals, with inserts for where customized copy would go. This cost a few thousand dollars, but was used hundreds of times.
  10. Almost 20 years ago, we helped a company win a government proposal. Every five years, they track us down to help them win the recompete. This one contract represents a big chunk of their revenue and the majority of their profit. We've never let them down. The truth is their performance counted more than our proposal writing, but we helped them beat their competitors and not make any mistakes that could have lost it for them.
  11. We helped one company get their proposal started right by helping them write the Executive Summary. We spent more time talking to them than we did writing. But that helped them gain the ability to articulate their win strategies and themes. They saw what we wrote and understood why we wrote it that way. They knew which parts they should use to drive the content in each of the various proposal sections. Depending on how you want to look at it, either we created the four most expensive pages in that proposal, or a very economical improvement to the 50 pages that followed them.
    Training and Process Development
  12. A company contacted us after losing five proposals in a row. We essentially recreated their business development function. It took a lot of effort. But they won the next five in a row. And a couple years later are still winning close to half their bids. We didn't charge them nearly enough.
  13. A company approached us to get help identifying the themes and win strategies they should base an upcoming proposal on. We spent a day in a classroom setting. We did a little training about themes, but mostly we helped them look at things from many different directions and inspired them in ways they hadn't considered. They went into the proposal with a much better understanding of their message and with a story to tell. All it cost was a day of our time.
  14. Annual meeting 1: A company that was planning an annual meeting asked us to provide a day of training. They had project managers from all over the country flying in and wanted to take advantage of their presence to boost their skills and get them all on the same page regarding what goes into winning proposals. They packed a large room with 50-60 people, most of whom had limited proposal experience. Since we only had a day, we didn't try to turn them into experts, but instead made sure they knew what would be involved and what to expect.
  15. Annual meeting 2: A B2G company asked us to provide a day of proposal training after their annual meeting. But this group was small and a lot more advanced. We focused on writing instead of process. It was basically a day of exercises and show-and-tell. They got to see, compare, and contrast different approaches in writing to solving the exercises. They walked away feeling inspired with lots of new ideas that they could use to improve their writing in general and not just on proposals.
  16. Annual meeting 3: A large A&E firm holding an annual meeting asked us to speak to their proposal department. There were eight people covering various roles (proposal management, writing, graphics, editing, production). We focused on increasing the value-added offered by the proposal group. Some of the things they were looking at as problems became opportunities to increase their value along the way. Things went so well that we stayed another day so we could spend an hour addressing their project managers. For them the topic became how to get the most value out of the proposal group, with the result being that both groups had a better understanding of where the hand-offs were and what to expect from each other.
  17. For an organization that helps small businesses, we set them up with a Corporate Subscription to PropLIBRARY that they could then offer to their members. Then we went out to their site and performed a day that was a combination of process training and how to best make use of PropLIBRARY. We’d like to find more associations and organizations willing to partner this way.
  18. Every few months we do an onsite training session for one company or another. We have a ton of curricula that are very modular that we pull from and customize. Most end up being two-day sessions. One day is too short to cover much ground and still have exercises. In three days we can cover most topics quite well with just the right amount of exercises. But most end up settling for two days in order to limit the cost.
  19. Sometimes instead of doing onsite training, we break the material up into 1-2 hour pieces and do it as online meetings spread over weeks or even months. When done this way, it becomes more about continuous improvement and skills development than an event. It's also a lot easier for participants to fit into their schedules.
  20. Since we launched the Exercise Library on PropLIBRARY, we have done a few courses for companies that involved a series of exercises where we do some training followed by a "homework assignment" and a date when we review them. This is a very cost effective way to develop skills over time, since it costs about as much as a one-day class but results in improvements every month for a year.
  21. We spent a couple of years supporting a billion dollar company that was creating a new business line and needed a new proposal group to support it. This group would do quick-turnaround proposals that were very different from the hundred million dollar 45-60 day proposals the rest of the company did. The staff they had assigned were very junior level. We acted as experienced coaches and they did all the work. We helped them implement the right processes and solved problems, and provided quality assurance. At first we worked with them several times a week. By the end of the first year that was down to once a week, and then once a month until we were no longer needed.
  22. We had a similar coaching relationship with another company, but this one was a small business that wanted to increase their competitiveness. They couldn't afford to hire someone full-time with extensive experience, so they asked us to spend a few hours each week with their junior level proposal specialist, business development lead, and CEO. Over the course of the next year, we implemented strategic planning, pipeline development, lead qualification, compliance matrices, content planning, proposal quality validation, etc. For much less than the cost of hiring a single person, their entire company became more competitive and built lasting capabilities.
  23. We set up a point scoring system for a company doing quick turnaround task order proposals so they could make instant bid/no bid decisions.
  24. We worked with a company that wasn't doing the strategic planning they should. They asked us to help them put together a strategic plan to start their upcoming fiscal year. Instead we implemented a series of monthly strategic planning exercises that had their executive staff doing homework assignments in each of 12 key areas related to the strategic plan. This meant every month they were addressing strategic issues and implementing what was being discussed, instead of writing a document in one month and putting it on the shelf for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, after they'd addressed all 12 topics, they started over, revisiting them and improving upon them for the next year. But this time did it on their own. The cost of us sitting in on 12 online meetings, incidentally, was comparable to us spending a week writing the document for them. But they got so much more out of it.
  25. Some of our best relationships have been with companies that volunteered to be our guinea pigs. We test all of the recommendations we put in writing in the field every chance we get. There are companies who have read enough of our material to trust us and when we have new techniques we take them there as a form of "beta" testing. We treat our friends well, giving them access to all of our goodies and much lower rates than we charge others. We regularly go back and change our forms and instructions based on what we learn while watching others fill them out and use them in practice.
  26. One of the companies we worked with on pipeline development needed something to use to track their leads. What started as a simple spreadsheet became a metrics tool. We added a highly visual dashboard to it so that you could see at a glance the key performance indicators along with their targets. The dashboard took the concepts of lead tracking, pipeline development, and reporting and turned them into visual communications that they could use to make decisions and manage performance.
  27. A company asked us to review their win rate data and provide recommendations for improvement. When they sent us their data, it turned out they had created a dashboard of their own. It was quite good and it gave us the information we needed to identify patterns and issues that were impacting their win rates. Along with suggestions for how to improve their win rate, we made a few suggestions for improving their dashboard.

 

We don’t take on just any project. We’re not interested in staff augmentation or billing as many hours as possible. We like to focus on developing the content in PropLIBRARY, but we do support implementation. And since we started offering Corporate Subscriptions, we’ve increased the level of support we can offer. The projects we're most interested in involve helping people solve problems and seeing how well our recommendations are working in the field.

We've taken on tiny projects as well as extremely large scale ones. Most of them have come to us from people who have read our articles for years and wanted to get our help directly. If you like what we have to say and want to see if we’ll take on your project, you can find out by clicking here and getting in touch with us. PropLIBRARY Subscribers always get moved to the head of the line and get well taken care of.


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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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