Articulating bid strategies and proposal themes

What will you do and what do you need to say to win?

If you don’t put a ton of thought into your proposal strategies or if you leave it until the end, after you’ve got the proposal written as if it’s some kind of icing on the cake, then you need to understand why your good proposal is going to lose.

To end up with a great proposal instead of a merely good one, you need the right strategies. Before you can develop the right strategies, you’ll need to have developed an information advantage. And once you have your strategies, you’ll need to articulate them in your proposal.

People throw around a lot of terminology related to proposal strategies bid strategies: win strategies, themes, win themes, etc. They often have the bad habit of using them interchangeably when there are subtle but important distinctions. Bid strategies are what you need to do to win. Proposal themes are statements that you incorporate into your proposal that turn your bid strategies into reasons why the customer should see your proposal as their best alternative.

Theme statements are what you say to connect your bid strategies to the customer's decision

One you understand what theme statements are and how they contribute to winning, then you have to learn what your theme statements should actually say. Theme statements must be more than unsubstantiated claims of greatness to be effective. If you struggle with writing theme statements that are simple descriptions of your strengths, then here is a two-part approach to help you write theme statements that reflect the customer's perspective.

Theme statements depend on strategy

If you are still struggling to write meaningful theme statements, it could be that the real problem is somewhere else. Theme statements explain how you compare and how do you fit into the customer's environment and impact their future, the competitive environment, and the things that matter to them. Before you can write your theme statements, you need to understand:

  • Your value proposition
  • Your market positioning
  • What matters to the customer

But the most important thing to understand is what makes you different. The customer selects one alternative over another based on the differences. And you can always find differentiators.

If you wait until the end of the proposal and try to sprinkle in positive sounding statements like:

  • We meet or exceed all of the RFP requirements
  • Our experience uniquely positions us to meet your needs
  • Our company is ready to support you
  • We are committed to the success of this program

Then your strategies, themes, and ultimately your entire proposal will add up to nothing. People write lame theme statements when they lack the inspiration provided by strategic positioning and a value proposition. If you want your themes to have substance, here are some things to focus on. When your theme statements relate to each other and add up to something that matters to the customer, they tell a story that helps the customer make their decision



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Carl Dickson

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

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.

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