Proposal Content Planning is a methodology that is part of the CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process. The full methodology is part of what comes with a PropLIBRARY Subscription. Here is an introduction to Proposal Content Planning.
When you are just getting started with preparing Content Plans for your proposals, you can put anything in them that’s helpful. You don’t need to get hung up on the wording. Anything you put in them will be better than nothing.
As your experience and skills improve, however, you begin to see how the way you articulate instructions directly impacts how they are followed. If you pay more attention to how you word the things you put in your Content Plans you can take them to a higher level.
The best way to articulate what you put in your Proposal Content Plans is to phrase them as quality criteria. Prompt the writer with the questions that will be used to assess whether the goals were achieved. This has two advantages:
- It guides the reviewers, with the Content Plan doing double duty as a checklist for validating the draft proposal.
- It enables writers to see how their efforts will be evaluated. It's like a rubric for a school assignment, and shows writers exactly what they need to do to “get a top grade.”
Here are several ways to introduce something in a Content Plan that turn it into a quality criterion:
Does the approach reflect the evaluation criteria?
Have you shown understanding through results instead of simply claiming it?
Are the steps in our process compliant with the statement of work?
Compare this approach to simply giving instructions:
Does the approach reflect the evaluation criteria? vs:
Explain the approach in the context of the evaluation criteria.
Have you shown understanding through results instead of simply claiming it? vs:
Show understanding through results instead of simply claiming it.
Are the steps in our process compliant with the statement of work? vs:
Identify RFP compliant steps for our process.
While a case could be made that the instructions are more direct, the reason we prefer articulating them as quality criteria is that we’re shifting people from following instructions to achieving goals. We’re shifting them from doing what they’re told to thinking about what proposal quality is. Using questions also helps prompt the writer to think more about it than a statement does.
Phrasing your Content Plan ingredients as quality criteria also has the advantage of combining steps in the proposal process. If you fill your Proposal Content Plan with instructions, then before you can conduct Proposal Quality Validation, you must convert your instructions into quality criteria. By articulating the ingredients in your Content Plan as quality criteria, you save a step.
But there’s a problem
There’s always a problem. In this case, the problem is being rushed and unprepared. You can’t articulate quality criteria for an approach you don’t have. Unfortunately, we often enter the proposal process while we’ll still designing our offering and figuring out our approaches. Before you can write assessment criteria, you might have to write instructions to resolve the issue. In other words, you might have to say, “Figure out our approach.” Usually you can mitigate this by saying something like “Describe our approach AND optimize it against the wording of the evaluation criteria.” This combines the instruction with a quality criterion to assess it.
Wait, there’s more…
What if you are using the Content Plan to pass on tips, data, or a suggestion that is not going to be required or assessed? When you use a Content Plan statement that starts with the word “Consider” you prompt the reviewers that it isn't required. But the reviewers can also ask about it to assess whether it was given appropriate consideration. This is one way of using the Content Plan to drive constructive discussion.
It’s a bit of a challenge
How many of your quality criteria can you nail in the Content Plan? Every one that comes after provides zero guidance to the writers until after the fact. Content Planning gives you a visible, and even measurable, way to ensure that you aren’t waiting until the draft review to start thinking about what a quality proposal would be. So how many of the things you add to your next Content Plan can you articulate as quality criteria? It’s a bit of a challenge…
Even more advanced...
With the right metrics and measurements you can change proposal writing from an art into a science. Here are 9 proposal metrics you didn't think possible that are enabled by Proposal Content Planning.