Why this goal is important
If you think the best way to figure out what to write about in your proposal is to start writing, you may be making a colossal mistake. The mistake is that you’re skipping the part where you “figure it out.” You are thinking by writing about it.
Responding to an RFP is not simply a matter of listing the requirements and responding to them one by one. There are many ingredients that go into your proposal, including what you are offering, how that fulfills the requirements, how it relates to the evaluation criteria, customer insight, differentiation, competitive positioning, win strategies, and much more. Before you can write your proposal, you have to identify all the ingredients and figure out how they impact what it is you need to say in your proposal. You need to start the proposal knowing not just what to say, but how to say it.
Proposal Content Planning is a methodology for figuring all that out. It is a flexible approach that can be implemented in several different ways, with different management approaches that enable it to be tailored to your circumstances.
The benefits of using a Proposal Content Plan:
- You reduce the number of changes after people start writing by providing a means to ensure that instructions are complete and correct.
- You greatly reduce writing time by reducing how long it takes to figure out what to write.
- You eliminate the endless cycle of rewrites that occurs when writers and reviewers can’t agree on what should be written.
- Instead of being something difficult and mysterious, you turn proposal writing into a process of elimination where authors convert each instruction into a narrative response.
- You avoid wasting effort on creating a planning document that is separate from the process of writing. In other words, because the files used to create a Content Plan become the draft proposal, they do not require extra effort or get ignored.
- You will get better results from inexperienced writers and more consistent results from all writers.
How to achieve this goal
You need an outline that meets the customer's expectations. If the RFP is complex, to create the outline you may need to create a compliance matrix first. Once you have the outline you have the structure you need to begin content planning. Proposal Content Planning will enable you to build your proposal around what it will take to win.
Achieving this goal will require you to:
- Gather the input that is needed to identify what should go into your proposal.
- Identify everything that will go into your proposal in the form of instructions that provide guidance for proposal writers
- Define proposal quality by identifying the quality criteria that must be fulfilled by proposal writers.
- Validate that the plan is correct before you implement it.
The actual plan can take several forms. Fulfilling the goal is more important than the procedures followed. So long as you create a plan that meets the quality criteria for what a Proposal Content Plan should accomplish, the form the plan takes matters little. This gives you options.
Each of the approaches for implementing Proposal Content Planning described below can be thought of as a container. A proposal content plan is like a container that you put instructions for proposal writers into. The key to the methodology is making sure that you address everything you need to in your content plan.
Recommended approaches for implementing Proposal Content Planning:
The best approach for you will depend on your circumstances and the nature of your bids.
- Iterative content planning. This is the original, paper-based approach. It is thorough and comprehensive. While the other approaches require some preparation, iterative content planning can be implemented immediately.
- Template driven content planning. This approach collapses the iterative approach into a single step based on templates and checklists. It involves creating a set of content plan instructions and quality criteria that apply to all of your proposals, so that on any given proposal you just have to focus on the specifics of that pursuit. The amount that this accelerates things will depend on just how similar your customer, opportunity, and competitive environments are from bid to bid.
- Online content planning. The MustWin Performance Support Tool enables you to do Proposal Content Planning online instead of on paper. It converts the process from an iterative one into a dynamic one. It is less sequential, easier to collaborate, and much easier to validate.
Managing Proposal Content Planning Implementation
Proposal Content Planning can be implemented with different management models that vary according to your corporate culture, resources, and the complexity of your offering. Implementing Proposal Content Planning requires you to determine what content management model is the best fit for your organization.
Can you accelerate proposal content planning?
Balancing the time to plan with the time to write against a deadline is more of an art than a science. The more you can do to accelerate the planning, the more time there is for writing. But don't forget that you have to think things through. If you rush through content planning without thinking things through, you can do more harm than good.
How do you know when you've achieved the goal?
Here is a checklist you can use to assess whether your Proposal Content Plan was done properly.
One of the most important quality reviews you will perform on this proposal is the one that validates that this content plan will produce the desired proposal. If you start writing without performing this review, you put the entire proposal at risk. Proposal Content Planning is a necessary part of Proposal Quality Validation.