Consultant Bernie Siben has published an inspirational, brief e-book with some simple and sound advice for AEC marketers working in the RFP marketplace.
Success: Some thoughts on achieving and maintaining it provides a couple of idea gems which I believe you should build into your systems.
One: Plan to win: Never plan on merely making the short list.
Two: Client satisfaction surveys: Face time tells you so much more.
(There are other great ideas in the book, which you can receive free by emailing Bernie at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I’ll let you discover these once you request his ebook.)
However, I’ll focus on the these two points because I think they capture much of what goes wrong in AEC marketing departments.
First, if you are going to spend time responding to proposals, you will achieve virtually nothing by a scatter-gun (brain) approach to respond to everything that “might” work, or where you at best could hope to rank somewhere on the short-list. In most cases, there can only be one successful finalist — and that organization wins the prize.
A half-hearted effort led by someone who doesn’t have time to do a great job is never an option. Submitting a non-responsive or mediocre proposal because there’s an RFP and you want to “put your name in front of this client” is foolhardy in the extreme.
I mean, besides the wasted time and effort in chasing (carelessly) impossible dreams, why would a potentially good client be impressed in any positive way with a mediocre proposal?
You certainly need to have a good go/no-go decision matrix, and when the decision is “go” then you should, as Siben proposes, pull out all the stops to win the job. When it comes to successful proposals, less indeed is more. You can read Siben’s ebook, and if you want more detailed insights into the proposal process, consider Matt Handal’s resources, as well.
Siben also throws a very well-deserved pail of icy water (apologies to ALS for an excellent bit of viral fund-raising on this) on conventional mail or phone or email client satisfaction surveys. His point: If you can’t get a senior person in your organization (not directly connected with the project) to conduct the survey face-to-face, you are wasting your time, and ignoring the opportunity to resolve issues.
I believe very strongly that sending a client satisfaction survey, whether in hard copy or online format — regardless of the timing — is a great way of saying to your client, “Hi there. We don’t want to waste OUR valuable time visiting or calling you to have a conversation, but please take YOUR valuable time to tell us how good our work was.”
Siben suggests the senior person, ideally in-person, should conduct the in-person (or perhaps, but less effectively on the phone) survey in the middle of the project. The feedback will be invaluable, and if there are problems (perhaps with the project manager) you’ll have time to recover and rebuild the trust. You won’t get that by sending out an e-form, that is for sure.
Clearly since Siben’s e-book is free, I would take up his offer. But you’ll have to send him a personal email to receive it. No autobot forms here, in case you want to keep all personal contact out of the relationship. (Of course, Siben is practicing some great marketing with this approach.)