Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Bid Proposals | Managing content

 August 26, 2014
by Paul Heron

This post continues our series on “owning the RFP”— mastering and managing all the ingredients of a successful proposal. Two weeks ago we posted on compliance and last week on structure.

Content consists of three categories:

  1. Information—specific facts the RFP asks you to provide, for example details of your proposed solution and implementation plan, experience and qualifications, performance record and team
  2. Strategic messaging—showing you really understand the project and the prospect’s needs and hot buttons, expressing your points of differentiation, and positioning your company against your competition
  3. Visualization—graphic representations of important aspects of your offer, usually those identified in the messaging item immediately above

Using a Section Content Planner

In this post, we’ll focus on the information part of content. Information items are identified in the RFP, then captured in the compliance matrix and copied to the Section Content Planner (SCP) using the process shown below.

Figure 1: Information tracking: Required information (i) is identified in the RFP, captured in a Compliance Matrix, then organized in the Annotated Table of Contents (ATOC), before being used to populate Section Content Planners used to guide and monitor writers.

The SCP is a key part of the package Complex2Clear uses to provide guidance to writers and to monitor proposal completion. It’s a Word document started by the proposal manager and completed by the writer with input from subject matter experts (SMEs).

SCP sections and responsibilities are shown in the table below:

General info Proposal ID, Section no., topic, page limit, RFP references for statement of work, scoring, deliverables, etc. Proj. Mgr.
Compliance info Compliance items with RFP reference for each Proj. Mgr.
Section outline Bullet point outline of key points to be covered Writer/SME
Issues* List of known buyer issues Writer
Approach* Strategy to address buyer issues, competitive threats and other risks Writer
Features and benefits Key features and benefits of our offer Writer/SME
Positioning* Our differentiators and expressing our advantages over competitors’ offers Writer
Capsule statement* One sentence answer to: Why should this section get maximum points? Writer
Visualization* Sketch or description of 1-2 graphic(s) that captures our key differentiator(s) Writer/SME
Selling caption* Benefits-oriented, buyer-focused caption for each graphic Writer
 * Strategic messaging elements will be covered in next week’s post

Daily progress management

The SCP lets the proposal manager see how well each writer understands a section’s required information and his/her ability marry that information with your strategy to produce compelling arguments for your offer.

Insist on checking your writers’ progress daily. Begin by monitoring SCP completion and then use the SCP contents to ensure those ideas are well expressed in the section. On large proposals, focus on one or two elements (e.g. visuals and captions) across all sections, rather than trying to carefully review all parts of every section every day.

Dealing with pushback

Doesn’t all this form filling waste time? No! Far more time is lost when writers go off in different directions and write without a plan. The day or two it takes to plan a section thoroughly is more than recovered in writing that’s complete, compliant and on-message—especially where content developers are subject matter experts unused to writing.

Some writers may bridle at being held accountable for daily progress. We recommend you insist on the same rules for all. This is especially true for virtual teams where precious days can be lost if a writer goes off message (or AWOL) undetected because no check-ins are scheduled.

BOTTOM LINE: This is the way every large bid team operates. It’s the best way we’ve found to produce a winning proposal on a schedule without last minute all-night and weekend sessions.


Need help implementing better proposal processes?

Contact Complex2Clear


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