Most bid teams use graphics (photos, illustrations, charts, graphs, etc.) to avoid endless “walls of text” in their proposals. Graphics add colour and interest—but they only have selling power when accompanied by strong captions.
Think about how you read a magazine
Do you go straight to an article and start reading? Or do you flip the pages, scanning images before beginning to read? Most people are flippers. And evaluators are no different. When asked, they confirm that—just like everyone else—their eyes are drawn to images when reading proposals.
So let’s tap into this tendency and get maximum benefit from evaluators' first impressions of your proposals.
Putting graphics to work
Captions can turn graphics that merely decorate into powerful selling tools to help you win. But not every caption has equal value. Consider a safety meeting photo. Here are your four caption options:
- No caption: The graphic just sits there on the page. Evaluators must decide for themselves what it shows and what—if any—message it conveys.
- Label: “Daily safety meeting.” Now evaluators know it’s a safety meeting—but they still need to decide why it’s important.
- Descriptive: “OurCo conducts a 10-minute safety meeting for all staff at the start of each shift.” Evaluators may infer that these 10-minute sessions have value—or they may not.
- Benefits-focussed: “ProspectCo can be confident of worker safety: OurCo’s ISO-compliant safety program has delivered a perfect no-lost time accident record at all construction sites over the past 3 years.” This caption delivers a tangible benefit—peace of mind and reduced liability—as a result of your safety program.
Notice how a caption focussed on benefits takes an eye-catching, but otherwise passive photo and turns it into a reason to select your company over others with less stellar safety records.
Graphs and charts need captions too
Presenting data graphically is a great idea—but how easy is it for a first-time reader to understand one of your company's charts or graphs and why it matters? Evaluators often skim proposals, rather than investing in a careful read. For that reason, you should caption every graph and chart with the benefit it conveys.
A Gantt chart of your implementation schedule, for example, could include the following caption: “ProspectCo’s requirement for on-time delivery will be met by this schedule, which is based on the same estimates used to deliver 15 projects on-time and on-budget in 2015.”
Don’t worry about a caption that runs to 20 words or more. Write compactly but, once you have the evaluator’s attention, be sure to make your case.
Get bid evaluators leaning in early
Bid evaluators have the job of reading and scoring your proposal. For them this is work. If you get them leaning in with strong graphics and benefits-laden captions in those critical first few minutes, you’ll be well on your way to a strong technical score.
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