Sometimes, when working on proposals, practice staff inadvertently set up marketing to fail. It’s not intentional, but it does demonstrate a lack of understanding of the marketing process. What follows are some common ways to make your marketing coordinator crazy while working on a proposal, along with some details about the process of responding to RFPs.
1) Hold onto an RFP you’re considering responding to until after you’ve decided you want to pursue it.
Your marketing staff should get a copy of the RFP as soon as you get it. That way they can figure out just how much time and effort it will take to put it together and give you a realistic date by which you need to make a go/no-go decision in order to do it justice. Marketing has to include your RFP in their workflow just as you have to balance new client project requests with existing tasks. If you got the RFP last Tuesday, it’s due next Wednesday, and the first time marketing sees it is this Friday, you’ve just created a crisis where one did not need to exist.
2) Procrastinate on your section of the proposal until the day the proposal is due to the client because you hate to write.
Marketing knows you have project responsibilities and marketing knows you are busy serving your clients. Marketing also knows that some of you would rather hang by your thumbs over hot coals than have to write something. If you hate to write or can’t find time to write, simply tell someone in marketing what your section of the proposal should say so they can write it for you. When in doubt, shoot for delivering your section to marketing at LEAST 48 hours before the document is due to the client.
3) Assume you have until the day the RFP is due to finish your part of the proposal.
Once marketing has the entire kit of parts to put together a thoughtful, strategic, responsive proposal, they need time to assemble it, proofread it, dot “i”s, cross “t”s, get signatures, organize all the sections into a cohesive document, make copies, and deliver the proposal document. Marketers know they have the firm’s reputation in their hands when they issue an RFP so they crave the time to make sure it’s right. Help them help you put your best foot forward.
4) Wait to review the RFP until you see all the copies laid out ready to ship, then give your feedback about errors.
Feedback about a document is only really useful at two moments in time: at least a day before the proposal is due so there is time to make corrections, or at least a day after it is out when there is bandwidth to translate corrections into lessons learned for the future. If you tell them something’s wrong when it’s too late to fix it but before it has gone out, you create frustration and useless calculation of whether or not they can find a workaround to get it fixed and still make the deadline. Try this if you want to see someone’s head explode. Otherwise, choose your timing wisely.
5) Green light a pursuit you know the firm has little hope of winning.
Sometimes a firm wants to stretch to compete for something they haven’t done before. As long as you have the relationships to support it and a way to position your experience in a positive light, that’s fine. But be careful about responding to proposals you have no hope of winning just because you feel like you want to do something, anything, to bring work in the door or because you think it would be a cool project. We know that from your perspective “it’s just a proposal”. To your marketing staff it’s an opportunity to spin their wheels, on a project they have to work extra hard on to make a good showing, that will take time away from work they should be doing, work that you’ll later be frustrated wasn’t done as quickly as you thought it should have been. There are more efficient and effective ways to spend everyone’s marketing time.
Marketing folks are excellent at “making it work”, putting in the extra effort, and pulling rabbits out of a hat when it’s important to do so. As our professional practice colleagues, make sure you take advantage of that ability deliberately and strategically.