In the heat of the RFP process, we are all under a fair bit of stress, which sometimes leads to behavior that, if we thought about it, we would realize was not particularly useful. Just as practice staff can drive marketing crazy during this process, marketing can frustrate PMs and principals. Here are five ways we lose our minds and vex theirs:
1) Keep asking for the same information about a project over and over and over.
Often we get information from PMs about a project while we’re working on a proposal deadline, then forget to store it somewhere so we have it to use the next time we need it. Recognize that by the time you are looking for details on Project B for a proposal, chances are good that the PM is well into Project C and what you’re asking for requires them to go back to archived files or banker’s boxes to gather the info you need. Thus, if a PM did the work to find it for you a month ago, they’re not likely to feel too kindly about having to find it again now. Practice colleagues are organized. We should be too.
2) Pout, sulk or throw a tantrum when you are asked to do something you can’t fit into your schedule
It’s not the PM or Principal’s job to know what’s on your plate every day. If someone asks you to take on a task you truly can’t fit into your schedule, give them the benefit of the doubt and help them understand your reluctance. A good thing to say might be, “Okay, in order to do that task, I need to take something off my plate. Which of these other tasks can get put on the back burner in favor of this new one?” Usually a conversation like this will yield a positive discussion about how to solve the problem as well as an understanding of how hard you’re already working. That’s what I call a win-win.
3) When the onset of a high priority project changes the deadline for another project on your plate, don’t tell anybody about it.
On Monday a PM asked you for an introductory brochure to send to a client and you said you’d have it by Friday, but on Tuesday an RFP came in that’s also due on Friday and you can’t get both done. Clearly the RFP takes precedence, but it’s only common courtesy to go to the PM and let them know that you need to adjust their deadline. If I give you a project to do and you give me a deadline, I assume that’s when it’ll be done. If you have to change the deadline, let me know so I can plan accordingly.
4) Assume it’s somebody else’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed.
If you’re in marketing and you’re working on an RFI/Q/P, it’s your job to read that document cover to cover. It’s your job to know when it’s due, how many copies of what kind are needed, how much of the response you can put together from information you already have and how much you need your practice colleagues to create for you. You are the expert on how many project sheets we have, whether the right kind of resume is available for everyone chosen for the project team and for ensuring that all questions asked in the RF? are answered in the response. It’s also your job to make sure your practice staff know which parts of the proposal you have covered, which you need from them, and when you need their information so you can put together a coherent submission. Take ownership.
5) Phone in your first draft by simply assembling as much existing, unedited, standard content as you can, then wait for feedback.
If you want to be taken seriously as a marketing professional, rather than pigeon-holed as a glorified admin assistant, review your draft thoughtfully and make sure the most relevant information is also easiest to find. Read the resumes of the team identified for the project and rearrange their experience lists so the most relevant projects are the first ones listed. Read the project sheets, look at the photos and see if things need to be edited slightly to make the document relevant for this particular project. If you have copy available about a specific requested topic (sustainability experience, BIM capabilities, quality assurance processes, etc.) include the version of it that’s most relevant to this project as a leaping off point for editing. If you’ve left something out but know it’s coming, leave a place for it in the draft and indicate that. Let’s do everything we can to make it easier for our professional practice colleagues to fit in marketing among the scores of other responsibilities they are juggling each day. Respect is at best, reciprocal and, at worst, earned.