20 Best Practices for AEC Proposals: Part I

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Proposals.  All marketers have to do them, and if you don’t – consider yourself one of the privileged! Only kidding, proposals aren’t that bad — and I actually find it really rewarding to present the final product. I’ve decided to share some of the best practices I’ve developed throughout my career, and hope you find them to be helpful. This is the first of a four-part series.  First up – the proposal setup!

1. Create a workplan

Once an RFP has been deemed a “go,” do yourself a favor and create a workplan.  Depending on the level of effort required for your response, this can be a simple table or a more involved Excel document. Design a workplan that designates a combination of the following:

  • Each section and component of the response
  • Who is responsible for writing each portion
  • Who is responsible for editing and finalizing each portion
  • Internal deadlines
  • Status
  • Notes

Drop me an email if interested further, and I’d be happy to share some templates I’ve used in the past.

2. Talk about the workplan

This one might seem obvious, but a workplan is only an effective tool if everyone is on board with using it.  Once you’ve taken a first stab at the workplan, gather your proposal team back together to discuss the contents.  This discussion should include overall strategy and a theme for your submittal, teaming partners, an internal schedule. I suggest letting the workplan document “live” on a common drive (or as a Google doc), that way each team member can open and edit to ensure it remains current.

3. Contact consultants early on

A well structured team can make or break a winning proposal. Once you’ve decided on your team selection and structure, be sure to reach out to consultants as early in the process as you can. In addition to requesting specific items you need (i.e. resumes, firm overview, etc.), it doesn’t hurt to ask if they have any additional items to contribute. If you don’t ask, you may never know that they have a special process or differentiator to set your team apart.

4. Organize a storage location

In the same location that you’ve chosen to store your workplan, you should also set up a folder structure to store materials throughout the proposal and interview process. Just to reiterate – it is pertinent that every member of the proposal team can access and save to this location. The best folder structure if whatever works for you. Below I’ve shared what works best for me:

  • 00_Admin + RFP
  • 01_Proposal
  • 02_Graphics
  • 03_Consultants
  • 04_Drafts
  • 05_Final PDF
  • 06_Fee
  • 07_Interview
  • 08_Studio Use

5. Jump on it

It is SO easy to underestimate the amount of work and required time that goes into a proposal.  Jump on it while you have the time, even if it does seem premature.  You’ll thank yourself for it when you’re two days out from your deadline!

Like what you’ve read so far? Check back in next week for the second installment, featuring graphics.  To gauge the audience for Part 2, please take a second to respond to the poll below. And feel free to leave your tips in the comment section! Sharing is caring.