20 Best Practices for AEC Proposals: Part 3

Big thanks to everyone who has been reading this series so far. This week I’m sharing some tips on content development.

11. Write your cover letter first.

It’s the first piece of your submittal that the reviewer will read. While there are many schools of thought on what a cover letter should accomplish — the bottom line is to convince the reader to select your team, right? So do just that. Let the reader know that nothing compares to you (cue music). Such an important piece of your proposal should not be pushed off until the end. Write it first. Set your tone, be succinct, and stick with it.

Sinead OConnor

12. Put yourself in the client’s shoes.

This one should be in the back of your mind at all times whether writing a proposal, preparing an interview, or taking someone out to lunch. What does the client really care about? Boilerplate text that was written 8 years ago by someone you’ve never even met? Probably not. Take the high (and longer) road, and write to your reader. Be specific and address their concerns. It will be much more interesting to he or she than the number of design awards you won in 1998. Trust me.

13. Substitute text for infographics where possible.

Although I like to think that a reviewer will read every word of a proposal I’ve slaved over, it’s not even close to the truth. If you have information that can be made into some type of graphic work, DO IT! If the reader can look at a chart you created and understand your message within seconds, you’re doing everyone a favor. Time is valuable, make sure your points come through clear. Quickly.

Writing coach David Lipscomb of RedPen21 shared some thoughts on “scannability” during a workshop with SMPS DC. You can download the materials here. (check out pages 28-31 for this topic specifically.)

14. Follow the format of the Request for Proposal.

No matter how screwy it may be. Years of preparing government proposals (and partaking in debriefs), has ingrained this concept into my head. Your response should mirror the requests outlined in the RFP. It seems simple enough, but it can also be frustrating to comply when the RFP requests your org chart three different times, or items in an order that simply does not flow. Do not give into temptation. Do not offend the reviewer. Make their job easier and comply with the requested format, or your 2 weeks worth of hard work may have been for nothing when you are disqualified.

15. Be simple, be clear, avoid jargon.

Being a marketer without a technical background can be a good thing, particularly in the case of technical proposals. While the reviewer has some knowledge of the topic, they are not likely a registered design professional (or they would be doing the work themselves!). So if your proposal contains techy-jargon about Building Information Modeling that you as a marketer do not understand, the reviewer will probably feel the same way. Don’t get me wrong – you shouldn’t pretend that you’re writing to an audience of children. But keep it as clear, while effective, as possible.

Thanks for reading this week’s post. Up next week: tips dedicated to quality control. While not the most interesting, definitely one of the most important.