It’s a basic marketing principle: align your service or product with what the market wants, and the sales will follow. Not incidentally, the marketing communication will be simple. It’s a basic RFP response best practice, too: align your solution with the RFP, and writing the proposal will be simple. Not easy or fun, necessarily, but straightforward, and more likely to lead to winning the contract.
Never offer a client the product you happen to have on the shelf, or the service that reflects your standard practice. Using the same terminology they do, offer them exactly what they asked for in their RFP.
For a proposal-team training tool—a story that illustrates this principle—
“Who writes a book anymore?”
My new WordPress tutor and I are looking at my blog. I’ve just explained its purpose: to distribute tips and tools on proposals and to showcase my book on proposal development and management.
“Who writes a book anymore?”
It’s a throwaway comment, but it comes back again and again in the following days as I work on identifying search terms related to my area of expertise.
When I started my blog, after my book was done but before it was published, I focused on the publishing journey. Then, my metadata and key words were all about me and about proposal books. After all, if someone wanted to find my book, how else would they search for it?
But as it turns out, when I actually try it, searching for “proposal books” brings up completely useless results: site after site on how to make a book proposal to a publisher. I’m not surprised that I can’t find my book—who, after all, has even heard of it?—but I’m astounded that it doesn’t turn up any other books on proposal development either. How do people find books on this topic?
“Who writes a book anymore?” What he didn’t say—but likely meant—was “Who reads or wants a book anymore?”
D’oh. No one is looking for a book on proposal development. Instead, they’re looking for general content on winning contracts, and on developing and managing proposals, and they’re looking for specific content that will help them with their proposals. Oh, sorry, with their “RFP responses.”
I’m a little chagrined. My blog makes the two most basic mistakes you can make on RFP responses.
The first mistake is trying to sell the client what you have, rather than what they’re looking for. I’ve been trying to sell my book, not what people want to know. But the good news is that I do have the content people are looking for related to RFP responses. Winning more contracts. Document development and process management. Best practices and training tools. And, of course, I also have a book that puts it all in one tidy package.
The second mistake is using your own terminology, rather than the client’s. I’ve been using “proposal,” in an online world in which “proposal expert” brings up content on marriage proposals. But there’s good news here, too. Although I’m a little new at optimizing websites for search engines, I’ve spent a quarter century in communicating with markets within RFP response rules. Now I just have to learn the rules for communicating with mine.