It’s a question that I’m asked a lot…and I mean a lot (!), “…how can we connect with our clients in a way that makes our bid stand out from our competitors? Many people think it’s just about answering the questions they’ve been asked, which is OK if you just want to provide a technical response and be judged equally with all the other bidders. But you’ll need to go much further if you want to get ahead of the game and be seen to have something worth buying.
We’ve all seen great adverts from the likes of Coke, Apple, Mercedes Benz, McDonalds and Calvin Klein that are selling more than just a drink, a computer, a car, fast food or clothing.
Interestingly, Coca-Cola describes its product as, “…the most popular and biggest-selling soft drink in history, as well as one of the most recognizable brands in the world”. Wikipedia simply says, “Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink”, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!
“So, why do advertisers invest so much money into using the kind of words and images that go beyond just the product description and portray their products or services as a lifestyle that we might want?
The answer lies in the competition from other product or service providers and the same is true when you’re bidding for work to the public or private sector. When you see a lifestyle either on the television clearly portrayed in strong visual images, or in your minds eye from the words used, you step beyond the description and become part of that world. Consider Coca-Cola’s description of their simple carbonated drink or check out the 1971 ad, ‘I’d like to buy the World a Coke’ and you’ll see what I mean…you just get it; right?
Clever advertisers make an emotional connection with our personality and the things we believe in…by using the advertised products we’re able to show the world what we believe in, and the services we buy reflect the values we hold important and the way we want to conduct our lives. This validates our view of the world and us as individuals, which makes us feel good and want to buy those brands.
“So, if this approach works so well how can you use this emotional appeal to connect with your potential clients in your bid?
In the bid documents, you’ll find a series of questions that will generally ask how you will undertake the work, who will do it, your programme for completing it, your management systems along with other issues of interest to the client. This helps them understand your intended approach and is the first step to building trust and confidence in you…but it’s not enough and you’ll need to go much further to stand out from your competitors.
Even the larger companies, the national and international blue chip companies, can’t just rely on their brand name and still need to reinforce the ‘lifestyle’ messages to remain in the top slot.
When bidding, you want to be more targeted than the general appeal that TV advertising is seeking and align with the specific project outcomes that your client wants to achieve. Be sure to consult your business development managers on this because they’re the ones who are in regular contact with the client…they’ll know the business objectives and the personal objectives of the decision-makers and the people who might just influence the bid decision.
Remember that your client is a person with his or her own ambitions and fears…just like you, they have to report to someone, be it a manager, a Board of Directors or the shareholders.
And they will want to make the best impression they can to gain credit, kudos, recognition or reward. Showing how they will achieve this presents the lifestyle choice they can make when choosing their preferred supplier.
So, when you provide your technical responses to the questions make sure that you say why your approach is important and what it will do for your client. Will the project cost less as a result of your approach; will you finish earlier or will you do it safer than they expect and how will this reflect on their business, on them as an employee of the business and personally? I go into this more in the free guide ‘Are You Bidding to Win or Bidding to Lose’ that you can get from the Vision homepage just by clicking the link.
When you get this right you will provide a strong image of the outcomes for them that leaves a deep feeling that aligns with the ambitions and values of the company and the people making the purchasing decisions. You will become someone with whom they want to work and feel they can trust so they will be more inclined to buy from you.
Find one of your old bids, perhaps one that you didn’t win, and mark up a copy by highlighting all your messages that clearly demonstrated the outcomes of your approach. By that I mean more than just completing on time, to budget and within the required safety margins, which is what everyone says! Become one with your target client and:
- See if the responses you gave clearly demonstrate how your approach will change your life:
- Check if you believe the company will get to where you want it to be easily
- Sense your emotions when you read the bid- how excited are you?
- Do you get a good feeling that you want to buy the goods or services on offer?
If you’ve fallen a little short of that emotional connection then you have some work to do!
God luck until next time