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March 30, 2023

So you want to be a rock star (marketer)

  • Top tips your marketing team wants you to know about pursuits.
    Middle of Six | Marketing Consultants


    In the world of architecture, engineering and construction marketing and business development, responding to requests for proposals and requests for qualifications are a way of life to win the next project. Whether your firm pursues projects in the public sector — for municipalities, school districts, the state or the federal government — or the private sector for commercial work, preparing proposals and statements of qualifications is a requirement for your firm to compete in the market.

    At most AEC firms, the marketing department is responsible for leading proposal production. This vital work is essential to winning projects, so it behooves company leadership and project pursuit teams to give their marketing teams the tools, resources, and capacity to do it well. What do your marketing teams want you to know about their role in this work and how you can help make the process run smoothly? Read on to find out.

    Photo courtesy of Effie Gurmeza [enlarge]
    Middle of Six’s Grace Takehara and Melissa Richey brainstorming a graphic for a proposal.

    1We care about winning just as much as you do. While marketers will not work on the project if you win, we still care just as much as the project team about winning! Responding to an RFP or RFQ is a significant time commitment and an essential function of our job so producing a high-quality, responsive and, ideally, winning proposal is important to us.

    2We need you to have skin in the game. Proposal development is a team effort. The marketing team may have capacity, but they can’t do it alone. The project manager and other proposed project team members need to have the availability to write content, review qualifications and advise on client hot buttons. If the pursuit’s project team is out on vacation, busy on a major project deadline or in back-to-back meetings for the entire pursuit period, consider making this a “no go.”

    3Meet your deadlines. The world of proposals and SOQs is ruled by deadlines. If the deadline to submit to the client is missed, the opportunity is dead. That’s why the interim milestones that your marketing team sets are an essential part of the proposal production process. Marketers are skilled at building out schedules that allow your team to produce high-quality, responsive proposals with time for quality control. If those interim milestones are missed, then the carefully designed schedule is at risk and the quality of the final proposal will suffer.

    4Honor work/life balance. What happens when deadlines are missed? Your diligent marketing professionals may turn to evening and weekend work to make the final due date. Because remember — we care too! This should be the exception, not the rule — ideally never — and definitely not the expectation. Presuming that your marketing professionals should sacrifice their personal time to meet unrealistic timelines is a recipe for burnout and turnover.

    5Graphics take time. Graphics are an excellent way to reduce the amount of text in your proposal and make the content easier for the selection panel to review. Developing a custom graphic — be that an infographic, a complex schedule or a detailed site logistics plan — takes time and content. This means graphics should be planned at the first kick-off meeting and the pursuit team should prioritize getting the content to the marketing and graphics team to allow ample time for development, review and refinement.

    6Allow time for quality control. Allowing time for a fresh set of eyes to review interim drafts and the final proposal before submission is an essential function to produce the best response possible. That’s part of why meeting milestones is so critical. When content comes in late or the team’s review of the draft proposal is delayed, the time for quality control is compressed — or worse, eliminated — and the final deliverable suffers.

    Proposal development in the AEC industry is high stakes, fast-paced and deadline-driven. Whether your firm has a sole, rock star marketer or an entire department of amazing marketing professionals, these people serve an essential function to bring in projects to fuel your company. Treat your marketing teams well by honoring these tips and they will reward you with dedication, creativity and winning pursuits.

    Melissa Richey is a principal marketing strategist at Middle of Six, a marketing consultancy dedicated to the AEC industry. She has developed hundreds of proposals and statements of qualification over her 20-year AEC career.

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