Submissions & Tenders – to template or not?

At The Write Business we are often asked to help small businesses prepare their submissions or responses to tenders.

You may ask – how are we able to do that without really knowing the business? It’s a good question. We take a structured approach to learning about your business and, having worked with a variety of other businesses and their submissions, we have learnt how to solicit the necessary information. This experience also means we bring objective and constructive criticism to your current materials.

We go through an initial information gathering session to accumulate knowledge of your business and also conduct our own research of the industry and the competition. We also run a session to ascertain your current business objectives and to better define your competitive advantage.

This is quite an investment of time upfront, however, and often it’s the case, it’s a good foundation to assist with developing a bank of materials for other submissions in the future.

All submissions, proposals and responses to tenders need to be tailored – a cookie cutter approach is not advisable.

However, some business documents can be prepared as a standard template and be organised in a logical folder system from which to draw on for each submission. These likely include your company profile including vision and mission, your business structure, staff bios as well as all the information you usually need to include like insurance details and pricing schedules.

Demonstrated experience is almost always a requirement and this definitely needs to be tailored to address the criteria. We recommend building up a bank of case studies that cover all your service areas and products and how they have performed across a range of projects. You can then pull on this bank and tweak the cases to address specific criteria. This ‘bank’ can be built up gradually, prompted by the submissions as you go along.

No matter what business you are in, if the submission format allows, we also recommend use of good photography to illustrate how effective your business is – and how professional.

You will also need referees and their testimonials are always handy. So, when you finish projects collect testimonials and referee permissions along the way – so you don’t have to make adhoc calls at the eleventh hour before submission.

Contact us if you’d like help preparing your submissions. We really enjoy bringing structure and organisation to business materials that help our clients to win tenders and contracts and also in a way that helps our clients to do it themselves.

Online marketing for small business. Do words count?

Online marketing for small business? Do words count?

The short answer is yes – one by one. Take the low road, step by step, not the high Everest track.

Small business owners often ask us for our opinion on refreshing their website, placing Google adwords, should they have a Blog and be on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media of the moment. Their expectations are high – they assume they have to do it all.

We could say, “yes, you should do all of these and, if you commission our writing services, your new good quality written content will sort out your marketing”. We don’t. Even though it would bring business our way, we’d be doing you a disservice. Why? Small businesses rarely have enough time to build a solid foundation on which to maintain a momentum of continuous engagement through online channels with their customers. It takes a lot of energy, creativity and organisation to continuously feed the online cookie monster. Larger companies employ people to do this job full-time.

So, what should a small business do? 

I’m a great believer in the ‘eat the elephant in small bites’ approach – one step at a time:

1. WEBSITE

Start by having a great website that speaks directly to your customers – don’t forget the existing ones as well as the ones you haven’t met yet. Your words should be simple and direct, including keywords (the words people use in Google to search for businesses like yours). Include great visuals, a dynamic design (preferably designed by someone who knows what they are doing – a professional designer and programmer) and always remember to ask yourself these questions – who, what, how, why:

  • Who is arriving at your site?
  • What are they looking for?
  • How do they behave on your site or how do you want them to behave on your site?
  • Why would they stay or come back for more?

If you can stand in their shoes and review your website as they will, you stand a better chance of creating a website that will work for your business.

2. BLOG, POST NEWS

Devise a manageable calendar of posting information, news and useful tips on a regular basis to keep your website interesting. Monthly posts are great, but be kind to yourself – one post every 6-8 weeks would be good – that’s only half a dozen a year. Make sure the information is relevant to your customers – and builds trust and confidence in your brand.

3. E-NEWSLETTER

Let your existing customer database know that you have posted new and useful information by sending out a regular newsletter by email. You can make this easy by scheduling at the same time as your post on your blog. The newsletter can include a couple of short pieces – the breadcrumbs to lead people to your website to read more.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA

Once you have these three steps under control – you’ll be ready to move from the waltz to the foxtrot, by incorporating social media posts to align with your website, blog and e-newsletter. Look to your customers’ habits to define which social media platform to place your bets on, but understand that you‘ll have to post a lot more often than six times a year. Make it at best a weekly habit. Make a date in your diary with yourself to take 10 minutes to make your posts and also to respond to comments, queries and to moderate. Social media is not a one-way channel.

MAKE IT EASY FOR YOURSELF – SHARE THE LOAD

To make all four steps easier, sit down with your team to create a list of topics to talk about in your posts – test them against a set of basic criteria to make sure they’re enforcing your brand and are valuable to your customers. Then share out the work – ask different members of the team to draft the ones they feel confident talking about. They don’t need to be long but genuine is good. Just make sure someone proofs them for quality and spelling before posting. Keep an ongoing list of topics on a shared document that everyone can add to, e.g. in Google docs or Dropbox or on your own server. Make use of all your content by sharing blog posts and newsletter articles on your social media site/s.

IS IT WORKING FOR YOU?

Last of all – bear with me – keep a simple log of what you posted and when – did you notice any more enquiries or interaction? Don’t give up too soon, it’s a gradual process building the foundation – just keep to your diary appointments with yourself and enjoy your postage time. Ask your customers what they like about your newsletter and posts, and use the analytics on your website and e-newsletter (e.g. MailChimp) to find out what people are reading and clicking on.

READ MORE:

Lee Traupel’s article in The Huffington Post  has some great tips – ‘ Why Many Social Media Experts are Selling Snake Oil’.

NEED HELP:

Louise and I are at hand if you’d like to talk through the written content for your website or preparing a topic list for blogs and e-newsletters. We can also refer you to a fantastic band of creative designers, photographers, videographer and social media gurus if you require. Email us!

Carola Akindele-Obe is one of writing partners at The Write Business.