Zennia R. de Mesa
If you have not read Paige Irvine’s recap on the most recent Professional Development event, “Are You Stressed Because Your Proposal is a Mess?” – hit the pause button and go see her article
. There are many takeaways from that panel, for both beginners and long-time practitioners, and Paige summarizes key tools to help a marketer through the proposal process. What I want to hone in on here, as a postscript to that recap, are some ideas to improve the workflow of Marketing Coordinators – the actual coordination
bit of the job.
Coming from a firm that acts as lead consultant on most RFPs, I’ve developed submissions for all types of clients, and the requirements are similar in some cases, but also very different at times. What remains the same is that every proposal contains strategy, writing and graphics. Several heads, within your firm and the subconsultant team, will likely contribute to these three components, but a coordinator alone, is responsible for quite literally, ‘getting it together.’ The way a marketer handles this process, whether leading the submission or providing qualifications as a sub, will spell the difference between efficiency and insanity.
After setting out a pursuit plan and schedule, I recommend customizing an InDesign template that is most appropriate for the submission. This presumes a template already exists; coordinators should have a few in their arsenal. Perhaps a past proposal that features a similar portfolio section will work? Use something that already exists, just spruce it up. It goes without saying you have master pages and paragraph settings set up – the things that make your life easy as a coordinator when it’s time to merge all the qualifications. Imagine if you had asked for relevant projects and 15 subs sent over PDFs that you cannot edit, had fonts you despised and low resolution images? Send them an InDesign template! Lay out one or two of your own projects complete with narratives. It’s a convenient reference for a sub to gauge how many images to use, what tone to use in writing, what information is required. If you have smaller firms on the team who do not have InDesign, send a Word template with the same sections covered in the InDesign document, to ensure they do not skip any mandatory information. Do not be shy about giving very detailed instructions – “200-word bios, 1-page awards list,” etc. The key is to begin
the coordination process in an efficient time-saving manner, when you have the opportunity to control the outcome.
It is also a marketer’s task to coordinate his/her internal team, and that’s a different undertaking altogether. You see your colleagues every day, and it’s a delicate balance between pushing them for their input and not being the most hated person in the firm. Once you’ve read the RFP in detail, and have highlighted items that you know will take time (State certifications, bank references, an updated Part II of an SF330, etc.), get that out of the way first
. Let your project lead know if fees are required, if you need an intern to help with renderings. Get your printing logistics set. All these things should be addressed in the early part of the process, so your team thanks you that you’ve given them 3 weeks and not 3 days.
These suggestions are not a foolproof way to get 100% of what you need, but helps immensely in getting there. I truly remember coordinators I’ve worked with who followed instructions with thought, and who submit on time, or early (sadly rare). Yes, it’s back-to-back deadlines and there’s never enough time, but I think it’s important to develop a sensitivity to the quality of the materials you submit, to respect the process and what it entails to be late, or unresponsive. It shows you care, and in your own way, you become a conduit of your firm’s values and standards.
Finally, I may be stating the obvious here, but I think all marketers should view their work as a means towards professional development. Do exemplary work not only for your performance review and bonus, but also with a mind towards putting yourself, and the quality of your work, out there. The firm that led that last pursuit may be looking for their next marketer in six months – you detested their template and the many follow-up requests, but wouldn’t it be lovely if they remembered how responsive and organized you were and invited you to interview? You may not be in the market now, but our industries are fast-paced and ever-evolving, so always audition for the part.