Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be an arduous process – compiling all of the information, formatting it correctly, answering the questions effectively… it’s exhausting just thinking about it.
The content of your response is crucial, but have you considered the way it looks?
What? I thought I just had to answer the questions!
I’m here to let you know: design matters. In the competitive area of RFPs, good design shows that you have put thought and effort into your response, it can also enhance the reader experience and make your company look more professional. A well-designed proposal will make you stand out from your competition.
Your RFP should reflect your brand
If you have a style guide for your business, then you already have the basic building blocks of your brand. You’ve built your business brand for a reason – use it! Using the fonts, color palette, and design elements that define your brand will make your communications look consistent and show your attention to detail. Every piece that you put out into the world should speak to your audience and convey your mission – consistent branding will focus your efforts and provide recognition.
Remember, this could be the first piece of marketing that your potential client sees – make sure it’s a clear reflection of your business. If the document looks sloppy and unorganized, so do you.
Your proposal can’t just look good, it has to communicate effectively
RFPs can be lengthy and often include detailed or technical information. Organizing your content in a consistent and clear manner will help the reader get the information they need quickly. Think about the person that has just read 14 other RFP responses (my eyes…) before they get to yours. If they have to put in extra effort to understand your text, you have already lost ground.
Make sure you take the time to think about the hierarchy of information. Define headings, subheads, body content, lists, and so on with thoughtfulness and keep it consistent throughout your document. Our minds like effective organization in order to categorize and understand content. Similar to looking at a road map, readers prefer a clear sense of direction.
Graphics can give your information more impact
Visual aids can have a positive effect on your RFP. The benefit is two-fold. First, it is often easier for the viewer to draw quick conclusions from information presented in a graphic format. Second, imagery can be used to break up large sections of text to give the reader a visual break.
Remember, it is your job to lead the viewer through the information – if the road gets too long (or boring) and their mind starts to wander, they might move on to another candidate. A metaphorical street sign can keep them on track.
So… what kind of graphics will help my proposal?
Does this mean inserting a photo of adorable, fluffy kittens into long paragraphs gives you an edge? Definitely not, unless your content directly relates to kittens – in that case, insert meow.
The type of information you are presenting will dictate which graphics would be appropriate. Any imagery that you use should help to clarify or highlight key points within your text. If it is not doing this, then it is likely unnecessary and possibly confusing.
This is so important, that we’re saying it again. In a graphic. With really big words.
Infographics, charts, and graphs visually communicate information in a different way than using words alone. This shows that you have a good understanding of the material AND that you can utilize out-of-the-box thinking.
Let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather see some imagery rather than page after page of words? Think about different ways you can present information. Does the RFP ask for a list of board members? It could be shown visually with photos of each member and a flow chart of their hierarchy. Is there an important statistic that you’d like to highlight? A graphic call-out or sidebar might have more impact than one more line of text.
Here’s an example of an infographic that allows you to easily compare different types of marketing communications visually. This particular graphic was created to work for both print and web applications. Take a look at the fun interactive version here.
What is the benefit of hiring a professional?
A professional designer adds value to your proposal design in many ways. The obvious benefit is that your response will look fantastic, but there are other ways a good designer can help streamline your RFP process.
For example, often Annatto creates an RFP template that can be used as a starting point for all future proposals. Once you have a solid layout for your responses, each RFP can utilize the same basic design, further reinforcing your brand consistency. This is a huge time-saver for your company! We also provide print and/or web-ready versions based on submission guidelines.
A professional can also organize commonly used RFP elements so that you have a library to build from, making your process more efficient. These could be charts, tables of information, etc. that you find yourself using frequently. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time you need to provide the same information.
Form and Function
While the information that you are presenting will always be the most important part of your proposal, how it looks does matter. Poorly designed proposals can be confusing and fail to communicate the amazing job that you could do for your potential client. Just like we were all taught, first impressions matter. If your proposal has looks and brains, you are much more likely to edge out your competitors.
Need help whipping your RFPs into shape? Contact Annatto today!