A company's brand is among its most valuable assets. A strong brand--one known for providing quality products, services and solutions that add value--is essential for your company's ongoing growth and success.

Yet, I find, many companies do very little to incorporate their brand assets as a prominent component in their RFP responses. Why? Because proposal teams often don't understand the company's brand strategy or how to incorporate it into the RFP response. This is where your in-house creative services organization's writers and graphic designers can add value to your bid process and proposal responses.

What's in a Brand?

A company's brand is how it's perceived by customers, competitors and others outside the company. A well-respected brand with a strong recognition in the marketplace may be the most valuable asset your company owns and is one of the intangible assets that must be reflected when you respond to an RFP.

Branding is a phenomenon once confined to consumer products. However, branding has gained currency as an important factor in B2B and B2G (business-to-government) markets and is certain to become an increasingly important factor as companies seek more ways to differentiate themselves.

When corporations and government are faced with a buying need, they send out a RFP. They generally do not send it to every supplier in the industry. The criteria they bear in mind when deciding which companies they would include on the consideration list is a company's reputation, the company's brand.

In-House Creative Services Groups--Keepers of Your Company's Brand

As keepers of your company's brand strategy, in-house creative services organizations can effectively infuse your company's brand into RFP responses. They have the awareness and brand knowledge to ensure brand messaging and visual representation is used to correctly and effectively differentiate your company from the competition.

Your in-house writers and designers understand and act on how clients, prospects and others view your company. This understanding can be employed to meet your customers' needs, improve customer loyalty, fuel growth and boost profitability during boom periods and sustain your company during tough economic times.

Copywriters Bring Brand Messaging

Why would anyone pay more for a company's products or services? This "premium" effect is often achieved by marketing and branding better than the competition. Brand messaging shapes external perceptions of a company's products and services and the overall business itself. Effective brand messaging starts by understanding the attributes and value proposition of your company and its products and services in relation to competitors. Key elements include:

  • Awareness--A company that proactively markets itself and sustains strong brand awareness in the marketplace will consistently generate qualified lead generation. Keeping your company top-of-mind everyday among prospects takes focus and commitment, and generally is the responsibility of your in-house marketing and creative services organizations. When a buyer is interested in a product or service, they will typically contact the first provider they are familiar with. This gives the vendor with the highest awareness (you) a chance to pitch more sales opportunities than competitors who don't use their brand as effectively.
  • Credibility--A company that effectively positions itself as industry experts or thought leaders can significantly shorten the sales cycle and get on the "short list" more often. Buyers will typically make faster purchasing decisions with vendors they know and trust...vendors with a strong brand.
  • Reputation--Corporate reputation goes hand-in-hand with market awareness and industry credibility. Companies that establish themselves as market leaders are well positioned to demand a premium for their products and services. Prospects are typically willing to pay more if they truly believe they are buying the best.
  • Customer Satisfaction--A critical brand factor is customer satisfaction. The judgment of customers can be the lifeblood or liability of the company. Feelings of satisfaction lead to loyalty and loyalty leads to revenue. Satisfied customers can represent both recurring revenue and new revenue via references to other customers and upselling and cross selling opportunities.

Brand in Visuals
The evaluators who read the countless RFP submissions will at some point become bleary-eyed. So, submit your response knowing that standing out from the pile of submissions will work to your favor. Consider what may be visually appealing to the reader. Have your in-house creatives employ photographs, text boxes, flow charts and graphs to represent and reinforce the content.

Brand is a word often thrown around and often misunderstood. Many think of brand as a logo, but that is only a small part of the visual aspects of a brand. All aspects should be represented in your Graphic Style Guide. Some aspects relative to the RFP response include:

  • The color palette--use it consistently throughout the proposal document and in oral presentations. Limit the palette to 5 colors (and shades or percentages) from your corporate color palette. Apply these 5 colors in a structured hierarchical manner.
  • The "style" of photography--your style guide will indicate whether photos should be represented literally or metaphorically, or as a single image or a montage, as silhouetted or as images with backgrounds
  • The style and size of business and informational graphics-- 2- or 3-dimensional, full page, 1/2 page, 1/4 page
  • The "packaging" of content--the document, cover and PowerPoint templates (including margins and grids)
  • Typography--use the standard and default fonts, as indicated in the style guide, consistently and employ legibility considerations


Effectively executed graphics should demonstrate the intangible aspects of your brand such as reliable, sophisticated, stable, methodical and well organized.


Demonstrate Your Company's Creativity in the RFP Response
Reading so many responses to the same RFP doesn't just blur the eyes--it blurs the mind. How do you keep the evaluator interested?

  • By telling the story of your company in clear, professional language that conveys your brand attributes and value proposition
  • By weaving in compelling messaging using a writing style that goes beyond the dry language of meeting RFP technical specifications
  • By supporting the content with visual aids as described above,
  • By keeping the content concise and well written
  • By keeping the visuals simple and straight forward

The more creative and compelling your RFP response, the more likely you are to hold the evaluator's attention.

The RFP response is an opportunity to establish your company as an effective solver of business problems. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate your company's style and creativity. By making your RFP response stand out in a crowd, you send a message that you can make their company stand out in a crowd as well. Even a conservative client can appreciate a creative packaging of the response.

Just be careful not to make your RFP response so unique and different that you unintentionally come across that you don't understand the client or the seriousness of the RFP and decision-making process. With that in mind--get more creative in your RFPs! Your in-house writers and designers can make it happen.