I’ll never forget my first meeting with a capture lead.
We both sat there a bit stunned after I’d outlined my strategy to improve success rates.
He had no clue that any of this was allowed in the bid world.
I had no clue why anyone would think that.
You could sense opportunity in air – it felt like a meteoroid-sized penny had just dropped. And in that split second, I knew I would have more meetings like this.
In each one, I would get all fired up about proven digital marketing tactics – the kind used every day to turn cold audiences into brand advocates – and how powerful they can be for bids.
And each time, the capture person across the table (or Zoom screen) would say:
“Oh no, I don’t think we can do that… can we?”
And I’d reply:
“Hell-the-fuck yes you can.”
Why is the bid world blind to digital marketing’s potential?
What I’ve learned from my meetings so far is this…
3 major misconceptions stop most capture people from harnessing the power of digital marketing.
Before I list out each of these and explain where the huge opportunities lie, let me say for the record how much I respect capture management as a speciality. I also totally appreciate the strategy, science and skill it takes to become great at it. It’s a real art.
So I’m not writing any of this to put anyone down or pretend I’ve got all the answers.
It’s simply my belief that these 3 big misconceptions can be easily flipped – and that this opens the door for digital marketing to help completely transform the way you:
• Target and nurture prospective clients • Influence RFP questions and content • Steer perceptions and agendas • Drive awareness of your company and solutions • Win bids and retain clients
I don’t just believe that digital marketing works for bids, I know it works.
Because I see it working. Every day.
The tools and tactics I’m going to talk about come straight from my marketing agency’s playbook. My team and I help many, many bid teams become significantly more successful using the same exact strategies I’m about to disclose to you.
It’s what we call Capture Marketing, and you can read more about that here.
But for now, let’s get back to those 3 reasons that needlessly stop so many capture people from tapping into the unreal potential of digital marketing.
Misconception #1: digital marketing is against the rules
There’s no official Bid Bible stating you absolutely must not market yourself to bid or procurement teams when there’s an RFP on the horizon.
And yet shouting about strengths, win themes and differentiators (i.e. marketing) outside of the official tender process seems to be universally frowned upon.
Seriously – next time you’re in a room full of bid people, try even whispering the words ‘social media advertising’. It’s a great way to make a whole room instantly uncomfortable!
There’s just this strange perception that strategic digital marketing as a form of self-promotion is risky or anti-competitive.
No more so than regular advertising campaigns any brand has ever put out.
It’s simply a tried-and-tested, proven-over-decades way to tell people what you can do for them and why they need it.
I don’t know about you but I see nothing wrong in that!
The missed opportunity
Showcasing all your benefits to potential clients before an RFP will never be a bad decision.
By reaching them on a variety of platforms, through a variety of engaging non-salesy content, all you’re doing is giving yourself the best chance to:
• Build awareness • Steer conversations and RFP questions in your favour • Influence the agenda; and • Create front of mind consideration
Digital offers one of your best chances to paint the big picture for your prospects. To demonstrate how they can future-proof by putting a spotlight on what’s coming next and how you can help them get ahead. To take them from what they think they need to what you know they need.
It’s your best chance to sell them the dream.
Is any of this against the rules, risky or anti-competitive?
But here’s the thing:
If 90% of the capture community think digital marketing is off-limits then what does that leave you with?
A whole lot of playing field all to yourself.
Concern #2: digital marketing is too invasive
If I start talking to you about targeting content to your carefully cultivated contacts on LinkedIn or Facebook, you might recoil in horror, hiss at me, or maybe both.
And don’t get me wrong – I understand the reluctance here.
The word ‘targeting’ can easily be misinterpreted as ‘spamming’ or ‘stalking’ – i.e. the quickest way to piss people right off. Which I know is the last thing you want to do.
You might also take one glance at your stakeholder mapping chart and say there’s nowhere near enough decision-makers to justify a targeted social media campaign anyway.
I’ll quickly address both points.
The missed opportunity 1) I 100% agree that careless spammy content is bloody annoying. You wouldn’t want to see it or send it (and neither would I).
But the targeting I’m talking about is a different ballgame altogether.
This is about taking your win themes and hot buttons for each type of stakeholder and creating a supporting content sequence that regularly (but not relentlessly) reaches your prospects in a more personal context, e.g. social media, when their guard is down.
The core brand messages you’ll be focusing on in the bid are subtly reinforced through whitepapers, cleverly positioned case studies and thought-provoking articles, allowing you to subliminally highlight your strengths and your competitors’ shortfalls.
As an example:
If you want your prospect to understand that X is the best solution for their pains – yet you know they don’t really know the first thing about it – you could put out an “idiots guide to X”. This will educate them without embarrassing them and they’ll love you a little bit for it.
Your prospect really needs a partner with X technology. You have it. Your biggest competitor doesn’t. Tell them how well you fit the bill without blatantly bashing the competition – create some engaging posts highlighting how well you do X and make sure they see it.
At no point when any of this is happening will they realise they’re being targeted.
In fact, it’s far more likely they’ll subconsciously think: “I’ve seen a few decent things from them recently, they must be doing well.”
2) As far as numbers go? The latest targeting and social media technology can spotlight your not just your core prospects but their entire web of relevant connections.
Casting the net wider than key decision-makers and stakeholders, you can target the individuals influencing this group too, and even the micro-influencers who influence those influencers.
My team will take a list of 50 top prospects and turn it into a targeting pool of 600 using these advanced social media scraping techniques.
Imagine the difference it would make if multiple influential people within one company all had your company’s name, reputation and benefits on the tip of their tongue…
Concern #3: digital marketing isn’t relevant
“There’s no point targeting my contacts on social media. They don’t care about all that.”
I hear this a lot.
And, while it’s probably true that social media has never come up in your conversations with stakeholders so far… that doesn’t mean they aren’t avidly scrolling through timelines before bed just like the rest of us.
The proof is in the pudding: we find very high match rates for senior corporate job titles on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
But there’s a real worry in the bid world that dedicating resource to something like social media can’t be justified.
The missed opportunity
Consider this for a second…
If I could prove definitively that your top prospects and all their influencing connections were active on LinkedIn, and could deliver a stream of powerful content to them, warming them up to your brand using the cheapest (but still highly effective) form of advertising…
Would it even cross your mind to say “Err no thanks, we’re good as we are”?
To me, this all goes back to the old-school advertising principle: show up where your prospects are.
Back in the day, this would mean tracking a CEO target’s daily commute and placing a billboard at the train station they wait at, an ad in the newspaper they read and a poster at the tube station they cram into like clockwork at rush hour.
Of course, this would be complete overkill for you and your capture contacts.
But the same level of impact can now be achieved online with precision accuracy for literally a fraction of the cost.
By ignoring social media as a communication channel, you’re cutting yourself off from an invaluable opportunity to get yourself seen, heard and respected ahead of an RFP.
So digital marketing helps you get the business, what next?
“You start losing a bid the second you win it.”
That’s what I always say to my clients.
Because having this mentality right from the start means you never take your eye off the ball when it comes to nurturing relationships and lining yourself up to keep the contract.
And guess what plays a huge part in doing this well?
Yep, it’s those words again:
See, as much as things like social media content sequences and advanced targeting are extremely useful before the RFP is even sent out – they are just as important once the bid is won too.
Think of what happens pre-RFP as laying the foundations for a great long-term client relationship, and setting the benchmark for how you will work with them.
This early role of digital marketing is to help your prospect learn more about you day by day and take notice of what makes you extraordinary. This steers internal conversations, perceptions of their company’s needs, and RFP content in the direction you need. And eventually lands you the win.
The next phase is just as important.
Digital marketing should then be used to keep you right at the forefront of your new client’s mind, nurture the relationship and massively enhance your customer retention strategy.
While you and your team are busy delivering “the dream”, the content strategy shifts, working like magic in the background to communicate project successes, and promote brand results and innovation. Just like before, you can also influence conversations about future directions to make sure their longer-term goals develop in line with yours.
The digital opportunity is there for the taking…
It’s really as simple as that.
A digital game plan guaranteed to strengthen any capture strategy is lying right in the palm of your hands.
It’s not risky or against the rules.
It’s not too invasive.
It’s not irrelevant to your audience.
It’s quite honestly just a powerful, effective and surprisingly inexpensive lead engagement approach that’s criminally underutilised within capture.
1) Grasp this opportunity to bring valuable tools used outside the bid world, into the bid world – and let the results do the talking (which they will, fast) 2) Be glad that you’re onto this before the majority of your capture competitors – because once the secret’s out and those misconceptions are shot to smithereens for good, the digital playing field will truly be packed.
If any part of you – even just a teeny thought bubble in a dark, cobwebby corner of your brain is still thinking “But why should I try this?”
All you need to ask yourself is…
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