Bid process

The intriguing case of the case study

How often are you asked to include case studies and experience examples in bids? The likelihood is that we’re asked for some variation of such experience in almost every bid. They are important pieces of the bid response puzzle because, as the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says:

“You wouldn’t put much trust in a surgeon who had never performed the operation you needed, nor one who had made multiple attempts and failed at each. Similarly, customers prefer organizations that can demonstrate both experience that is relevant to the management and technical work they need done (relevant experience) and a track record of success (past performance).”

APMP Body of Knowledge

In last year’s blog, we talked about the different ways in which you can effectively file such experience – within dedicated subject folders, or perhaps using defined file name and/or tag words in a larger database. But how do you create your past performance library in the first place? And more importantly, how do you keep it up to date and add new or differently focused examples, so you aren’t having to scramble for the most relevant example at the last minute?

Andy Dwyer’s approach to work – no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing it really well

We all know those public sector bids that ask for contract examples within the last three years, and that really is best practice. Does a case study or experience example from 10 years ago hold the same weight?

Of course, the easiest way is to copy down any case studies and examples used after each bid – easy, but not always quick! If you have them saved already, you will need to check if you’d made any updates and if so, save this new version down. At one organisation, we saved different versions of the same client / case study in one document, but with headings so you knew what was slightly different in each. For example, anonymised, short-form, long-form, employment-focused, real estate focused and so on. It probably won’t come as a surprise that this was the organisation from our previous blog where we used tags in the file names!

But again, this assumes we already have the case studies and examples written – what if you are starting from scratch? Focusing specifically on the more detailed case studies now, rather than the few-line experience examples, my best practice brain means I am a big fan of the humble template. Not only will this give helpful prompts those drafting the case study, it will (usually!) ensure you have covered all the various options clients will ask for – although bear in mind you may still need to tailor headings and content to be compliant with the client’s requirements. Key headings/information may include:

  • Client name
  • Contract/project title/description, location, dates, and value
  • Client contact name, title, telephone number and email (you may also want to note whether you have ongoing permission to use this contact and case study, or whether you need to request permission each time)
  • Brief summary of the contract/project
  • Your role
  • Challenges / issues encountered
  • Results e.g. was the aim of the project to improve performance, and over the course of the project, your role achieved an uplift in customer satisfaction of 20 percentage points?
  • Quantifiable benefits achieved for the client
  • Awards/nominations related to the work
  • Client testimonials

So now we know what to include, but when do you draft or request new case studies? To try and get ahead of the game, why not implement a process whereby each time a project or contract completes, the responsible project manager or account manager completes the case study template as part of the close-out? Or for longer, strategic contracts which may be in place for several years, you could include this activity as part of the client annual review process, meaning it is guaranteed to be updated annually (as a minimum).

Obviously even with the best intentions, we cannot cover off all clients’ scopes and requirements and so we often end up creating new case studies (or amending existing ones) during the bid. If that is the case, provide the template and supporting guidance to the person (or people) with responsibility for drafting, and set a deadline that is both realistic for them to revert by, but also allows enough time for review, potential redraft/amends ahead of the bid final review.

Either way, preparation will save you a considerable amount of time the next time you’re asked for a similar case study.

Bid content

File or Flight?

How do you handle filing the bid-specific but onwardly useful information? We’re not talking about the content here, but case studies, CVs/bios, and pricing examples that you might not use every time, but provide key information next time you have a bid in the same sector.

Are you the “save everything down” team, or the “tender database” team? Having worked in both team types, there are positives for both approach.

Some firms saved the full bid after submission, in SharePoint or other online repositories. We could search basics, such as the sector, business lead, and work area (as long as they’d originally been saved correctly of course!), but could not ‘search inside’ the tenders to know if they included specific peoples’ bios, or specific case studies when you were looking for something in particular. Unless you’d worked on the tender, you were going in blind. You might be searching through tens of tenders to find the one bio you need, or relying on others in the teams to give you pointers on where to look for certain information. On the flip side, the positives were that when you opened the tenders to search for information, you might find something else that you wanted to use, or spark another idea.

In contrast, at a different organisation, we saved down all the case studies and bios in dedicated folders following every bid. The case studies were saved with the client name, sector and other tag words in the file name. Short and long versions were saved into the same file, so you always had an option depending on word limits etc. Bios were saved firstly in office location folders, then alphabetically by team member, and again with the client name, sector and date in the file name. Yes, it meant we sometimes had 50 bios for one person, but they were all slightly different – vital when you are searching for specific industry experience. With pricing, we had example fee menus saved for the various work areas which – although they were always tailored to the client and the project – gave us a starting point, rather than a blank page or hunting through hundreds of tenders to find examples.

This approach meant that the next time we had a property bid for a technology client, for example, we could quickly identify the latest, most relevant, bios for the required team members, the most relevant case studies, and ideas for pricing. All saving time in drafting and input from SMEs.

While you innately build up a knowledge base in your head over time, and will know where information is stored, new starters or those in linked teams do not have that knowledge

Whichever direction your team takes, the most important factor is to properly share how your system works/should be used, and to give training to any new starters or other teams on where to find information. As with most tools, they only work if we know how to use them. And while you innately build up a knowledge base in your head over time, and will know where information is stored, new starters or those in linked teams do not have that knowledge. Share the love!

Bid content

Using creative case studies and CVs for bids

What proportion of the bids you work on ask for the provision of case studies and/or team CVs? At the ITT/RFP stage, a conservative estimate might be at least 75%. And even if they’re not formally requested, are you missing a trick by not including case studies of your previous work and brief bios of your team in relevant answers?

Both are what the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) Body of Knowledge terms proof points: “Proof points are facts that provide verifiable evidence for your solution’s features and benefits. They support your company’s win themes and discriminators. Without proof points, proposal evaluators may question whether features are proven and benefits are achievable. Proof points make your proposal compelling to a customer.”

Put simply – the bid response showcases what you could do for the client – case studies and CVs prove it.

Keeping a log of the case studies, along with details of the last time you used them is a useful tool

Of course, for case studies, you should always ensure you request and receive your clients’ sign off to use their name and details of the contract in future bids. File them in your content library by sector, and/or using key word ‘tags’ that can be added to the document properties. The general rule of thumb – prompted by public sector bids which similar give this timeline – is that case studies used should be no older than three years, so their regular review is an important task. Keeping a log of the case studies (including whether you need to request permission each time, or you have a blanket ‘ok’ to use), along with details of the last time you used them is also a useful tool; especially if you are using the case study as a formal reference – after all, there could be a risk of annoyance to your client if they are asked for every bid you submit.

CVs for all team members should be filed in your content library with the bid/client and date in the file name. This will help you see at a glance which are the most recent and, more importantly, relevant for each team member as the CV should be tailored for the specific opportunity; particularly important if your organisation works across multiple sectors, common in professional services for example. Again, regularly review to ensure leavers are removed from the library.

But how do you make your case studies and CVs really stand out from the competition, even before the evaluator has read one word?

Do you now use a simple template to include in an Appendix, or a call out box in the main body of text? While the structure may of course be client-prescribed, a more recent – and more creative – approach we’ve seen is to use an infographic style presentation, either as a full case study, or as a lead in for more detailed text / client examples summarised in bullet points underneath.

Many people prefer, or more quickly process, images to words

Take a look at the basic examples for a client case study and team CV for a contact centre bid below. As an evaluator, would these capture your attention more than a full page of text? Do they bring the subject to life, and would they make for a more compelling or appealing response compared to bidders using text only?

Figure 1: Example of a client case study infographic
Figure 2: Example of a team member CV infographic

It’s often said that many people prefer, or more quickly process, images to words, so why not give your proof points the best possible start during the evaluation process? While these examples were produced quickly in Microsoft PowerPoint for the purpose of this blog, there are many free infographic templates available, or you may be lucky enough to have an in-house design team who can produce an all-singing all-dancing page spread.

It can be time-consuming to produce a case study or CV, but once you have built up your library, they can be quickly tailored to resonate with specific bid requirements or to show how you’ve previously, and successfully, handled any client pain points. And, for the right clients/opportunities, used creatively to illustrate your proof points.

The key with these, as with all things bids, is to file with relevance, review and update regularly and use with intent!