THE 3 Rs: RFPs, RELATIONSHIPS & REASONS:
A friend who works for a large construction company recently explained how most of their projects are won through a Request for Proposal (RFP). They believe that their relationships with architects and engineers, who are designing these projects before the contractor is brought in, are the reason they're invited to participate in the RFP.
Another conversation with a consulting firm in the building space yielded a similar conclusion. These guys are usually brought in by the construction company to make sure they're compliant with certain standards. Where they fall in the order of events is different, but the process is the same. As is the belief that their relationship is what got them invited to the RFP process in the first place.
So if you work in business development or sales for one of these companies, is networking the only thing you can do to 1) get invited to more RFPs and 2) win more deals? How do you grow your business in another location if you don't have any people there yet?
And let's say you are doing an amazing job at getting leads through networking, are you confident that your website corroborates your good first impression when those leads go back to their office and look you up online? Will your website also show them that your company has as much of an understanding of their problem as you do? Will it give them even more reasons to contact you again? Or less?
HOW CONTENT MARKETING STRENGTHENS THE RFP SALES PROCESS:
We all know that relationships are significant in winning an RFP. What is less known and quantifiable is where those relationships begin; in-person or online.
In today's world, where much of any relationship, in the beginning or otherwise, happens online, the companies utilizing content marketing to strengthen their online presence are going to come out ahead. The reasons being that content marketing:
What do we all look for when we turn to the almighty Google? Answers, right? We want information, help, insight on something. And we don't want that from just anybody, we want it from an expert, someone who understands our problem, as well or better than we do.
That's why we never click on the right side of Google, we know those companies paid to be there. They didn't earn the right to be there through their knowledge or expertise, like the businesses on the left-side.
Content marketing allows us to demonstrate our thought leadership and gives us the opportunity to be teachers in our space. And by teaching, we can earn trust.
A strategic content marketing, or inbound marketing, plan also encompasses keywords and strengthens your SEO and digital "footprint" so that you get found online, 24/7. Anywhere in the world.
And if you're one of those companies who believes your prospects do not look for you online, try entering something in Google that a prospect might type when looking for your services. Do you come up on the first page? Do any of your competitors come up? How many results are there? Probably millions, right?
So if you made a list of questions that your prospects might have, and then blogged about each one of those, wouldn't that be valuable to them? Maybe help them do their job better? Maybe earn your trust before you've ever even met them?
The RFP process by nature is meant to level the playing field and to allow the purchaser to more easily compare apples to apples. It can be very difficult in a standard RFP to show the insight and experience that goes into your work, the quality of your process and other ways in which your firm adds value.
You can however do all of that through content marketing. By creating content which talks about common challenges for your prospects, and how you've solved those in the past, you can demonstrate your deep understanding of the issues, the potential pitfalls and how your process works to reduce risk.
Not all projects use an RFP. Even some deals with the Federal government are below the threshold. Getting in the door first through a smaller deal, and making sure it goes well, could help you get invited for the larger RFP deals later. And have a better chance at winning them.
You might also have better margins on those smaller deals, and need less of the large projects by having a mix of the two types.
If you wanted to expand into a new city, state or niche area without any existing contacts, another option could be to use paid advertising. It is an option that can definitely work, at a price. Because of the expense however, the ROI on advertising is typically much lower than inbound marketing.
We compare advertising to leased assets because as soon as you stop paying, the value stops as well. Content and inbound marketing however creates digital assets which have a compounding effect. Not only do they create value for your business on the day they're published, but they will continue to generate leads next week, next month and next year.
If you're in marketing, you probably feel that a big part of your job is to deliver sales qualified leads to the sales team. And if you're in sales, you probably appreciate that your marketing team is helping you attract these leads so you need to do less 'hunting'.
When the whole company understands why and how content marketing is being used to attract qualified leads, it gives each person within the organization an understanding of the role they play personally in helping that happen. Sales, consultants and customer service people who have the most contact with customers are in an ideal position to help marketing better understand what your customer's challenges are, and how your organization helps solve them.
Content and inbound marketing is more than just marketing, it's a philosophy of teaching, helping and adding value. Attracting those who are a good fit, and disqualifying those who are not.
An organization's website, and all of its content, is the only part of any businesses which works 24/7, around the globe. To not take advantage of that is a missed opportunity.
Do you work at an organization that sells through RFPs and uses content marketing? What are your thoughts and best practices? Or if you're in purchasing and issue RFPs, what have you found? We would love it if you shared your opinion with us and how your vendors' content marketing helps you.
Ready to start creating content? Download our free inbound marketing resource pack - it'll give you 2 how-to guides and a buyer persona template that will help your team hit the ground running.