The place for proposal people

Unlock your creative bid writing: go supermarket shopping!

Unlock your creative bid writing with a trip to the supermarket… Watch, learn and admire how retailers move us inexorably from ‘need’ to ‘want’ and provide ‘fully-integrated solutions’ that demonstrate how well they know – and listen to – their customers.

Am I really saying a wander around a supermarket can improve your bid writing?  Indeed I am…. 

Right from the start, with straplines such as “every little helps”, “good with food” and “never knowingly undersold”, retailers embed their value proposition in our minds, setting our expectations long before we get there.  They know the win themes and key messages that will appeal to us (demonstrating shared cultural values) whether we buy primarily on price, overall value (loyalty discounts, special offers), quality, differentiation/quirkiness, ‘green’ credentials or brand labels. Exactly the same targeting of message and proposition we need to convey as we tailor our product and service solutions to the needs and budgets of different clients.

When you go into a store, every detail of the floor layout is planned to lead you to purchase. Retail psychologists know how we explore, select and buy and they are expert in directing us (literally and figuratively). They use  colour, sounds, smells and targeted lighting to attract us into and through different areas. They have wide-ranging approaches to product presentation to create or keep our interest. They make aisles wider or narrower to either keep us there longer or move us on quickly. And they place key products and offers at aisle ends or at specific heights that grab our attention.  We follow their directions (even more so these days), we absorb all their messaging – and by doing this we show in our purchase patterns and trends what we like and dislike.

Of course the retailers know that some of us go in armed with a list, a budget and a time limit – and intend to keep to all three.  Sometimes you will, but many many times you will stay longer and buy more. Can your bids persuade your clients and prospects to do that?

Supermarkets also recognised many years ago that enhancing customer satisfaction – and therefore sales – means understanding what else we have gone out for when we go shopping. In addition to food and household basics, also on our list might be pharmacy medicines, dry-cleaning, shoe repairs, taking cash out, buying gifts, flowers, newspapers, books, cards – and maybe a coffee and a teacake once the trolley is full. So increasingly they have incorporated these other items into their proposition, to create the one-stop-shop, where the convenience does make us buy more overall. It’s exactly the same with our bids. We want to show our clients we have thought in depth about what they need and can give them the peripheral products, the accessories and additional services that will deliver a complete fully-integrated offering, all to the same standards of quality, from one provider.

What’s the most annoying thing customers report about their local supermarket?  When products are moved around and you can’t zip along your normal route.  Of course they do this on purpose because if you become too accustomed to your usual navigation around the store, you stop noticing other products they want you to see.  So even though the change of product location irritates you, you aren’t going to switch to another shop and they know this.  You adapt, because the store has built your loyalty and you will flex. That’s a rather unilateral form of change management but worth remembering in your bids: once you have developed credibility and trust with a client, you are in a better position to recommend change and alternative proposals without compromising loyalty.

In case we think our supermarkets are getting too big and impersonal and losing sight of their local customer, many often have terrific community support programmes: demonstrating strong CSR in the same way our clients like to hear about in our bids. Supermarkets will also often showcase small local suppliers, to highlight their support for small and medium enterprises and for generating local employment and apprenticeships.  Again a strong message to emphasise in tenders.

Supermarkets also respond to social and industry trends, from the influx of kale and quinoa to the increased prominence of home baking and ‘ingredients’ aisles during lockdowns. Plus we have all seen the big supermarkets actively trying to engage more directly with their customers – personalising their proposition: staff wear name badges and appear directly in adverts.  Deli counters and in-store bakeries enable more personal service and engagement from staff – reduced in times of pandemic but hopefully on the cards to return.  Supermarkets want to have those counters because – just like in a bid situation, they know people buy from people.

So, once you’ve unpacked your shopping and sampled the special offer/new bakery products you hadn’t planned to buy, go back to your bid. Check if your key themes, way-finding (pathways through the text, use of colour and graphics), solution and product layout, balance and direction of information will pass the critical supermarket test.  Do your bids take your clients seamlessly from need to want, give them well-presented fully-integrated solutions and ultimately make it easy for them to buy from you and want to come back time and again?  If not, go shopping again!