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The Bid Development Unit

Ultimately most serious professional firms have only one objective, to increase the number and size of the bids they win and that satisfy their core ambitions. That is the bottom line. Everything else that loosely comes under “Marketing” should be judged on the extent to which it helps achieve this.

The Bid Development Unit is used to support and reinforce the efforts of the senior team.

Professional firms operate within relatively tight margins of profitability. They have little spare cash. Most are undercapitalised. Any expenditure therefore of time, or of cash, that is not focused on this bottom line is especially threatening to their success. So “Events”, “Historical Books”, “PR”, “Database development”, “Brochures”, “CRM” all should be challenged in terms of

  • is this the best way we can spend our scarce time and cash to improve the bottom line?
  • can we set tangible targets to monitor the action and to check its degree of success?
  • is the activity focused on sectors of the market where our strengths, track record and passions are most in synch?
  • are we concentrating/prioritising our investment on decision makers most likely to use us, appreciate us, and pay us handsomely for our expertise?
  • are we maximising the use of our specialists?

All of this is especially true during a period of market turmoil. The trouble is that carrying out such a process is a real challenge for lead designers, senior architects and indeed all professionals. In many cases it is a stressful one. They:

  • Realise only too clearly the business significance of winning new jobs.
  • Appreciate all too well the stressfully competitive nature of the bid process and indeed may well failed in several recent attempts to win work.
  • They are likely to identify with and want the job, often passionately, for themselves.
  • They are often already busy and have little time to prepare.
  • They may have little detailed understanding of the client.
  • It is unlikely that they will have the same degree of writing, speaking and listening skills as their highly developed visual and construction capabilities.

The role of the BDU is to provide as much business development underpinning as possible.

The BDU may be one person, it may over time grow considerably to keep pace with the overall growth in the business. A £10m turnover client of mine has now a team of 6 staff. A £1.5m turnover client used its 4 partners. Whatever its size, it should be staffed with the brightest people, dedicated to the success of the business and to learning, to sharpening and evolving its commercial and business winning skills. Numbers of people are no replacement for brains and commitment.

The BDU should build up a special network of its own supporters, advisors, and consultants. In particular it should have on call its own panels of friends within the firm’s target markets to provide advice on Contacts, Communications, PR, CRM, and Sector development.

The BDU’s priorities are 8 fold, to:

  1. coordinate and improve the quality of bids made.
  2. process and learn from client feedback.
  3. coordinate, support and oversee the marketing cascade.
  4. coordinate, support and question the sectoral focus of the firm.
  5. establish the client data base and implement the e market awareness campaign and web development.
  6. establish and implement a rolling PR campaign and Sector based Awareness Machine.
  7. appoint and coordinate a BDU Advice Group of external experts.
  8. Underpin the content and production of the Business Plan with the Chairman and CEO.

How will the unit look and function?

The BDU will be small but highly powered, experienced and expert. It will start with:

  • A Business Development head reporting directly to the CEO/Managing Partner.
  • A PA/Secretary of great skill with senior people/ IT&C/Administration and Data Bases.
  • Conscious access to the latest thinking and expertese in technology and communications.

All serious professional groups need the following delivered on an ongoing, and trusted basis:

For most professionals bids mean stress and rejection, so help them with very bright expert staff.

  • Coordination, monitoring and help for each partner to create and deliver their Marketing Cascade, and Awareness Programme as part of the Business Plan.
  • Support and review of all bids to increase effectiveness.
  • Expertise to oversee, coordinate and direct all the agreed support required by bidders – written materials, presentation skills, client liaison.
  • The ability to implement and review a refreshed, reformed and justified PR Programme.
  • Skilled support for the Chairman and CEO as one of the three responsible for the practice’s Business Plan.

The full test of the person who fills this role will be:

  • Their ability to add value to the bidding process at once.
  • Their total grasp of the Marketing Cascade, Awareness Programme, Scenarios, E marketing and Web plans.
  • Their ability to lead/coach the firm’s senior staff.
  • Their ability to meet with and develop client relations at the most senior level.
  • The impact that the BDU can make on the firm’s success especially in the tough market conditions you are facing.

The BDU Director will already be familiar with and know decision makers in many of the firm’s core sectors, and would have massive experience in Business to Business selling. It is likely that he/she will be in their late 40’s/ early 50’s.