Read this guest blog by Kevin Masi, Co-Founder & CMO at Torque Digital, to learn how proposal software is defining their brand and could influence yours.
Since I started my business in 1992, we’ve always looked for ways to improve our marketing, our finances and our operations. As we’ve gotten better, what I’ve also found is that these three areas are much more interconnected than I had ever considered. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that because of growing competition, the need to differentiate ourselves from competitors is more critical than ever. Brands are the expression of what makes a business different and valuable to the market. And we are beginning to see all the ways that operations affect our brand – and seeing how our handling of financial matters also affects our brand.
Finance is Brand
Proposal writing is really an informal title for several critical aspects of the business, especially pricing and contracts. Good proposals that are accurate (meaning that they describe engagements we can deliver profitably) and that get signed by clients (meaning that clients perceive the value we are proposing to create) are tough to write and involve several people, from the person handling new business, to the person who will lead the relationship, to the delivery team who will log hours and produce the marketing outputs profitably. The perception of value, linked to the investment required, is central to the perception of brand and brand meaning.
An Analog History
Why is this a new topic? To date, we’ve written our proposals as the final leg of a journey that includes showing our credentials and experiences, qualifying our team’s capabilities and developing various drafts of what the marketing and creative solution might be for a specific client.
The final contract is a document that summarizes all of these efforts, and also draws from our basic service rates, and incorporates custom elements and considerations. Our sources are manifold: historical project database; documents and spreadsheets housed on Google Drive and File Servers. They are referenced by naming systems and file timestamps.
Ultimately the document goes through various versions and iterations, submitted and resubmitted to the client as exported PDF files and attached to email or posted on the cloud and sent as links. Throughout, and even with the most careful management of the process, multiple versions of source, draft and final agreement sprout like mushrooms on both shared and local computers and devices. Although these rarely hit paper as hard copies, the process can only be described as analog, since it is organized manually and not part of a master data structure.
A Better Way or a Whole New Competency?
At some point in our plans for growth, we recognized the limitations of the above process, mostly coming out of attempts to master our pricing strategy. However, once we began looking at the category of cloud-based contract database tools, we soon discovered that this wasn’t a better way, but something new altogether. A new business discipline. If one thing rises to the top of what we can now do with our database-driven proposal software, I would say it’s better control of our pricing strategy and process. But that’s just the start. These are other time-saving, value-creating and brand-driving benefits we are experiencing:
- Centralized pricing tables
- A library of proposals, from drafts with collaborating contributors to executed and archived engagements
- Error-free documents
- Consistent terminology and scope definitions
- Complete control and visibility of the review and approval stages
- Electronic signatures
- A learning process, where tools and templates get better through the experience writing of each proposal
- Brand value perception
Get Smarter, Faster
As with any new insight, if we had suspected all of the benefits, we would have converted much sooner. That’s why marketing is such a fascinating story of human nature and the understanding of the buyer’s journey that starts with the first inklings, then matures, strengthens, and accelerates as the ideas take hold and the understanding of benefit deepens.
Brand Meets Finance
Not all marketers fall in love with FinTech. But we suspect that the chance is high once they see that a great contract process is part of competitive differentiation, and thus the brand experience.
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