How many of you are ALREADY working toward accomplishing your 2022 goals?
I recently sent an email to someone…actually more than one email to more than one someone…that listed some of the things that some companies are already doing in November 2021 to ensure that they start 2022 on the right foot. I happen to know what these companies are doing, because Bredemarket is helping them to do these things.
13 service descriptions
A library of standard RFP responses
Two case studies
Two statements of work
A response to an RFI
A white paper
An article featuring a technology partner
Analyses of NIST test results
An unsolicited proposal letter template
A pitch deck
As Bredemarket completes these projects (some of them are already completed), these companies are positioning themselves for increased business in 2022. Perhaps one of those two case studies, or that unsolicited proposal letter template, will help a company win a new customer.
What about your firm? What content does your firm need to get out your message?
November is almost gone, but there’s still time in December to prepare your 2022 content. And as your regular staff takes holiday vacations, perhaps a contractor may prove useful to you.
That’s where Bredemarket can help you. Whether you need a case study, a white paper, a proposal response, or something else (look at “what I do“), Bredemarket can provide you with that important holiday season assistance to get ready for 2022. If you can use Bredemarket’s assistance:
FTR FST (“future fest”), sponsored by 4th Sector Innovations, SwoopIn, and several other organizations, will be held on Friday, November 12 in downtown Ontario, California. While I’m primarily going for the “professional development” part, FTR FST also features creative expression (including food trucks, which appropriately fall into the “creative expression” category), collaboration, and a tech showcase.
The professional development schedule includes the following sessions, among others:
A keynote presentation from Colin Mangham entitled “Days of Future Past.” According to FTR FST, the topic will be biomimicry.
Biomimicry is the practice of learning from and emulating life’s genius to create more efficient, elegant, and sustainable designs. It’s a problem-solving method, a sustainability ethos, an innovation approach, a change movement, and a new way of viewing and valuing nature. In practice it’s dedicated to reconnecting people with nature, and aligning human systems with biological systems.
As such, our aim is to connect a spectrum of innovation where human and biological system designs interact together seamlessly. Our team offers education and consulting to apply biological insights to systematic sustainability challenges. Our collaborative partnerships and services support interdisciplinary dialogue across industry sectors and regions, while reconnecting all of us to the local ecosystem that supports us.
OK, at this point some of you are saying to yourselves, “THAT kind of conference.”
But frankly, there’s just as much value in approaching problems from a futuristic sustainability view as there is in approaching problems from a more traditional program management process (or Shipley process, or whatever), or even from a more old school sustainability view as espoused by Broguiere’s and the late Huell Howser.
See, it all ties together. After all, the new school 4th Sector Innovations is less than a mile from the decidedly old school Graber Olive House (featured in one of Howser’s “Louie, take a look at this!” TV shows.)
I seem to have strayed from my original topic…
Anyway, let’s refocus and return to some of the other professional development sessions at this Friday’s FTR FST.
The workshop “Navigating Cashflow” by Gilbert Wenseslao, Chase Bank.
In a competitive bid process, one unshakable truth is that everything you do will be seen by your competitors. This affects what you as a bidder do…and don’t do.
My trip to Hartford for a 30 minute meeting
I saw this in action many years ago when I was the product manager for Motorola’s Omnitrak product (subsequently Printrak BIS, subsequently part of MorphoBIS, subsequently part of MBIS). Connecticut and Rhode Island went out to bid for an two-state automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). As part of the request for proposal process, the state of Connecticut scheduled a bidders’ conference. This was well before online videoconferencing became popular, so if you wanted to attend this bidders’ conference, you had to physically go to Hartford, Connecticut.
So I flew from California to Connecticut to attend the conference, and other people from other companies made the trip. That morning I drove from my hotel to the site of the conference (encountering a traffic jam much worse than the usual traffic jams back home), and I and the competitors assembled and waited for the bidders’ conference to begin.
The state representative opened the floor up to questions from bidders.
No one asked a question.
We were all eyeing each other, seeing what the other people were going to ask, and none of us were willing to tip our hands by asking a question ourselves.
Eventually one or two minor questions were asked, but the bidders’ conference ended relatively quickly.
There are a number of chess-like tactics related to what bidders do and don’t do during proposals. Perhaps some day I’ll write a Bredemarket Premium post on the topic and spill my secrets.
But for now, let’s just say that all of the bidders successfully kept their thoughts to themselves during that conference. And I got to visit a historical site, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.
And today, it’s refreshing to know that things don’t change.
When the list of interested suppliers appears to be null
Back on September 24, the Government of Canada issued an Invitation to Qualify (B7059-180321/B) for a future facial recognition system for immigration purposes. This was issued some time ago, but I didn’t hear about it until Biometric Update mentioned it this morning.
Now Bredemarket isn’t going to submit a response (even though section 2.3a says that I can), but Bredemarket can obviously help those companies that ARE submitting a response. I have a good idea who the possible players are, but to check things I went to the page of the List of Interested Suppliers to see if there were any interested suppliers that I missed. The facial recognition market is changing rapidly, so I wondered if some new names were popping up.
So what did I see when I visited the List of Interested Suppliers?
An invitation for me to become the FIRST listed interested supplier.
That’s right, NO ONE has publicly expressed interest in this bid.
And yes, I also checked the French list; no names there either.
There could be one of three reasons for this:
Potential bidders don’t know about the Invitation to Qualify. This is theoretically possible; after all, Biometric Update didn’t learn about the invitation until two weeks after it was issued.
No one is interested in bidding on a major facial recognition program. Yeah, right.
Multiple companies ARE interested in this bid, but none wants to tip its hand and let competitors know of its interest.
My money is on reason three.
Hey, bidders. I can keep your secret.
As you may have gathered, as of Monday October 11 I am not part of any team responding to this Invitation to Qualify.
If you are a biometric vendor who needs help in composing your response to IRCC ITQ B7059-180321/B before the November 3 due date, or in framing questions (yes, there are chess moves on that also), let me know.
I was looking over the Bredemarket blog posts for September, and I found some posts that addressed the proposal side of Bredemarket’s services. (There are also blog posts that address the content side; see here for a summary of those posts.)
As a starting point, what proposal services has Bredemarket provided for its clients? I quantified these around the middle of the month and came up with this list.
And I’ve been working on additional proposal projects for clients that I haven’t added to the list yet.
It also provides a mechanism for proposal professionals to certify their mastery of the proposal field. And, as APMP itself notes, certification conveys the following:
Demonstrates a personal commitment to a career and profession.
Improves business development capabilities.
Creates a focus on best team practices.
Gains the respect and credibility of peers, clients and organizational leaders and, in some cases, additional compensation.
Reinforces bid/proposal management as an important role within an organization and not as an ad hoc function that anyone can perform.
Frankly, most of these won’t matter to YOU, but the process required to achieve certification does improve business development capabilities for Bredemarket’s clients. You can ignore the rest, unless you’re suddenly eager to shower additional compensation on me. I won’t argue.
There are multiple levels of APMP certification, and the very first level is “Foundation” certification. There is an eligibility requirement to pursue this certification, however:
Candidates should have at least one year of experience in a bid and proposals environment; this experience does not have to be continuous. Time spent working or supporting sales and marketing also counts.
So I was eligible to pursue Foundation certification years ago…but I never did.
Over the years I kept on joining APMP while in a proposals position, then letting my APMP membership lapse when I transferred to a non-proposals position. So by the time I ever thought about seriously pursuing APMP Foundation certification, I was already out of proposals.
This time, I said to myself when I re-rejoined in July, it will be different.
I finally made the move after attending SMA’s weekly town hall and hearing Heather Kirkpatrick present on the various APMP certification levels.
But I acknowledged that certification is not universally desirable:
Yes, I know the debates about whether certifications (or, for that matter, formal education in general) are truly worthwhile, but there are times when checking off that box on that checklist truly matters.
And therefore I began reading the two documents that I had just purchased, including a study guide and a glossary of terms.
Why is the APMG involved in APMP stuff?
However, to actually achieve the certification, I didn’t go to the APMP itself, but to an organization called the APMG.
And no, the APMG was NOT established to confuse proposal practitioners by using a similar acronym. (Seriously; when I saw others’ announcements of proposal certification, I couldn’t figure out why they kept getting the APMP acronym wrong.)
The APM Group is actually a completely separate organization that provides certifications and other services for a number of disciplines. It serves aerospace, business, information technology, cybersecurity, and other disciplines.
In my case, once I had studied and taken a practice exam, I proceeded to sit for the real exam itself…after paying another fee.
(This is why some people oppose certifications; they think they’re a racket just to charge fees all over the place. But I had already determined that in this case, the return on investment would be positive.)
By the way, I was never asked to provide a reference to verify my experience, but I could have provided dozens of references if asked.
What about the shiny new designation that comes with the shiny new badge?
Oh, and there’s one more thing.
Certified people (as opposed to people who are certifiable) have the option of appending their certification to their name. In the business world, you often see this used by people who have achieved Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. In some countries, MBAs and even BAs append the appropriate designation to their names.
In the same manner, those who have achieved one of the APMP certifications can append the appropriate certification. In the case of APMP Foundation certification, that means that I can style myself as “John E. Bredehoft, CF APMP.” (Or “John E. Bredehoft, MBA, CF APMP, RSBC” if I want to be thorough. But I probably won’t, since “RSBC” stands for “Radio Shack Battery Club.”)
However, the “CF APMP” designation only makes sense if the person reading the designation knows what it means. And it’s a fairly safe bet that if I were to walk into a coffee shop, or even into the main office of a marketing firm, the people there would have no idea what “CF APMP” meant. In fact, it might strike some of them as pretentious.
But it DOES make a difference in some (not all) proposal circles.
Like any good process, the not-so-new-anymore Bredemarket content creation process asks a lot of questions up front. These questions ensure that I perform the project in accordance with the wishes of my client.
Because, as we all know, it costs more to rework a project at the end than it does at the beginning. (Or maybe you didn’t know that; it’s something I included in some work I did for a client. But the client knows.)
Specifically, early in the engagement I reach agreement with my client on all or most of the following questions on the content:
The target audience.
The section sub-goals.
Relevant key words/hashtags.
Interim and final due dates.
When you break it out, that’s a lot of stuff.
And there’s more stuff that I need to know from the client that I’m not sharing publicly. But I’ll give you a hint: some of the questions are driven by a recent experience with Google Docs, and the fact that two different people weren’t using the same fonts, sizes, and styles. Well, if Google Docs can’t take care of it automatically, I can ask about fonts/sizes/styles (when applicable) so that the issue can be resolved manually.
So I’ve created a form that I can use for either the content or proposals sides of the Bredemarket business, and the form contains all of the questions that I need to ask a client at the beginning of an engagement.
Or at least I think it contains all of the questions.
Bredemarket’s slogan should be “better late than never.” It took me a year to print business cards, and it has taken me almost a year to quantify my proposal services work for clients. But Toggl helped me quantify my work.
Incidentally, this post is NOT sponsored by Toggl. If I were smart I would have pitched this post to Toggl and gotten something substantive in return. But I’m not that smart; I’m just a happy Toggl Track user. Sure the service has had a couple of hiccups in April and August, but Toggl responded to these hiccups quickly. In general, Toggl Track has been very useful in tracking time, gathering data to bill clients, and (as I just discovered this week) very useful in quantifying Bredemarket’s work and accomplishments.
Quantifying hours per proposal
The whole Toggl Track quantification exercise started over the last couple of weeks, when I had two separate discussions with firms regarding the number of hours that a contractor usually spends responding to a request for something (proposal, information, comment, etc.). Acronym lovers can use RFx, RFP, RFI, RFC, etc. as needed.
After the second client raised the issue, I realized that my Toggl Track data contained time data on all of my billable proposals work. (Helpful hint: even with the free version of Toggl Track, you can set up project names to keep track of billable hours, although you have to manually calculate the billing yourself.)
So I logged into Toggl Track, selected the billable projects that I knew had Rfx hours, downloaded a comma-separated values (csv) version of all of the data from January 1, 2021 to present, opened the csv file in Excel, filtered out the columns that I didn’t need, filtered out the rows that didn’t pertain to RFx work, sorted the data by description (for example, “AFIS proposal for Noname County”), then subtotaled the hours at each change of description.
And then I realized that I did something wrong.
When the Toggl Track data was loaded into Excel, it used a standard hours-minutes-seconds format. What that meant was that the subtotals also displayed in a standard hours-minutes-seconds format. So if I had three time entries—one for 10:00:00, one for 9:00:00, and one for 8:00:00—the resulting subtotal would be 3:00:00, or only three hours.
I played around a bit with the number formats in the Duration column, and found a format (displayed in Excel as “37:30:55”) that correctly rendered my subtotals—in the example above, yielding the correct value of 27:00:00, or 27 hours.
So once I got the subtotals to work correctly, what did I find, based on my own RFx proposal work data?
One of my projects required approximately 20 billable hours of work.
Three of the projects required less than 20 billable hours per project.
The remaining three required more than 35 billable hours per project.
Obviously my results do not apply to other independent contractors, and certainly do not apply to employees who are involved much more intimately in a company’s proposal process. So don’t try to extrapolate my numbers and make the declaration “Studies show that nearly half of all RFx responses require over 35 hours of work per person.”
But this data gave me the information that I needed in my discussions with the second firm.
But this exercise raised another question that I should have answered long ago.
Quantifying total proposal work
As Bredemarket, I have not only worked on RFx responses, but have also worked on sole source responses, and on proposal templates.
But I’ve never compiled a definitive overview of all of my proposal work.
Now I’ve certainly discussed bits of my proposal work here and there. You’ve probably already seen the testimonial that I received from a client regarding my proposal template work:
“I just wanted to truly say thank you for putting these templates together. I worked on this…last week and it was extremely simple to use and I thought really provided a professional advantage and tool to give the customer….TRULY THANK YOU!”
But after the proposal hours exercise above, I decided that it was time to quantify this work.
How many competitive proposals have I worked on for clients?
How many sole source responses have I worked on for clients?
How many of these “extremely simple to use” (my client’s words, not mine) templates have I assembled?
Obviously I had all the data; I just had to pull it together.
So I went to Toggl Track (and to other sources) to quantify my total proposal work, searching for billable (and in the cases of Bredemarket’s own proposals, nonbillable) work and identifying all the projects.
Sharing the quantification
Once that was done, I was able to create a neat handy dandy summary.
Which I then added to various pages on the Bredemarket website.
And, of course, I’ll share the information in this blog post when I publish it and distribute it via my social media outlets-not forgetting Instagram, of course. (Did you notice that my statistical graphic is square? Now you know why.)
And I need to share this information in one more place, but that’s a topic for another time.
Can my proposal services help you?
If my experience (now with better quantification!) can help you with your proposal work, then please contact me.
This meeting (which also happened to be the national Freelancers Union meeting for the month; our chapter rules!) was led by Cara Raffele, who spoke about “The Power of Storytelling.”
I’m not going to talk about the ENTIRE meeting, but will focus on the last part of the meeting, during which Raffele discussed “understanding your brand for maximum impact,” or brand archetypes.
The idea of archetypes started with Carl Jung, who defined them as images and themes that derive from the collective unconscious.
Jung claimed to identify a large number of archetypes but paid special attention to four. Jung labeled these archetypes the Self, the Persona, the Shadow and the Anima/Animus.
In modern-day marketing, this “large number of archetypes” has been boiled down to twelve, and it was these twelve that Raffele referenced in her presentation.
Raffele encouraged all of us freelancers to listen to all twelve, and then to select multiple archetypes (not just one) that seemed to reflect our freelance brands. So I iterated a first cut at the archetypes that I believed applied to Bredemarket; my preliminary list included Sage, Creator, and Explorer.
Why Sage? That particular one resonated with me because of my experiences with my clients (educating on benefits vs. features, expanding the understanding of law enforcement agency stakeholders), and because of the way I’ve been marketing myself anyway. After all, when I self-reference as the biometric content marketing expert and the biometric proposal writing expert, then it’s obvious that I can add the sage to my clients’ parsley, rosemary, and thyme. (Sorry, couldn’t resist, even though I know it’s bad.)
But after guessing that Bredemarket is Sage with a pinch of Creator and Explorer, I realized that I might not know myself as well as I thought, so I asked if there were some type of online “archetypes test,” similar to the online Meyers-Briggs personality tests, that could help you semi-independently discern your archetypes.
(One aside before moving on to Putnam’s test. A few of you realize that I did not come up with the section title “Jung and the restless” on my own. Yes, I stole it from a Steve Taylor song title (and he stole it from a soap opera). I used the title even though Taylor is frankly not that positive about secular psychology. But he did say “some of my best friends are shrinks.” Oh, and that’s obviously Gym Nicholson of Undercover fame on guitar.)
My “Brand Personality Quiz” results, and Kaye Putnam’s recommendations
If you’ve taken an online Meyers-Briggs personality test, or any other similar online test, the process of the Brand Personality Quiz will seem familiar to you. Putnam’s quiz asks you a series of independent questions, some of which have as many as twelve options. It then tabulates your answers against attributes of the twelve brand archetypes, and produces a final result listing a primary brand archetype and some secondary archetypes.
Here are my results.
So if you take Putnam’s quiz as gospel, I was somewhat accurate in my initial self-assessment.
Note that “Sage” came first and “Explorer” came second in the quiz results, and those were two of the archetypes I initially tweeted about before taking the quiz.
Considering the personal writing style I use in my blog, tweets, and elsewhere, “Entertainer” wasn’t much of a surprise either.
Upon further personal reflection, “Royalty” makes sense also. (So bow before me, serfs.)
And after reading Putnam’s description of “Creator” and its emphasis on visual presentation (rather than textual presentation), I can see why this was NOT on the list.
Along with my results, Putnam provided a link that allowed me to download a brief description of my primary archetype, Sage. Now this brief description doesn’t include all of the detail found in Putnam’s 12 Brandfluency courses (one for each archetype), but it does include many actionable items.
The “Sage Inspiration Kit” provides useful tips for Sage businesspeople to include in their brand marketing. The kit asserts that if the tips are followed, the results will produce emotional responses in potential clients that will increase brand attractiveness, thus allowing businesspeople to win more business (and win better business).
Tips are provided on the following:
Obviously that’s a lot of stuff to absorb, even in this brief kit. (The paid course offers tips in additional areas.) And even if I wanted to, I couldn’t change all the colors and fonts in my marketing overnight.
But I could look at Putnam’s word suggestions.
Ignoring the expert
Now Kaye Putnam’s word suggestions are freely available to anyone, but I’m not going to just copy all of them and reproduce them here. Request them yourself. (The link is for the Sage archetype)
But I’ll offer comments on a few of the 18 words and phrases in the kit.
First off, I’m NOT going to use “think tank” in Bredemarket’s marketing. Perhaps this phrase may resonate for a larger firm, or even for a smaller firm with a team of people addressing their clients’ needs. But it would take a lot of stretching to describer a solopreneur think tank.
Another term that DOESN’T make sense for Bredemarket is “engineering.” Now obviously engineering is a good thing, although I’ve seen cases where engineering is overemphasized. But it doesn’t really make sense for my business, in which I make a point of emphasizing my ability to communicate engineering concepts to non-engineers. The same issues apply with the phrase “the code.”
I won’t go into all of my concerns, but there are several “Sage words” in the list that I would never use for Bredemarket, or would use very sparingly.
When someone gives you advice, whether it’s Kaye Putnam or John Bredehoft, you have to judge whether the advice is good for YOU.
Even if you narrow a brand down to one archetype, there are innumerable differences between individuals who align with this archetype. One size does not fit all, and I personally may love the term “experiment” but hate the terms listed above.
Now perhaps I may be wrong in rejecting Putnam’s advice. Perhaps there’s a really, really good reason why I should sprinkle the phrase “think tank” through all of my marketing materials.
But in the end it’s up to the recipient to decide whether or not to follow the advice of the expert. That applies to people giving advice to me, and that also applies to the advice that I give to my clients. (If a client insists on using the phrase “best of breed,” I can’t stop the client from doing so.)
But several of those words and phrases DO seem like good ideas, and I’ll probably make a concerted effort to sprinkle the GOOD words and phrases throughout Bredemarket’s website, social media channels, proposals, and other marketing.
Even though this might require me to re-revise the content creation process that I just revised.
Oh well. It’s good to…experiment with things. After all, Bredemarket is in effect a laboratory in which I like to try solutions out myself before I try to make a case for them with my clients. It’s easier to speak to research-based proven solutions than ones with which I have no experience at all.
Did that paragraph sound sage-like? I got six of the words/phrases into that paragraph!
Oh, and if you’re looking for a Royally Entertaining and Exploring Sage…
You can read here about how my content creation process ensures that the final written content (a) advances your GOAL, (b) communicates your BENEFITS, and (c) speaks to your TARGET AUDIENCE.
If Bredemarket can fill a gap in your company’s needs (NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY. DO NOT MENTION PARSLEY.), then feel free to contact me and we can discuss your needs and possible solutions.