Published in  
Proposal Development
 on  
February 26, 2021

Next Level Bidding with Adobe InDesign

Gone are the days where a contractor could simply type a few responses into a form and submit a quote.
Requests for Quote (RFQs) are still around, but the expectation has changed, even in the last five years.

Vendors with any competitiveness are expected to bring supplemental material to the table when submitting a quote, regardless of the size of the project or nature of the service. This is appreciated by purchasers because it cuts down on the second phase Q&A that sometimes occurs, giving information upfront for easy validation and qualification.

The tide has changed again, and optical specificity and pixel positioning matters even more than it did 3-4 years ago. We’re now in the era of the InDesign Proposal and multi-layer, 360 customization.

With MS Word, you’re bound by an endlessly-repeated horizontal, one-column format. The one column per page look and feel was copied from physical books, and when opening as an attachment, needs some adjustment to be legible.

InDesign brings a smartphone-ready legibility, but experts welding the software don’t just stop there. They use negative space differently. They leverage an image across frames differently, tightening the focus and ensuring one way of reading/interpreting what’s presented. Focused intentionality, care, and professionalism are presented as much as words.

Some Common Traps with These Proposals

Most with familiarity or experience working with InDesign are not proposal writers, so it takes a bridging between the two disciplines. One understands the best way to position text on a page, while the other understands core differentiators and how to communicate these with a consistent flow, communicate technical language for an audience of laymen, etc.

The “best” InDesigner will (very likely) not be the best person to assign to your proposal project because of the above. Therefore, it’s important to have an 80/20 split on both sides of the equation; your core bidding team should have at least 20 percent competency in the Adobe program and your designer should have a history of bid preparation.

Other traps include not testing various cover art combinations, not aligning the column text sufficiently, and building your template out beyond 20 pages in length. The magic spot we’ve located is 16-18 pages.

Industries that May Benefit the Most

It makes sense why marketers, video producers, digital advertisers, producers, and other creative services types benefit the most from this approach. But we’ve seen shortlisting rate increases from niche IT providers, staffing agencies, and others as well.

You just want to be sure that the purchaser in question is open to receiving a more visually-focused proposal, that they’re not explicitly against polished responses done in a creative format. After all, some evaluators are still old school.

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