Making Proposal Page Limits Work for You
A growing trend in RFPs and RFQs is the page limit restriction. Savvy owners - both in the public and private sectors - use page limit restrictions as a method of controlling the volume of pages they must review. In addition, submittals are less bulky, making them easier to distribute among review panels. Shorter submittals also have the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly due to less paper consumption.
This all sounds great, right? In theory, fewer pages of material should equate to less work for the marketing and proposal staff assembling these submittals. Unfortunately, the RFP requirements and RFP page limit restrictions do not always match. How do you get 40 pages worth of content into 20 pages worth of space? How do you put together an attractive submittal when you have so little white space to spare? These tips and tricks can help.
1. Determine the Real Page Limit.
An RFP may specify a page limit, but sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. As part of the presubmittal question and answer period, ask if there are any exceptions to the page limitations. In many instances, things like cover letters, tables of content or section tabs will be excluded from the count. Some entire sections may be excluded if the client has requested detailed information or the usage of special forms - such as expanded employee resumes or project cost breakdowns.
2. Take Advantage of Typically Un-used Space.
A perfect example of an often un-used space is the divider tab. These can be used as much more than simple section dividers. That un-used space is a great location to include your table of contents, pictures of relevant project experience or testimonials from satisfied clients. Section divider tabs rarely count toward page limit restrictions and are a great canvas for showcasing information you would not be able to fit into the submittal otherwise.
3. When White Space is Scarce, Use Color.
Designers love to use white space to make submittals more attractive. The effective placement of white space reduces eye strain when reading lengthy text and can be used to highlight focal points. With tight page limits, white space can be hard to come by. When this happens, the creative use of color can be a designers best friend. Highlight key words or phrases within the body text or insert blocks of color behind paragraphs you want to emphasize.
4. Play the Font Game.
You never want your font to be so small that it is difficult to read, but some font designs allow you to fit more words on a page than others. If the RFP requirements call for a minimum font size of 10 points, but do not specify a required font type, play around with a few different options. Put together a few sample proposal pages and then convert them into different fonts, say Calibri, Garamond and Arial Narrow. The differences can be surprising, and choosing the wrong font could cost you a few pages of valuable space.
5. Use Creative Combinations.
Your standard marketing boilerplate may be set up in a certain format, such as full-page employee resumes or project cut sheets. Be flexible. Shorten employee resumes to fit two or more to a page. Reduce picture sizes or write-ups on project cut sheets to allow for multiple jobs on one page. Take the content from your firm profile document and work it into the submittal cover letter. View all of your standard inserts with a critical eye and a space-conservation mindset.
The ultimate goal of any competitive proposal process is to make the shortlist and win the final project. No one wants to be disqualified on a technicality. If the RFP you are responding to has page limit restrictions, obey them. But do not let those restrictions keep you from producing the high-quality submittal you know you are capable of creating.
- Amo Creative Solutions, LLC staff have been creating successful competitive proposal responses - with and without page restrictions - for the last 14 years. Contact us when your next proposal comes in, and we can help you create a dynamic submittal that sets you apart from the competition.