Proposal Reflections: A Year In Review

I started my blog on January 1, 2018 with as simple welcome post:

Welcome to Proposal Reflections. This is a project that I have put off for several years, but I am hopeful that it is a site that others in the field will find useful. Stay tuned for my first real post, which will feature some useful tips for proposal writing success. Here's to many wins in 2018! Happy New Year!

I had great aspirations for the blog in that first year; however, the year got away from me, and I only posted six articles that first year.

This year, as part of my New Year’s resolutions and goals for 2019, I wanted to establish a rhythm with the blog, some consistency. I set out with a goal to post one blog article a week. That’s 52 articles—all unique, all about proposals, business development, and/or capture. It was a daunting task—but I decided to tackle it one week at a time. I didn’t quite have the rhythm down in the beginning—it took me a while to establish the right cadence. But I persevered, and here we are, with one more week left in the year, and I am posting article 52 of the year!

Biggest Blog Successes
Although some weeks were more difficult than others to come up with a unique topic, I was ultimately able to live up to the challenge. Throughout the year, I covered a variety of topics, including the importance of capture, writing best practices, storyboarding, and so many more. It was such a great experience to share the best practices that my professors, managers, and mentors had taught me. I also covered more forward-thinking topics, like applying Agile tools (e.g., JIRA) and harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This sharing of information sparked great discussions among professionals across the globe, and so many individuals reached out asking me if it was OK to share these things with their colleagues. My answer every time was, “absolutely.” Sharing knowledge is the sole purpose and goal of this project.  

Information Sharing and Conversations. What I loved most about the blog were the conversations that the articles sparked among our professional community. Though some readers commented on the blog itself, many more started discussions on LinkedIn, which, to date, is the primary vehicle I use to share my blogs. I have made so many great connections and had so many interesting conversations—and all with professionals around the world! It’s been an amazing journey.

Global Reach. One of the most fascinating things I have found about the blog is the wide reach of the readers. By far, my blog readers come largely from the United States, but I have been surprised by how many views I have had from other countries. Of the roughly 15,000 page views, this is where most readers come from:

  • United States: 60%
  • India: 20%
  • United Kingdom: 5%
  • Netherlands: 4%
  • Remaining spread among Israel, Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Canada, and Other/Unknown

Top Blogs of 2019. Another thing that I have found fascinating is watching the statistics on which articles are the most popular among readers. I am often surprised by which articles end up being most popular and which end up kind of flopping. Interestingly, many times the the ones I spend the most time on are the ones that flop. And sometimes the ones I question even posting end up being hits! Here is a snapshot of my top blog posts from 2019:

This article was inspired by a proposal with particularly challenging page constraints. In the article, I point out the fact that as tight page limitations become a more frequent challenge, we need to approach our proposals with a strategy for keeping our content lean. By focusing our text, using active voice, and simplifying our word choice, we’ll begin the revising process with shorter narratives. Going back and stripping out empty words, eliminating redundancies, and using graphics and tables strategically will help to tighten our content further. I point out that by using these strategies, not only will you find that your content is shorter, but you’ll find that these strategies actually help to make your content clearer. I further conclude that if the evaluator actually understands what you are writing, that will help them award you the score that you actually deserve.

The first of a seven-part series, this article examines eight key Agile terms and draws their correlation to proposals and the proposal development process. It pushes back on the notion of Agile proposal development being something new or innovative—since, as I point out, I have practiced Agile proposal development my entire career. I conclude with the fact that our long-standing best practices in proposal development are inherently Agile—and that these processes have been Agile long before Agile was the latest industry craze.

I wrote this article in a time of heightened stress. I point out that as proposal professionals, most of us well understand the idiosyncrasies of the profession. We have become accustomed to the extreme ebbs and flows of the workload, the heightened stress levels leading up to final submission, and the internal panic of changes within the three days leading up to your scheduled printing. I highlight that this fluctuation in workload and stress level can negatively affect our personal relationships. We often receive resistance, side commentary about how much it sucks that we have to work, and other pushback from our loved ones. This can be polarizing, especially when stress levels are at their highest. So, I wrote this open letter as a reminder for our loved ones that what we really need is support, especially when our stress levels are at their highest.

The ABCs of Proposals: Part 1, Apr 7, 2019; 399 views
This article series started as a joke between a good friend of mine and me. This friend—who is also in the proposal industry—had recently given birth to her baby girl. At first, we joked that the poor child would fall asleep to her mama reading RFPs aloud to her. Then we thought, how cute would it be if we made an ABC Book for our future little proposal manager? And that turned into, well wouldn’t that just be a unique and fun format for a proposal blog? Even though this started out as a joke between friends, this turned into a fun little article series jam packed with some useful tips and advice for proposal professionals, making it one of the top viewed articles of 2019!

Final Thoughts
I have sincerely enjoyed this journey over the last year, and I am looking forward to continuing it in the upcoming year. I am hopeful that this blog will continue to foster dialogue among professions in the industry and within our individual organizations. And I hope we will all continue to share knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned so we can continue to improve our proposal pursuit processes. Here’s to a wonderful proposal season in 2020 with many wins. Cheers!

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)


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