If you have to advertise what you need to buy then do it well, adverts can be a source of competitive advantage. However, most come across as convenient cut and pastes; they squander your potential to create a competitive advantage. I can hear you yelling at me, we don’t use adverts to compete. Oh yes, you do. Although, it’s unlikely you ever thought of them in this way.
Your adverts compete with adverts from other buyers. You are competing to persuade the best relevant potential suppliers to download and read your tender documents. The best are picky and busy, so a successful advert must:
- Attract their attention
- Make a good first impression, not negative (first do no harm)
- Encourage those that aren’t the best to self-disqualify, quality not quantity
- Frame your opportunity to appeal to the best
- Persuade them to download and read your tender documents
Fortunately, good adverts are like black swans or unicorns, pretty rare. This means you’ve a great opportunity to craft effective adverts that give you a competitive advantage. You should also take into account that the quality of your adverts impacts, positively or negatively, on you and your organisation’s reputations. These adverts are on show to anyone inclined to take a look.
Most adverts are abysmal
Potential suppliers have endured abysmal adverts for years. I know because I’m one of these potential suppliers. What concerns me is that buyers are unaware or simply not bothered. When have you, as a buyer, seen adverts as potential suppliers do? Here’s a top tip: have a look at the adverts suppliers receive from their perspective, after having read the rest of this article. Then you’ll see what I’m banging on about.
Does this really matter, in the great scheme of things? Yes, it does. Every potential and actual point of contact matters; come on, this is marketing 101. Abysmal adverts:
- Cause potential suppliers to miss relevant opportunities: because of unclear and confusing titles, and far too much irrelevant text.
- Put off the best relevant potential suppliers: they’re picky because they have plenty of opportunities, and even if you don’t put them off entirely, you won’t receive their best tender, although someone else will.
- Are written for convenient compliance: often with a quick easy unthinking cut and paste.
- Are written in ignorance: of the impact they have on potential suppliers.
- Squander competitive advantage: to attract and enthuse the best relevant potential suppliers.
What is the purpose of a good advert
To capture the attention of the best relevant potential suppliers, make a good impression and persuade them to download your procurement documents. Practically a good advert should:
- Be clear on what you need to buy: allocate the right categories and write 'I-understand-at-a-glance' titles
- Use no more words than are absolutely necessary: for a common unambiguous understanding
- Present your opportunity in its best light: to attract the best and repel the worst
- Enthuse the best: high expectations, close working relationship and potential ‘additional’ rewards
- Make the next step obvious and easy: end with a single sentence invitation and an obvious ‘click on’ link
Don’t spoil it, please ….
- Do not include these words or phrases in your title: procurement, contract, provision, framework agreement, supply, ref. numbers, name of the purchaser or project, the phrase ‘expressions of interest’.
- Avoid these phrases in the body: ‘looking to’, why would I be interested if you are only going to look; ‘is seeking’, sounds like a dating agency; ‘wishes to’, it’s a bit like dreaming, make your mind up, do you want to or not; ‘is tendering for the provision of’, isn’t that blindingly obvious?
- Avoid describing yourself and your project: at least for now, stick with the things that matter to the best relevant potential suppliers at this stage in your procurement, do or can they supply what you need and is it a good opportunity.
- Do not give an exact amount to the pound for your spend forecast: always use a range and round it up, as this makes it easy to understand, more likely to be remembered and full of promise.
- Do not give other organisations free advertising: such as the first four or five sentences being all about whoever is supporting you with your procurement. This isn’t about them, it’s about you and your relationship with potential suppliers.
Here’s an example of a straightforward but effective advert
All it has to do is persuade the best relevant potential suppliers to download your procurement documents and to consider your opportunity more favourably than others. You can’t all have their best offer. Alright you can, but then it wouldn’t really be their best offer.
Hard FM and Associated Services
We intend to use a restricted procurement procedure to award a contract to one supplier for a maximum of eight years to supply Hard FM and Associated Services for approximately 175 corporate properties, from 1st October 2022. >>>>>> This is a great opportunity for the five most relevant potential suppliers to return their most competitive and compelling tenders. From our initial tender evaluation, Price/Quality 30/70, we will invite the three potential suppliers with the highest evaluation scores to present their tenders. The successful supplier will have the highest overall evaluation score. >>>>>> Whilst a great opportunity, it comes with high standards and expectations in terms of capability and outcomes. We would, jointly with the successful supplier, develop a collaborative, innovative and transparent commercial working relationship to achieve and realise mutually beneficial valuable outcomes. >>>>>> Please click on this link etender software to register your interest and download the procurement documents.
Value: £40,000,000 to £80,000,000
The example advert is effective because it:
- Is clear on what you need to buy: the title means the best relevant potential suppliers won’t miss or mistake what you need even when skimming through lots of adverts.
- Uses no more words than necessary: to persuade the best to download your procurement documents. Use >>>>>> or similar to break up the text, so it stands out and is easier and quicker to read.
- Presents your opportunity in its best light: one supplier, so no sharing; a maximum of eight years, actually four years plus two x two year extensions; non traditional start date (not 1st or 6th April) helps maximise capacity available to mobilise, start up and supply; 175 properties, sizeable core (planned) workload, with the likelihood of plenty of higher margin reactive work and associated services.
- Presents your opportunity in its best light: only five tenders to evaluate, emphasises it’s not a lottery; three out of five potential suppliers invited to present, very good odds and so worth allocating sufficient time, attention and resources relative to other opportunities; one out of three to be successful, again good odds so worthy of considerable effort relative to the rewards on offer.
- Enthuses the best: high standards and expectations extend to everyone, including us, signal that we want to work closely and openly with the best not hang them out to dry; then there’s the £40,000,000 to £80,000,000 spend, which signals much of the £40,000,000 is likely planned work, pretty much guaranteed, with a possible further £40,000,000 of higher margin reactive and associated services, now, that’s motivation and incentive.
- Enthuses the best: mutually beneficial valuable outcomes for great results, hints at greater rewards and the need to be the best to achieve them.
- Make the next step obvious and easy: click on this link, couldn’t be more obvious or easier.
And finally …
Most adverts generally miss the point; too many are genuinely abysmal. They’re written with little thought as to their purpose, apart from convenient compliance. Adverts rarely appeal to their primary audience, that is the best potential suppliers.
The most effective adverts are written to create a competitive advantage. They enable you to compete successfully with other buyers to influence the best relevant potential suppliers to download your procurement documents. And to persuade them to commit sufficient time, attention and resources to tender their best offers.
Bad adverts give the best an easy excuse to ignore you. Even if they don’t, ignore you that is, they’ll be much less inclined to tender their best offer, at least for you. Someone else will get their best offer. However, it only takes a little thought to write good adverts that attract the best and maximise your chances of receiving their best offers.