21st Mar 2013 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

Capture Planning: An Essential Element in Your Tenders

Lewis Carroll put it eloquently in Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there". When it comes to tendering, will any customer do? Or are your chances of success more closely linked with careful targeting?


  • Capture Planning means identifying opportunities, developing customer-specific strategies and creating relationships with people at the earliest opportunity
  • Get your own house in order - make sure your Business, Marketing and Capture Strategies are aligned; this will inform your Tender Strategy
  • Create a Capture Plan that engages all key personnel in your organisation

If you respond to any & every tender, it may be time to check your strategy

What is 'Capture Planning'?

Capture Planning or Capture Management is synonymous with Sales Management:

  • It is part of the overall customer acquisition process
  • It is a plan of attack to acquire a specific customer or client in a specific market
  • It is the art and science of engaging potential customers so that they give your product or service due consideration when going to market.

According to the Shipley Proposal Guide, Capture Planning is the process of identifying opportunities, assessing the environment, and implementing winning strategies to capture a specific business opportunity.

So let's put that into context. All businesses have an overarching Business Strategy (hopefully). In turn, the business will develop a Marketing Strategy that will define the specific markets that will be targeted to fulfil the objectives of the Business Strategy. For example, if the product is a software or service offering, the target markets might be Banking and Finance, Health, Government or Retail sectors.

In larger organisations each market segment might be allocated to an Account Manager; for example, Account Manager - Banking & Finance and so on.

capture strategy graphic

So we have a Business Strategy and a Marketing Strategy to support business development. Next we need to develop a Capture or Sales Strategy for a specific opportunity within a chosen market segment; for example, the XYZ Bank as part of the Banking & Finance sector.

And finally, the Business, Marketing and Capture Strategies will inform the Tender/Proposal Strategy. These logical, well-planned and well-executed business activities will clarify the roles of all internal staff involved in the tender response process, which will take much of the pain out of the response process.

Why Does it Matter?

A well-defined and documented Capture Plan and its execution matters because:

  • a successful Tender or Proposal Strategy will reflect a well thought-out Capture Strategy/Plan
  • it will maximise your potential for success and ensure your resources are optimised
  • it will ensure that you only bid for business that fits with your Business Strategy
  • it will minimise the inevitable, but often overlooked impact on business as usual, as your valued staff are diverted into tender response activities
  • it will minimise 'tender fatigue' that results in poorly prepared responses due to insufficient planning and preparation

The foregoing might sound a little like Business and Marketing Strategy 101 however, our consultants often work with organisations that still can't articulate what they do and why. How can you convince a potential client that you can provide them with superior solutions to their business challenges when your own house is not in order?

Recall: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there" The lack of clarity or alignment of strategy in your own business foments internal conflict as those responsible for writing the tender response are often disengaged from those who are selling the product or service.

In some business circles tenderers feel obliged to pitch for opportunities simply because their competitors are doing so. They feel that failure to tender will reflect badly on them, making them look weaker than their competitors.

In other circumstances, there may be a broker or third party who manages the tender process and insists an organisation participates in the tender process even though the opportunity may not be financially viable or a fit with the organisation's Business Strategy. They participate for fear they will not be invited to future opportunities.

Irrespective of these pressures it is far better to define your Marketing and Capture Strategy and stick to your guns. Only bid for business that fits your Business Strategy and reserve your resources and efforts for those tenders you really want to win.

Why is Capture Planning important?

In simple terms: you'd be unlikely to marry someone you didn't know or submit to surgery without having researched the doctor who is going to perform it. Likewise, organisations are extremely unlikely to go into business with an organisation they don't know or trust; this is simply human nature.

Capture Management is about creating and developing relationships with potential clients and customers identified in your Capture Plan; before you try to sell to them. It is about positioning you and your company as a trusted adviser - perhaps influencing the design of the RFT document itself.

Many suggest that responding to a tender is akin to submitting a CV to procure an interview. While there are some similarities, the response to an RFT involves so much more. It means identifying the key decision-makers(s), the technical buyer(s), and the influencer(s). It means, for large opportunities especially, mapping your senior people with the potential client's; CEO with CEO, CIO with CIO. It means attempting to get these people to develop relationships before a tender document is ever published.

A good Capture Plan will ensure all these matters are addressed.

The effort to engage potential clients through Capture Planning and Management can pay big dividends. It may mean you can influence the design of the tender document itself and this will put you in the best position to respond. It shows you have commitment to your customer and this will continue as part of a long term relationship. And here's a tip: treat your current customers as if they are new customers and you will keep them. After all, the statistics are on your side: 80% of incumbents win the business!

robRob Machin is a senior consultant for Tender Success. For more than 25 years he has assisted Australian businesses with their capture planning & management. Contact Rob to ensure your next response is a success.