17th Jun 2010

Interview: Five Minutes with... Matt Milgrom, Tender Success Principal

Matt Milgrom came to the world of tenders reluctantly, but discovered a home from home. What's his story?

interviews micMatt Milgrom

  • Loves: Design, technology and good writing
  • Key Skills: Designing compelling visuals and professional layouts, writing clear, persuasive copy, project management
  • Dream Day Off: Anything involving wine, food or travel: preferably, all three
  • Contact Matt

mattMatt Milgrom came to the world of tenders reluctantly, but then discovered a home from home.
What's his story?

What's your story - in 30 seconds?

I've always had a passion for drawing, writing and technology. I've not always been lucky enough to work with all three, though. Actually, for many years I was a 'professional IT geek' delivering technology solutions within large corporations.

In my spare time, however, I blogged, sketched and developed an Adobe Creative Suite addiction. I fed my passion with masterclasses at Billy Blue covering Advanced Photoshop, Design Fundamentals and Advertising Writing.

When I was offered the chance to combine my passions by managing the development of consumer websites for a large pharmaceutical company, I jumped at it.

Slowly but surely, my roles became more creative and less 'propeller-head'. I did lengthy stints at two Sydney design agencies, honing skills in clever visual design and the writing of punchy advertising campaigns.

With a background in IT and graphics why tenders, why Tender Success?

I'll confess that the world of tenders seemed a little dull and conservative from the outside. In fact, in reality it's a perfect excuse to do the things I love.

Tender Success allows me to combine my technical project management background with my passion for design & communication. The challenge of making bare facts and figures communicate persuasively never gets old. And working with fascinating experts from a broad range of industries is really interesting. I love my job!

What skills do you bring to your clients?

From a design perspective, I develop clear, convincing graphics and figures for their submissions. Additionally, I develop legible, professional document layouts that allows the proposal content to shine.

Additionally, I spend lots of time editing raw content so that it reads clearly and is squarely centred around benefits to the prospect.

Bringing all of this together for a client involves good organisation skills and sound project management: I'm grateful that my corporate IT past gave me some solid grounding in this respect.

How can a professional layout add value to a tender?

In so many ways! A professional layout influences the tenderer's credibility, and can even earn them a place on the shortlist. Good legibility ensures that the reader fully absorbs the content. Careful use of captions, pull quotes and headings means that key messages get through - even if the reader is skim-reading. I've even noticed that when a submission is laid out professionally, the content creators become more determined to provide well-written, quality content. In short, it seems to influence most aspects of the finished document.

What makes graphics so important in a tender, isn't it just filling in a form?

There's an old advertising expression: "Words tell, pictures sell" and that's definitely the case with tender submissions. A well-chosen image stirs the emotions and tells an entire story, in seconds. Additionally, a high quality diagram can summarise pages of information in a memorable way.

We've known busy executives and government evaluators who make it a practice to ONLY look at pictures & captions, awarding a tender on the strength of these alone. Even if your content is of high standard, poor graphics (or too few of them) can sink a submission. They're essential.

What if you are required to comply with a client template, can you still add value?

Absolutely. In fact, being constrained in this way is one of my favourite challenges, and often generates the most creative, impressive results. Solid design and legibility principles apply whatever the format and the importance of graphics is, if anything, increased.

Additionally, with a rigid structure, good writing really shines. We often help our clients by using the Pyramid Principle, action captions, dynamic headings and other writing techniques to ensure they stand out from the crowd - all within the confines of a template.

Why can't someone in-house do the DTP and graphics?

Actually, many of our clients do - so long as they have the software and the skills. When we develop a specialised page layout for a submission we hand it over at the project close so the client can use it again for future tender responses. We can even train people to use the templates and coach them during their next submission, if they need it.

That said, not many companies have the luxury of an in-house designer they can use at will. Whilst it's possible to produce a response using a standard desktop word processor and clip-art, the truth is, it shows.

On the other hand, a professionally laid out document says to the prospect: "We really care about this". It does require specific industry-standard software and design skills, of course.

What, in your experience, is the greatest challenge your clients face in responding to a tender?

In two words: initial panic. Often, the people managing a response are very busy doing their 'normal' jobs. Very few are dedicated tender resources, especially here in Australia. We often see tender responses left in the too hard basket simply because the job seems too big and nasty.

Nothing is more heart-breaking than seeing an under-resourced proposal manager pull an all-nighter to get a submission across the line, only to realise content is missing or - worse - the thing is non-compliant.

Having a 'system' in place helps, as does careful project management and the outsourcing of non-core activities. We find ourselves helping with all of these.

How would you spend an unexpected day off?

My absolute dream day would see me snowboarding in the morning, wine-tasting in the afternoon, playing guitar in the evening and enjoying a lingering dinner with the missus that night. However, this being the real world, I'd probably plump for a spirited game of soccer followed by a movie and take-away instead.

What would you be doing if you weren't a Tender Consultant?

I spend several hours every week doing unpaid volunteer work. Nothing else quite gets close to that in terms of fulfillment, and doing it full time certainly has its attractions.

A close second would be a job which exposes me to varying cultures, food and languages - perhaps a writer of Lonely Planet guides. The idea of being paid to have a holiday ranks alongside "chocolate taste tester" in my mind!

Find out more about Matt Milgrom by reading his bio.

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