How to choose the right images for your proposal

If the images and design of your proposal or tender response are good they will make your document look professional and competitive. But is this enough?

I have worked for a lot of organisations that use great tender images on their RFT proposals and tender response documents. But often you can also see that they do not understand the basic marketing concepts needed in winning tenders. If you are putting together a rail proposal and you think that a picture of a train and track on the cover is adequate you really need to rethink. How many water treatment projects have you seen with a picture of a water droplet on the cover? Do they help you to win the work?

Sadly, the answer is no. Using images to simply echo the proposal’s industry category is basic and means you are not focussing the client on what you want. You want them to believe that your tender should be the most successful one!

Therefore, there are several really important things that you should be considering in choosing your images.

1. Messaging—why we are better

We all know a picture tells a thousand words but when we choose images to put on the cover of a proposal or tender response (or indeed any document) we have to ask the fundamental question: what do we want those thousand words to say? We need to take our lead from advertising and use the tender images as an essential part of our messaging.

Your key images must mirror your key messaging and your key bid differentiators. It is not enough just to illustrate that you have done similar projects, you really want your message to be that you will do this project better than anyone else.

2. Priming—what should you really be thinking about

The images on the cover of a document are the first thing the client sees and they set-the-scene for the contents. Don’t waste the opportunity to influence people’s thinking. You use your tender images to prime the client.

A good example of how priming can affect readers’ approaches to material was shown in an experiment that manipulated the background design of a website to influence readers’ product choices. Participants were asked to choose between two similar products. When the background of the website was changed it affected the time they looked at different product attributes, such as price, safety and comfort. When the background included coins (that is being primed with money) the readers looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. When readers were primed on comfort they looked at comfort information longer. You need to prime your client to your key differentiators.

3. Reassuring—why should you trust us

It is important to use people in your images rather than inanimate objects (like trains and water droplets) because images of people help to build trust with your reader. We humans from the day we are born recognise faces and identify emotions from them. We are always on the look out for emotional cues in images. Using images of people is an easy way to associate positive emotions with your document and brand. Images of happy, attractive people build the most trust.

4. Understanding—why you should pay attention to us

When your eyes are open more than half your brain’s electrical activity is involved in processing visual information. We put a lot of effort into processing and remembering what we see. Using images helps our brain to understand things much better than we do in reading words (as much as this disappoints me to say).

A strong image, particularly on the cover of your document, using all of the above principles, will help to make your document and its key messages better understood, accepted and remembered.