Relationship between Strategy and Themes

All successful capture pursuits have to have a sound strategy, just like sports competitions or military campaigns. Win strategies help you run a pursuit in a way that separates you from the pack of your competitors. Essentially, you have to be able to articulate what will enable you to win. Your win strategy has to be written in a succinct set of statements, reviewed regularly to make sure it is still accurate, and adjusted as necessary.

We are normally taught to define the strategy first, then the tactics. So, intuitively, many think that one has to start with defining the win strategy first, and then you would develop action items (the tactics) to enact it. The actions that will enable you to implement this win strategy, with clear priorities, deadlines, and targets assigned to each task.

After this is all set and done, right before the RFP hits the street, or while you are preparing a proposal, the approach is to develop the win themes that are reflective of the win strategy, as a separate but related exercise. Win themes are recurring statements throughout the proposal that convey to the customer why your proposal should win, help your customer remember your proposal while they might read multiple others, and even lend them the language to justify to others why they want to award this proposal to you.

This traditional approach works sometimes, but it takes twice as long to implement. In many cases, the results are nothing to write home about—with win themes completely out of sync with win strategies.

The secret of developing powerful win strategies that shine through your win themes and make your proposals more persuasive is counterintuitive: Start with developing win themes, not win strategies; win strategies will fall out of the action items that your win themes will drive.

The way you derive good strategies is to come up with win themes, and perform a gap analysis in the process. If you cannot come up with a reason to select you for every evaluation criterion, every area of scope, and every customer desire, you need to honestly assess: Do you actually have the capability to provide the desired benefit your customer seeks? If yes, make sure you state the benefit, the feature, and prove it. If no, you have to come up with a strategy to obtain that capability, and figure out what actions will get you there. This is the inverted relationship between the win themes and win strategies. In other words, if you cannot come up with a complete win theme, you should create a win strategy, and not the other way around.

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