The Fast Lane: A review by any other color


This article first appeared in The Zweig A/E Marketing Letter (ISSN 1549-9588)
Issue # 137. Originally published


The more complex the proposal submittal, the more you need a Red Team review.


(to be spoken aloud in a sing-song voice)


Gold team, blue team,

last comes Red —

What they asked

is what we said.


When it comes to proposal reviews, I’ve heard people talk about Gold Teams (kick-off meetings), Blue Teams (writing/editorial staff), Purple and Pink teams (mid-way reviews), and Red Teams (final package review). Each team has a legitimate place in the development of proposals, with the Gold and Red Teams in probably the most important spots.


The Gold Team review sets you in the right direction; the Red Team review makes sure you got there.


The larger the project, the more important its strategic value to your firm, and the more complex the proposal submittal, the more you need a Red Team review. But every proposal, no matter how short and/or simple it is, can benefit from this review step if it is approached and executed properly.


“[The Red Team review] is only as good as the attention paid to the process by Red Team members and management… There has to be a real commitment from the top to make the process work.”


Ampy Bouchey

Independent Marketing Consultant

Dallas, Texas


The Red Team sees a version of the proposal that should be at least 98% the same as what the client will see a few days later. The Red Team reads with a copy of the RFP in hand, to make sure that all issues are addressed, all required forms are completed and inserted, and the proposal is organized and assembled as directed in the RFP.


This last item is particularly important, because the first “look” at the proposal is often done by someone with a checklist: they don’t read the submittal; they merely check boxes. The purpose of this first “look” is frequently to disqualify as many submittals as possible so that fewer have to be read. Anything out of the prescribed order might be missed, and your proposal could then be discarded as “non-responsive.”


The Red Team also makes sure that the “win” themes are properly stated and restated, the facts are accurate and complete, the graphics show what the text describes, there are no information gaps, etc.


The Red Team should include the client advocate or manager (if there is one), the project principal, the proposed project manager, and the proposal manager (generally someone from the marketing staff). Additional members could include key in-house task leaders.


Making sure the proposal responds to every item in the RFP is a task that should be given to a staff member known for his or her love of minute details. This person can have only the most cursory technical knowledge, as long as they have good command of the English language and will recognize immediately when something doesn’t completely “check the box.”


Some firms go outside for Red Team reviewers. I have, in the past, invited one or two people from the subconsultant firms to join the Red Team, but I have not ever used a total “outside” Red Team.


For an ideal schedule, Red Team members should have the final draft and RFP four days before the due date— “D minus 4”— so that they can read both documents and mark up the proposal. On “D minus 3,” the Red Team should meet in one place to discuss their mark-ups and compile one master mark-up document.


On “D minus 2”, the marketing department makes the changes indicated in the master mark-up document, and prints and assembles the document. With color graphics having longer printing times, this often takes almost an entire day. A Red Team member— generally the principal makes one last random spot check of the documents. Upon approval, the documents are packaged and sent out for overnight delivery.


On “D minus 1,” the client receives the proposal one day ahead of the actual due date, which you hope will demonstrate your firm’s ability to finish project assignments before “the nick of time.”


By the way, if you notice that the same senior person always seems to have comments or input that will require a total reorganization and/or rewrite of the proposal, try inviting that person to the Gold Team meeting, to get their input before you start writing. If they cannot attend, solicit their input by other means, to make sure all critical information is known before the “theming” and writing begins.


Bernie Siben, CPSM, is corporate marketing director with Quad Knopf, Inc. (Visalia, CA). Contact him at (559) 733-0440 or at


Copyright © 2006, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.



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