A marketing consultant friend of mine recently posed a challenge to me, how would I build a modular proposal template using Word 2010? The users of the template would be a sales team – all with varying MS Word skills – and the company has an evolving brand and ever-growing product line up. The client was also using Office 2010 and I was looking forward to getting a Word 2010 client project under my belt.
His client also was trying to get away from too much cutting and pasting across proposals and had an eye for more standardization in their proposal process. A master document approach never became part of the equation nor did too much inserting kung fu. Master Documents are an urban myth in the Microsoft World and anyway I like to keep things simple and easy to use especially if I am handing a document or template off to non-writers.
I came across Word Building Blocks while responding to a freelance job posting and upon reading up on it saw the feature as a potential solution to the challenge my marketing consultant colleague posed to me.
Building Blocks 101
Originally launched as a Word 2007 feature, Building Blocks are reusable chunks of a Word document. These reusable chunks maintain style formatting and can including images like screen shots and diagrams. When I first read about Building Blocks, I thought it might be just a rebranding of Autotext but I saw there was more control options that made it suited for the challenge. I also saw the feature to be friendlier for the project since while the sales team audience for using the proposal is all great sales people, but Microsoft Word is just a tool to do their job. The company doesn’t have a proposal team much less a dedicated proposal person either.
Building Blocks And A Modular Proposal
The overall requirement for the project was a modular proposal. The Sales VP and the marketing consultant had a vision of a core proposal encompassing typical corporate boilerplate information like:
- Cover Letter
- Corporate Background
- Support Information
- Terms and Conditions
Where the proposal requirement got fun is what I like to call the wild card elements:
- Product information
- Team bios
- Professional Services Information
- Training Information
While the Building Blocks option is a great technological and formatting option it also meant that, the client had to reconsider how they view their proposal elements. Some changes we recommended to their writing and formatting included:
- Delineate product information into tables by product line/family versus the multi-page table they had been using to date in their proposals.
- Take advantage of headings.
- Keep the company advantage and background tight and crisp and avoid the use of end notes and footnotes whenever possible.
Creating Building Blocks For The Proposal
Creating Building Blocks is a code free operation and something I recommend that people create at the Word template (*.dot) stage. After creating the full proposal in a template, a decision was made on what element would be a variable in the proposal depending on the market segment (federal or commercial). So once a whole proposal was complete, here are the basic steps I followed to create Building Blocks:
- Select an element in the document that you want to turn into a Building Block.
- Click the Insert tab to open the Insert ribbon.
- Click Quick Parts in the Text Group.
- Select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery. The Create New Building Block dialog box appears.
- Type a name for the Building Block in the Name field.
- Select a gallery for the Building Block in the Gallery drop-down list.
- Select a category for the Building Block in the Category group.
- Select the proposal template in the Save in drop-down list.
- Select Insert Content in its own paragraph in the Options drop-down list.
- Click OK to save the Building Block.
Packaging Building Blocks For The Proposal
Since my Microsoft Office experience includes product deployment and support, I can be a stickler about templates and environments. All building blocks are stored in MS Word templates. Options include:
- Word’s building blocks template (locally installed)
- Word’s Normal template (locally installed)
- Custom template that was developed for the proposal (transportable with the template)