Research & Analysis: Step 4 of 7 of the SMARTER™ Methodology

by Thursday 12th October 2017Blog

Imagine that you make pasta sauce for a living.  Unfortunately, your particular brand of pasta sauce is struggling against the market leaders. How do you go about understanding what compels the Great British Public to buy one pasta sauce over another?

Well that’s exactly the challenge that faced American company Prego in the 1980s who were struggling against the dominant brand Ragu.

So what did Prego do?  They hired a very expensive consultant called Howard Moskowitz and asked him to “analyse the perceptual process of spaghetti sauce by studying the effect on a subject’s experience or behaviour of systematically varying the properties of a stimulus along one or more physical dimensions…”


To the non-Psychophysicists amongst us this means he conducted a very complicated experiment using 45 varieties of sauce, varying them by every way you can vary pasta sauce: by sweetness, by tartness, by garlickiness and by ‘visible solids’ and asking people to tell him which one they preferred.

What would you expect to happen in this particular scenario?

Probably what Prego thought would happen: Howard would let lots of people taste the different sauces, and he’d plot their responses onto a graph and the graph would show a nice, neat bell curve showing the optimum sauce recipe that most people liked, right?

Wrong.  Howard discovered something really amazing.

He discovered that if you sit down and analyse the results of this experiment, contrary to popular opinion, there is no ‘optimum’ pasta sauce, only optimum pasta sauces.

Different people like different sauce.  There are some people that like their pasta sauces plain, there are some people that like their pasta sauces spicy, and there are some people that like their pasta sauces extra chunky.

Of these three categories, the third one was the most significant because at the time in 1980s America and you went to a supermarket you would not find a jar of Extra Chunky Pasta Sauce available anywhere.

As a result, Prego went back and completely reformulated their product line and came out with a line of Extra Chunky Pasta Sauce that immediately and completely took over the pasta sauce business in that country.  Over the next 10 years Prego made $600million off their line of Extra Chunky Pasta Sauces alone.

So what does this mean for the world of bids and proposals? For me, it’s two things.

Firstly, we all know we need to think about what’s important to our customers when writing our bids don’t we?  We look at their Hot Buttons and we align them to our solution.

But how often do we look at the things that keep your customer awake at night even though they may not know or even understand themselves that it’s their insatiable need for chunky pasta sauce!

And secondly, it’s remembering that the people evaluating your bid may like their pasta to taste different.  You need to appeal to them all to maximise your chances.

True customer intelligence is an understanding of a customer’s needs—spoken and unspoken—and the skills it looks for in its providers to meet those needs. It is a key element of the sales and opportunity planning process that occurs before responding to a bid or RFP. Good customer intelligence takes place over months and years.

Of course, the most important information is information gained directly from our relationships with our customer contacts.  But there are many other examples of useful sources of information about our customers:

  • Annual reports;
  • Policy documents;
  • Industry publications by the customer;
  • Individuals who were once employed by the customer organisation;
  • Historical data on trends;
  • Budget documents that indicate future priorities;
  • Existing contracts and performance data (either when trying to unseat an incumbent or when trying to protect an existing contract); and
  • Freedom of Information Act Requests for Public Sector customers.


How many of us make the mistake on relying on what our customers tell us they want?

Instead, be SMARTER™.  By being creative in the way you approach your customer research, it can help you focus your opportunity and proposal strategy, set yourself apart from your competition, and win more bids.


Intellitender Limited is a boutique bid consultancy that supports organisations like you to bid better, improve tender win rates and ultimately deliver long term competitive advantage. Intellitender deliver a range of business-winning solutions to our clients, including developing bid strategies that build on customer and competitive intelligence to magnify your own strengths, minimise your weaknesses, and show your organisation’s capabilities and proposed innovations in the most positive way. Our team can also make anonymous Freedom of Information Act Requests on your behalf. Our detailed understanding of the legislation has enabled us to gain critical information on our client’s public sector customers that maximises their competitive advantage while winning business.

Our Bid SMARTER™ methodology is patented seven-step process that underpins the ways in which we help our clients bid better, improve tender win rates and ultimately deliver long term competitive advantage.  The SMARTER™ model spans the whole business development lifecycle, building on internationally recognised bid best practice and the foundations of consumer psychology.

Intellitender has an industry-leading tender success rate of 87%.  How can we help you Bid SMARTER™?


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