Bid themes – a help or a hindrance?
‘Bid themes’, or ‘win themes’ are a big thing in the world of bid writing and they are not without merit. Many companies like to develop their responses in a way that reflects the scoring methodology defined by the tendering organisation. So for example, if 60% of the score will be awarded on quality then, of course, it makes sense to keep quality in mind while writing each answer.
Frequently though, rather than using broad terms like ‘quality’, bid themes define one or two of a company’s USPs and aim to drive them home throughout the response.
For instance, a smaller business, tendering in competition with bigger companies, may decide on a bid theme of ‘smaller is better’ with the aim of showing how their more hands-on, personal approach will deliver a better service. In many cases, this approach is extremely effective and, in fact, it’s an approach I use a lot with clients who are looking for significant growth through contracts or who are retendering for a contract they’ve already held for some time.
That said, overarching bid themes can be a distraction or a hindrance if they are stuck to too closely. Every tender is different and each section of a tender has been developed for a specific reason. Shoehorning a bid theme into an inappropriate area risks including a lot of very nice, positive statements at the expense of the actual answer to the question. The place for obvious bid themes is in the executive summary, or other areas where descriptions of the benefits of your proposal are requested – rarely in the response to the technical specification.
Be careful not to lose sight of the main aim of the bid: to win the contract. If you find yourself rewriting answers so that you can tie them more closely to your chosen bid theme, step back for a moment and ask yourself why. Take an objective, critical look at the answer you’re about to rip to shreds and work out what’s really missing. More often than not, answers that don’t quite feel right yet aren’t lacking in bid theme buzz words – what they need is better structure and better narrative.
By complete coincidence (ahem), I’m currently in the middle of writing a ‘how to’ on structure and narrative – will link to the post here when it’s done.