Rising above the competition – putting the ‘wow’ factor into your bid
Updated: Apr 6
2016 and 2017 sees many public service spin-outs face the prospect of re-tendering for their core contracts. To mark this milestone, we are publishing a series of articles on bid writing and business development. Read the fifth in the series below.
Making your proposal stand out from the crowd is perhaps the most difficult aspects of bid writing. You may feel that your services are the best on the market but unless you are able to add a ‘wow’ factor, it risks falling on deaf ears.
In a previous article I’ve talked about getting the basics right. But, chances are, this won’t be enough to get you past the winning post.
What do we mean by the ‘wow’ factor? And what can you do to add extra panache to your bid?
Boiled down, the ‘wow’ factor is really just marketing speak for ‘what makes you different’. What can you do that other providers cannot, and how do you show that in your bid?
There no simple answer to that question but there are a few helpful pointers to get you thinking.
Perhaps the most obvious way to differentiate yourself is by who is on your bid team. Do you have a ‘big name’ expert in the area that can give your credentials a boost? Good candidates here are prominent academics or former CEOs. If you have people like that on your board, for example, get commitment for them to spend a bit of time. An effective way of doing this is to propose an advisory panel where members have a substantive role in guiding or quality assuring the project.
However, avoid the temptation to name-check people without giving them a role. This might be interpreted as what the Americans call ‘bid candy’ – a measure designed to sweeten the pill but which adds little else.
A problem many commissioners experience is that when bidders describe their services, they look and sound very alike. Everybody offers the same ‘innovative’, ‘person-centred’, ‘cost effective’ service. You need to list the services you are going to provide but add something else too.
Tell a story. How do the bits of the service work together? Write a few paragraphs from the point of view of a service user (or their family). Show what ‘person-centred’ really means with examples and what the impact of the service on them will be. If the bidding process includes an interview or presentation, consider bringing a service user with you.
An important point is to make it look nice. Naturally the care you take devising a bid will be taken to reflect the care that you will put into delivering a service. You might be hampered by the format of the application if it demands a set template or maximum number of pages but you this shouldn’t stop you treating it as an important aspect of your bid.
If you can, use diagrams and give text space to breathe. Use consistent fonts and colours, and ensure that your branding features prominently. If it will add a strong to your bow, think about submitting an element of the bid in non-standard format – for example a short video – but don’t overload the commissioner with content.
Finally, remember to edit it so it is in plain English and not sector jargon. Delete spurious words, get rid of unnecessary amplifiers like ‘very’ or ‘extremely’, and use buzzwords judiciously.
This gives you a start in thinking through what can makes a bid stand out. But really it is up to you to think about your strengths and make sure you show them off. Good luck.
For more articles in this series click here.