Bid Writing: Underestimate It at Your Peril

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A message to those that don’t write: Never underestimate the importance of great bid writing – it can win or lose a bid.

Writing must be persuasive, providing evaluators with confidence that you are the right people to deliver the service or product. Writing must provide the wow factor with a customer focus, explaining the benefits and differentiators of the offer. It must be accurate and compliant, following given rules.
Clear, simple writing is best. Imagine writing for a 13-year-old – plainly, but intelligently, demonstrating an understanding of complex processes. This allows every evaluator to understand your message.

Planning is everything
We can’t write responses without a plan. How will I know if I’ve answered the exam question? How will I know I’ve ticked off the evaluation criteria? How do I get my SMEs on board without a clear plan of attack?

Plan your answer by meticulously working out response structure and contents, and setting out headings, evaluation criteria, and weightings. The storyboard then delves deeper, filling in the gaps. It should set out approach, benefits, added value and evidence, and identify graphic requirements, actions, and responsibilities. When it comes to writing, you will find the words flow easily because you know the direction they need to go in and have the information required to tell the story.

Not all words are necessary
Quite often we write beautifully persuasive text to cover all the points in a storyboard, only to find we have gone way over the word count. Here are some tips for getting it down:

  • Only ever use the active voice. It is more direct and uses fewer words.
  • Make sure the words you do use add meaning. If they don’t, get rid.
  • Remove ‘empty’ words that don’t bring meaning to what you are writing – on the contract, during the contract, that, the, which, etc
  • Remove transitions (e.g. furthermore, also), conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or) and running starts (e.g. it is, the fact that). Shorter sentences are punchier anyway, and easier to read
  • Read, read, and reread – does it make sense? Is each word meaningful? If you can remove half a sentence, would it still make sense? If you can remove words without losing meaning, delete them.

Continual learning is compulsory
As bid writers, we must write in a certain way and continually improve to make our writing richer. Writing a dissertation at university requires a different style to bid writing – understanding the difference makes you a better bid writer. Hone your skills. Read lots of things in different genres – fiction and non-fiction, newspapers, cookery books, online articles, comics – anything that uses words to persuade. Practise writing in different ways – write a story, social media posts, keep a journal, write your recipes down, dabble in poetry.

A message to those that do write: Love what you do. You have an incredible skill.

This article was written by Pippa Birch.

Pippa owns Pipster Solutions Ltd – an award-winning bid consultancy. Pippa has been a bid writer for over 20 years, mainly in highways and civil engineering. She is well known in the sector and is an active member of the Institute of Asphalt and has won several industry awards. Pippa went freelance in 2012 and started growing the Pipster team during the Covid pandemic. She is APMP Professional certified and mentors other bid professionals, winning Contribution to the Profession in 2022. She also developed #ThursdayThrong and #BidBites – free online meetings for the bidding community to reduce isolation.

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