Bid writing – what do you actually do?

Bid writing – what do you actually do?

What do you actually do?” – it’s a question I am asked frequently, which is fair enough because to my knowledge, the role and title of bid writer has only really appeared over the past ten or so years.

As a construction bid writer, I work with subject matter experts and translate their technical excellence into readable copy that scores the highest marks in bid evaluations. Managing stakeholders, understanding technical information and  articulating why we are the best team for the project is how I spend most of my working life.  This post takes you through what I do and how I work with clients.

The background

In part, my role has come about because of public sector procurement and the legislation that governs it. Changing requirements have driven transparency around public sector tendering, with responses that demonstrate added value across a whole range of business operations. Private-sector tendering has similar requirements, but generally it isn’t as complex or rule-based.

The evolution of the bid

I have been in work-winning roles in some form or other since the early noughties and in this time bids and proposals have evolved from being a lesson in process management, with good presentation and information management (we call this content curation now), to a sophisticated activity producing high-quality written responses with tailored client messaging about how we will solve their problems and where we have done this before. Bids are scored using evaluation criteria provided in the tender documents and I write to meet these criteria.

How I work with clients

I work with a wide range of clients and although they are diverse in the projects they work on, they are all focused on designing, building or engineering a building or piece of infrastructure.

My initial conversation with them is to find out what the bid is, whether they have undertaken a bid/no bid process, and what the outcome of this was. If they haven’t considered the points I set out in this post, I take them through the process to define whether it’s a worthwhile opportunity. I offer pragmatic bid advice – I want all of my clients to have the best chance of winning any project they pursue and if I feel bids aren’t quite right, I am candid.

Planning out the bid

If we are proceeding, I develop a bid plan with my client, identifying key milestones, deliverables and questions. The responsibility for leading or managing the bid will generally sit in-house with my client. Sometimes I will pick this up but I am usually engaged to support the writing process and this is where I can add the most value to the bid. 

Structuring responses

The critical part of my role is structuring the bid responses to facilitate the answering process. Prior to the planning meeting, I will analyse the bid documents beforehand, assessing the evaluation criteria and the language and structure of the questions to glean as much insight into what the procuring organisation is looking for.

I will then organise a bid planning meeting, to take place either face to face, on the phone or by Skype. During this meeting I will gain further intelligence into the procuring organisation based on relationships and prior working experience and identify examples of previous experience that we can use to illustrate the claims we are making in the bid. These clues allow me to build a picture of the procuring organisation’s challenges and how we will be able to help them. We will develop win themes based on this information. 

I will also use this meeting to identify key pieces of evidence that provide the proof to what we are claiming. Evidence is written up during the next stage. 

Developing the answers

The art of the bid writer is taking the response structures and working with technical experts such as engineers, architects, constructors, and a range of other consultants, to develop and organise content in the most readable, scorable way possible. The actual writing part takes time to write, review and refine. 

My approach is to develop an initial framework or outline, with headings and bullet-points of the proposed content, while I wait for the technical detail. I consider writing responses like a piece of knitting or a painting – by continuing to keep filling in the blanks, eventually it will be complete. On big bids, this process can take a couple of weeks. On smaller bids, I recommend clients develop information libraries, so they have a bank of content to draw from. 

I have found in the construction industry that it’s much simpler to sit with people and interview them to gather the content. By having conversations, I can ask questions that will provide the answers I need much quicker than sending someone off with a blank sheet of paper. Using the information gleaned from the interview, I can put together a draft which can be further developed. 

The future 

I’m not sure what the future of bid writing will be – change is happening so fast that it’s hard to predict how things will evolve. I do believe there will be more automation – currently parts of the process are inefficient and technology would reduce the administrative burden of bidding for work. This would reduce some of the repetition of bids (very prevalent in-house), but I still foresee a requirement for quality content that is strategic in tone and bespoke to the project being bid.

How I can help you

If you need help structuring bid responses or creating a library of standard information, please give me a shout. Next month I will be telling you about how I win work as a freelance bid writer – another question I am asked a lot.

 

Reshaping project information into bid and marketing collateral

Reshaping project information into bid and marketing collateral

My earlier post talked about how to capture project information. In this post I am going to talk about the myriad ways you can recycle and reshape it, to create a range of content suitable for multiple channels and platforms.

Marketing Examples
Bid collateral 
  • Case studies
  • Project information on CVs
Marketing communications
  • PR
  • Awards submissions
  • Online and offline media
Online and social media
  • Website content
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
Submission responses 
  •  Develop a bank of library of project information, ready for a range of questions.
How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

How to write winning CVs for construction submissions

There are two key pieces of work-winning collateral which are sure to be requested for each construction submission, whether it is a PQQ or ITT. These are project information sheets or case studies and CVs.

[Tweet “CVs provide the opportunity for the bidder to clearly demonstrate the calibre, skills and experience of the proposed team. “]

Here is my how-to guide to write winning CVs for construction submissions. 

#1 – The basics   

This is the basic information you need to include:

  • Name
  • Role/proposed role on the project
  • Qualifications

#2 – Profile of the individual  

Use this section to clearly align the person with the requirements of the project. Use the client’s language to reflect back their team requirements. 

Write an overview of the individual. This needs to succinctly describe the individual, their background, key skills and any particular specialism they may have. Specialisms may include particular sector, contract-type experience or building typologies.

The information included in this section needs to be relevant and appropriate to the project being bid for.

#3 – Proposed role on the project   

Why has this person been selected and what will their daily project responsibilities be? 

Clearly demonstrate to the client and their advisory team why this individual has been carefully chosen for their project.

Explain:

  • how they will interface with the client and project team;
  • who they report to;
  • how much time they will spend on the project, i.e. full-time or visiting; and
  • what their specific daily responsibilities will be.

#4 – Projects   

Demonstrate how the individual has added value and made a big difference on their previous schemes. Quantify the impact. 

Although it is important to put into context a person’s experience, merely describing the project really misses a great opportunity to demonstrate the calibre of the person. Include dates, project value and a brief project description, but use this section to focus on a person’s  specific contribution to a project. Also ensure the added value examples clearly relate to the project you are pursuing.

Examples of added value:

  • Developing efficient design to exceed minimum statutory standards.
  • Designing an energy-efficient heating/lighting/ventilation system which has had a demonstrable positive benefit for the client, saving them money (quantify the amount of money saved by the client through this solution).
  • Developing a construction solution which saved time, money or both.
  • Working on a site which was occupied throughout the build period.
  • Clear, quantifiable examples of innovation or sustainability.

#5 – Nice to includes 

Include the nice extras, including completion photographs and client testimonials. 

Please contact me to work with you on developing bespoke CVs or other bid collateral for submissions.

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Construction marketing: how to capture project information

Project information capture: a construction marketer’s biggest challenge 

Without a doubt a construction marketer’s biggest challenge is securing and interpreting a never-ending stream of project information to enable quality content marketing to be produced, build profile and win projects.

Project information capture: why, what, when?  

There are some key considerations for project information capture.

They are:

  • Why do we need project information?  
  • What does quality project information look like? 
  • When do I capture it?
Why do we need project information?

Project information shifts your marketing content and tender responses from being descriptive and features-based, to being outcomes and benefits-based. 

From a marketer’s perspective, quality project information is literally worth its weight in gold. I believe its value can be demonstrated in one simple formula:

(Quality project information = quality content) = more projects won + more people in work.

Showcasing benefits, rather than features, speaks directly to client needs and wants, as well as demonstrating innovative thinking and added-value. It also creates amazing bid responses, award submissions and shareable blog posts.

From a purely practical point of view, proactively captured project information goes a long way towards making any kind of submission process a lot smoother.

What does this information look like?

Quality project information clearly shows why your organisation provided a better service to the client and project than your competitors. It will tell a story using examples, evidence, pictures and some words.

First things first 

It may sound basic, but double-check the project details you have on record. Include the contractor, architect, engineers and of course the client. Also find out who the contact is for references going forward.

Speaking with your project-based colleagues (the who bit of the process)

Speak with technical colleagues about projects regularly and schedule a formal interview when the project is completed.

Consider the following points during your conversations:

  • Challenges of the project and the solutions developed to meet them. Challenges will generally focus around key areas of site, programme, budget or sustainability. These issues require innovation and ingenuity to solve them and its these solutions we need to capture and communicate efficiently to our stakeholders.
  • Benefits delivered to the client and project through approach.
  • Examples of innovation, including why the approach or solution was innovative and quantification of the project and client benefits.
  • Added-value examples.
  • Examples of sustainability, quantifying benefits.
  • Examples of cost and programme savings, with the impacts properly quantified.

Use these conversations to develop your knowledge (assuming you’re a desk-bound marketer). If you are unsure of technical language, ask for clarification. And remember the golden rule: evidence, evidence, evidence. Any claim which can’t be backed up by proper evidence or examples shouldn’t be included in any piece of collateral or content marketing.

Information storage 

Using a tabulated format like this facilitates capture, storage and eventual retrieval. You will also find that this kind of format will provide a great ‘starter for 10’ when putting together those pesky last minute PQQ responses.

Challenge Solution Outcome Benefit to the client Examples or evidence
Challenge A
Challenge B
When do you capture project information? 

Please see above about regular dialogue with technical colleagues and a project completion interview. 

I’m a great believer in creating a project sheet right from the project being formally commissioned by the client, so essentially project information should be captured and organised from a project’s inception.

Please don’t leave project information capture to when a job is handing over. Clearly the delivery team will have other things on their minds to be wanting to help you.

Construction Marketing podcast – capturing project information 

For some more detail on this topic, last year I took part in a podcast with Pritesh Patel and Mike Reader. On the podcast we discussed the challenges and provided some solutions. The podcast can be listened to here.

Next steps

If I can help you to to efficiently capture project information, or use it to create amazing content marketing or scheme-winning PQQs, please get in touch and let me know.

Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for capturing project information

Top tips for project information capture

  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your technical colleagues and know where projects are up to in relation to key milestones. This habit will help all other aspects of your marketing as well.
  • Develop case studies from inception or commission. Key information to gather includes:
    • Client
    • Value
    • Dates (design and construction phases)
    • Services being provided
    • Current workstage
    • Challenges and solutions (ie, what are the issues and how are they being solved?)
    • Sustainability, including how features are being integrated into design and what the expected outcomes are.
  • Keep all the above information updated regularly and encourage joint ownership between marketing and delivery.
  • Always provide quantifiable evidence of any claims made, including statistics.

Quality project information… Why do you never have it when you need it? Actually it’s a marketer’s biggest challenge working in the built environment. Why do we want all this project information, anyway? To me quality information equals quality content and collateral, enabling efficient and meaningful communication about project benefits rather than project features.The advantages of an organised and proactive bank of quality project information are:

  • Developing compelling marketing messages about design and construction approach and being able to evidence them with statistics and client testimonials.
  • Producing quality project case studies which go beyond the standard project description. These case studies score points at PQQ and ITT stage, ultimately winning projects.
Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

Developing a library of standard information… and keeping it up to date

One of the main challenges of bid writing and delivering any kind of submission is having an endless supply of accurate information. This task is never complete, but done properly will enable you to focus on developing quality bespoke content for each pitch, rather than searching for material you know you have written before, but can never find when you need it…

I speak from bitter experience on this subject, because I know how tedious it can seem to go back through submitted bids to strip out and archive good content for the future. However, I have also wasted many an hour under a lot of stress sorting through previous submissions for golden pieces of information.

Generic information which is asked for time after time

There is much standard information grouped into business functions which is requested time after time. The more you do to organise this, the easier your life will be.

This information includes (but isn’t exhaustive):

Organisational information

such as certificate of incorporation, company number, VAT number, registered address, number of offices, description of services provided. Review and update annually.

Finance and accounts

(always worth getting annual statistics on turnover by sector and service as well, if you want to be ahead of the game). Review and update annually.

Quality management

Including QA certificates, standard text on approach and process, implementation and non-conformance, and complaints procedures. Review and update annually. Speak to the QA manager following any audits.

Health and safety

Including H&S certificate or relevant procedures and systems. It is definitely worth getting your head around CDM regulations if you are a bid writer/manager working in the built environment. The roles and responsibilities are different and this has an implication for the information required. It is also worth noting the CDM regs will be changing again in 2015, with big implications for architects.

Review and update annually and keep up to date with any changes in regulations, so you can speak to the H&S manager about them

Environment

Such as an environmental management certificate or similar processes and procedures. Try to also to gather information which demonstrates the effectiveness of initiatives. Also, if your organisation is involved in designing and delivering BREEAM-accredited buildings, you can never have too many case studies on how the grade was achieved and what the quantifiable outcomes have been.

Review the standard information annually and produce case studies on an ongoing basis.

People

This information can be wide-ranging, including Investors in People, policies on a range of issues from recruitment to development, staff numbers cut by grade and staff turnover. Best to make good friends with your HR team and ask them to provide a range of information on a regular basis.

Review and update annually

Discipline-specific information

Such as design approach or approach to planning construction projects. This information will be guided by quality management processes and will be available within the business. Ensure you are communicating it accurately.

Review and update annually and be aware of any updates or changes

Bespoke ‘golden nuggets’

This is the information which is created specifically for certain bids and other submissions. It is generally technical in nature and takes a while to produce. Examples can include ‘added value’, ‘BREEAM’ or technical approach, but again, this list isn’t exhaustive.

When the submission has been completed, go through the bid and strip out this content and archive it in a separate Word document. The most simple approach is to create one document with an index of the questions, along with the responses. This will enable you to quickly search through in future and will also provide you with a boilerplate or ‘starter for ten’ for those last minute submissions.

Again, this information can be reviewed annually or more frequently and updated with fresh content or examples. Always key to these questions is the quality of evidence provided to support your claims. Make sure you speak to your technical colleagues to know what is happening on projects.

Please get in touch with me if I can help you develop a standard information library for your business.