Black forest cake

How is writing a bid like baking a cake?

It’s all about the ingredients you use and what you do with your sprinkles. 

There sometimes comes a time, usually around a third of the way through writing a bid, when a client looks at an early draft and starts to think “Aw heck. What have we done? What even is this?”.

They’re looking at a document covered in yellow and green highlights, tracked changes, comment boxes, abruptly ended sentences and rows of [xxxxxxxxxxxxx]. It’s a mess.

Yet: slowly but surely, between that draft and the next, the highlights disappear, the sentences are completed, the [xxxxxxxxxxxx]’s are replaced by actual factual words and the comments, questions and requests for more information are knocked down one by one.

At this point, I get a call or email where the client very politely (mostly) reassures me that, yes, it’s all correct but, um, er, well, it’s just really, really dull.

They worry that, having answered all of the tender questions accurately and specifically, the focus on facts has taken the life out of the bid. They worry that any assessor reading the document would be asleep before they got past the executive summary.

And they might be right.

However, it’s vital to construct a bid in a logical way, focusing on the crucial elements of delivering to the spec that will score you the points you need to stay in the race, then adding the unique ‘who’s and ‘how’s and ‘why’s and ‘what’s that demonstrate why your company can do it better and finally – finally – adding the finishing touches that lift it up from a drab but factual tome to a compelling and interesting bid that scores highly in all areas.

Let’s talk about cake

Your average cake, say a traditional Victoria sponge, absolutely has to contain certain vital ingredients, without which, it would not be a Victoria sponge. Flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder. Also jam and cream, but you can’t put them in until you’ve made the sponge itself.

Now the Victoria sponge is a damn fine thing and is pretty tasty as it is. But hey, we’re out to impress here and for this competition, a standard Vicky sandwich isn’t going to stand out – these judges want something special. Something to make them go ‘Wow!’. Something with depth, and layers of interest.

A standard sponge cake though, forms the basis of a tremendous multitude of other tastier, more interesting, inventive and fancy cakes. You can change the quantities of eggs, butter, flour and so on to make it denser or lighter. There are unlimited things you can add to a sponge mix to make it stand out. You can add flavourings (chocolate, coffee, lemon). You can add more ingredients (cherries, nuts, black pudding*).

These things are baked in to the cake and make it more appealing. These are the things that make your cake different from the rest; your own unique recipe or, if you like, your USPs.

But you do need an actual cake to bake them in to.

Once baked, your cake has:

  • Become a cake – ‘yes, we can deliver what you need’
  • Become your cake – ‘and this is the way we do it’

So now you have a very acceptable cake. It’s structurally sound and different to other cakes – it’s got everything it needs to have and a few things that make it distinctive – it’ll definitely score points. But what if someone else brings in a black forest gateau?

Bring on the toppings!

As much as we ‘eat with our eyes’ – an attractively filled and iced cake is generally more appealing than a plain one – we also read with our emotions. Even hard bitten tender assessors.

With all the facts in place, the final task is to persuade the assessors that your bid is best. Presuming you have answered all of the questions to the fullest extent (flour, butter, sugar, eggs) and explained how and why your company’s way of delivering the product/services will both meet the specification and add value and deliver benefits that others may not (flavour, fruit, nuts, choc chips), you should be well on your way to scoring the points you need to win. But so will everyone else.

The icing on the cake is just that – little extras that take your bid just that step further, that make your bid just that bit more appealing, that make the tendering authority want to find out more and want to work with your company over all the others.

This is the icing, sprinkles, fresh fruit and chocolate shavings. It’s where you go back through your bid, section by section, paragraph by paragraph and enhance, enrich, improve and augment your basic facts and your USPs with persuasive reasoning, statements of confidence in your company and further highlighting those vital added value areas.

At the same time, it’s important not to go too far – too much salesy persuasion can overshadow the fine balance of facts and USPs you’ve spent so long putting together. You don’t want your carefully prepared cake to collapse under the weight of its own awesomeness.

In the end, the icing on your cake is there to add interest and appeal. But without a cake to put it on, it’s just sweet nothings.

Contact me

If you’d like to know more about my feelings on cake or, indeed, just want to hire a bid writer, do get in touch.

 

 

*just checking you’re still reading

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