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Grappling with Graphics


Grappling with Graphics

There are no surprises to be had when I say that bidding is mainly writing. With this naturally comes the organisational aspects such as planning and time management, but, in order to churn out the 50000 words say to complete a compliant bid, content is key.

However, content is not necessary limited to letters and punctuation. The idiom "a picture is worth a thousand words" comes to mind. In bidding, you have to show the Commissioner your vision, and what more practical way to achieve this than through images?

Photos can be used, presenting a certain location or initiative already established within the community. This can aid in supporting an explanation, or providing the Commissioner with visuals to further fortify the foundations of your bid. It also simply breaks up the text for those who are reading your work, making it easier to digest.

Graphics are also great for illustrating structures, models, and pathways. For example, most bids ask for a staffing structure to demonstrate how you plan to run the service, clearly showing the lines of governance. Describing that would leave the interpretation of the structure itself up to the reader, a potentially risky strategy when explaining a complex service. This is where graphics spring in to leave no question as to the proposed plan.

Another key factor is what everything means for the patient, the service user, the client. How it modifies their care pathway. How it changes their life. This pathway is the keystone of your answer, how you can innovate and revolutionise healthcare in that area with your proposal. It's all very well describing the service through the delivery model, but not enabling the Commissioner to visualise the impact within the community does it no justice. This is where patient pathway diagrams are useful, guiding the reader through the positive changes for the service user.

You don't need to be an expert in graphic design to create these diagrams (although you can create some pretty snazzy ones if you are), as programmes such as Microsoft PowerPoint enable you to easily create a basic flowchart. However, getting to grips with products like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign allow for the creation of simple and striking diagrams to effectively support your writing.

Do you want some help with your graphics? Or maybe just need some support explaining your delivery model? No matter what your bidding need, HealthBid are here to help. Drop Tom Sheppard a line at to find out more.


Word Counts: Make your Words Count


Word Counts: Make your Words Count

Capture planning, designing the solution, story-boarding answers… Here at HealthBid, we recognise these as the key parts of the process that is bidding. However, when composing the bid itself, the basic rules of writing come back into play: structure, content, & word counts. Structure and content are on the whole prepared for through the previous stages, yet word counts are set by the commissioning body and have to be adhered to. Unless, of course, there is no word count... Either way, capped or uncapped, it is a useful part of the question to take into account.



When there is a word count, this is a good indication of how much content you should include. For example, 500 words indicates only the bare bones of your ideas should be cohesively included, whereas 4000 words really gives you room for examples, thorough explanations and justifications.

Despite what can feel like frustrating restrictions at the time, word counts can improve your answer. They prevent you from waffling, forcing you to be concise and really reflect on what you are writing. They are therefore not just there to consume yet more time through cutting words at the end of the project.

However, the amount of content you have for each question will differ. There is little point padding out an answer just to reach the word count when you could have said the same information in half the number of words. This will retract from the key points within the response and just serve to dilute your answer. It is important to be confident with your writing; if you believe you have covered all the important points and communicated them well, yet are under the word limit, leave it be.

With a capped word count, also make sure to thoroughly read the tender documentation. Where you include diagrams, appendices, etc., be aware that, in some cases, these may count towards the word count.



Bid responses can also have no word count. This may initially seem like the ideal situation, with the possibility to write whatever you want without any consideration for its length. It certainly is a lot easier when you first put pen to paper, as there is less pressure to adhere to a limit. However, as mentioned above, word counts can help your answer. The danger is that, with an unlimited amount of words, the key points are hidden within a large amount of other information which, if we’re honest, isn’t entirely relevant and consequently doesn’t need to be there.

In this situation, it is often helpful to set your own limit. Having read the question and knowing your content, the information required is usually clear, thus the necessary length of the response reflects this. It also makes sense if there are multiple bid writers working on the same submission, as it avoids large discrepancies between the lengths of answers, making the bid more cohesive when read as a whole.


If you need support with any part of the bidding process, from simply cutting down your answers to fit the word count to writing it your responses for you, get in touch with our Managing Director, Tom Sheppard, at





The second instalment of our tell all hot seat quizzes with the HealthBid staff. Can Georgia make it through the interview without bursting into fits of giggles. You'll have to read on and find out. 

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HB: What’s your middle name?

GT: Eloise

HB: If you were a colour what would you be and why?

GT: Red – The colour of my face right now. *giggles*

HB: What was the last thing you googled?

GT: Children’s Community Services – occupational therapy in 0-5’s.

HB: That’s what we like to hear, dedication to the job!

GT: I am nothing if not dedicated Joseph.

HB: If we were to look at your personal internet search history, what would be the most common theme?

GT: Social Media – People I used to go to school with! I can’t help myself!

HB: What food reminds you of your childhood?

GT: Spaghetti hoops and fish fingers.

HB: Ketchup?

GT: Of course!

HB: If you were to lead your own rock band, what would you call them?

GT: Oh come on Joe! Georgia aaaaaaaand The Hons? Five members probably. But I’d have to make some more friends firsts.

HB: Good Luck with that! Headphones or speakers?

GT: Headphones, don’t want to be sharing my Justin Bieber with the world.  

HB: What is your least favourite thing to do?

GT: Socialise.

HB: (interviewer and interviewee exchange awkward glances) Alrighty then. If you were any fictional character who would you be and why?

GT: Goldilocks – I am an experienced squatter and love porridge. Oh and I have blonde hair.

HB: You’re a while away from getting an office key then! Which celebrity do you think you look most like?

GT: Kanye. Obvs.

HB: How would you friends describe you?

GT : (Texts friend, waits one minute for response and reads) Caring, kind and funny. Oh Gosh those are all really boring! My boyfriend describes me as vanilla. (sad face)

HB: What causes do you feel passionate about?

GT: Mental Health, HIV, I've got a big list on my linked in.

HB: Any holidays planned this year?

GT: Yes Greece, sun and cocktails are all I need. All. Day. Long.

HB: Favourite tipple?

GT: Gin and tonic, dependent on the gin some kind of fruit!

HB: OK an easy one to finish. Your favourite thing about working at HealthBid?

GT: I like the variety of projects I’ve had to opportunity to work on already. We’ve got some interesting ones lined up too.

HB: Thanks, Georgia.

GT: No Problem. Have a great weekend everyone!


Refine your design


Refine your design

As you may presume, the main focus of bid writing is, indeed, writing. Yet it is important in the early stages of your planning process to fully think through what you’re offering, i.e. what you will be writing about. The service specification will provide the basis for what you’re writing, but the way that your organisation interprets it and provides its solution is another way to secure a win.


The solution design really comes from that early planning stage we always speak of – you can gather information about the commissioning team, the incumbent, the approaches of competitors, and any other relevant information. Bidding events are another great way to gauge the situation, often giving you a chance not only to clarify the spec but to get a feel for what the commissioners want.


So, with all that in mind, solution design should reflect what you’re capable of, what your organisation believes in, and what is being asked for. Ensuring you come up with a solution at a reasonable price (not always the cheapest, just so long as it represents good value for money), which offers something that not only responds to the service spec but also has room for progress and innovation, gives you the all-round package. Once you have your solution design, the writing can begin to take its final shape.


Here at HealthBid, we don’t just write bids. We also use our expertise and strategic viewpoint to support the creation of your solution design. If you want help with creating your plan, or maybe just a bit of support with putting it on paper for the final bid, we can offer our blended approach of writing, reviewing and expert strategic advice, or whichever combination suits you best. Give our team a call on 07341 338 200 if you want to find out more.


Manage to win


Manage to win

To be successful when bidding, there’s a simple way to approach it: to manage to win, manage the process. There are obviously other factors which contribute to the success, such as sector knowledge, meticulous scoping and effective writing. Yet without thorough management, your bid risks lacking focus and losing direction, ultimately meaning it won’t be at its best on submission day. Which is obviously too late.


We have said this many a time here at HealthBid (& we will continue to do so!): preparation is key to unlocking the door to success. It’s never too early to start on a tender, especially ones which run over a relatively extensive period of time. With the best will in the world, someone can’t keep when every document and every answer is due, as well as who needs to do what, all in their head. And, quite frankly, what’s the point? It won’t help others to see the progress of the team, and it’s so much easier to write it down.


If you do this, you’re already on the right track. However, your own notes and squiggles can often be difficult to interpret by someone else, which is usually fine if they’re just for you. With a bid, it’s the teamwork which can make or break the process. For this reason, you need a communal document which everyone can access, consult and update; you then know what’s happening and when, and whether it has been achieved – perfect for keeping an eye on progress, and managing the outcomes.


With the emphasis on teamwork, HealthBid are not just your average bid consultancy. We can of course follow the usual approach, providing you with one of our associates, but we can also offer our a more multi-skilled approach with our in-house bid engine. It keeps it simple and effective: with only one day rate to pay as standard, you get the best combination of bid writing, bid management, and specialist insight of a whole team, with all the varying skills in there. To revolutionise the way you bid or simply just to find out more about our blended approach, contact our Business Development Manager, Joe, at


Style & Substance


Style & Substance


When doing creative writing as part of an English class, it is always important to write for your audience. School tends to teach you how to identify who they are, what they like, and then tweak your writing style accordingly. Register, tone, tenses… These are all buzzwords of English writing which have an impact on your final piece.


Even though your school days may feel like a while ago (or perhaps just a few years!), the lessons learnt here are valuable. For example, the tone and register you use in a job application will be different to that when writing a party invite to your closest friends. In every situation, there’s a subtle difference in style which is important to pick up on, and bidding is no exception.


The bidding style could be seen as a unique combination of commercial (sales) writing, essentially persuasive writing, and storytelling. It’s important to be concise and clear to get across your key points, your win themes. The style you use will influence how your message is communicated to the Commissioner, and so it’s important to be on point. For example, talking about yourself in the past tense too often makes it seem as though you’re not looking forward, and aren’t also currently achieving all of these things. Subtle nuances in the text like this can mount up to change the feel of the text, and so it’s important to bear in mind.


If you would like some support with your writing style, want us to write answers for you, or to simply review what you’ve done to maximise your chances of winning, give our Business Development Manager, Joe, a ring on 07341 338 200.




Excel with Experience


Excel with Experience

In certain situations, experience and the knowledge it provides is vital. For example, if you aren’t feeling 100% and you want to get a reliable second opinion, you’d trust the advice of your GP over that of your friend, as your GP has more knowledge and experience in that area. Likewise, if you have a specific issue when you go to your GP, such as an eye problem, you are sometimes referred to a specialist, an ophthalmologist in this case.


Experience is therefore evidently an asset. Bidding is no exception. You may know your organisation inside out, but ensuring that the knowledge is communicated in the best way can be a challenge. Writing a good bid isn’t just about knowing your own company either; other companies who will be competing, the commissioning body and the incumbent all are key things to analyse, and being able to use this knowledge effectively to your advantage is a skill.


Additionally, if you don’t have a bid team within your company, someone will have to write the bid on top of their day-to-day workload. We know that you’ll already be working your socks off, and this could be a big ask. Instead of compromising the quality of the bid, you can use HealthBid. We can help you to write your bid, write it for you, or check it at the end. Not only are we experienced in bidding, but we also know the healthcare sector inside out. When a contract is worth a hefty amount over, say, 5-7 years, why not invest in extra help to ensure you maximise your winning potential? If you want some extra support, give us a ring on 07341 338 200.


A Win-Win Situation


A Win-Win Situation

As we have said many a time here at HealthBid, preparation is key. You always stand a much greater chance of success if you take the time to prepare and organise the bidding process. There are many stages to this, but no matter which you’re at: if you want to win, you have to know how. Enter the win strategy.


As part of the capture planning process during your preparation, you will perform both analyses of your company and your competitors. Out of this should blossom factors which can be highlighted to put you in a prime position to win, as well as instances where you can’t quite match up to others... Win strategies incorporate all of these: your strengths are obvious winning leads, yet identifying your weaknesses and mitigating them is also an important part of strategically developing your answers.


To ensure your bid really gets across your strengths, streamline your win strategy into win themes. Having concise bullets which perfectly encapsulate why you should win makes it easier to weave them through your answers. With these key ideas both overtly and subtly included in all of your responses, not only can you provide an answer to the main areas of the specification but you can also reinforce your strengths to make your bid stand out above the others.


Without these win themes, you have less focus on what you’re aiming to highlight. Win themes therefore not only help the writing process but also the Red Team (what is a Red Team? See our previous blog post here!). You can compare and contrast what your answers really say with the key ideas you wanted to initially get across, making any relevant changes to strengthen them before submitting the bid.


Want help with creating your win strategy? Picking out your win themes? How about checking your answers are in sync with them? For any help with the bidding process, get in touch with us on 07341 338 200, or send an email over to our Business Development Manager, Joe (


Reasons to Red Team


Reasons to Red Team

Composing a bid can be just like any other sort of writing: at the start, you have good intentions of allowing yourself enough time to check your work thoroughly, reflect on the specification and make sure you have answered everything. In practice, when life happens, you may find yourself finishing the bid a bit closer to the final deadline than anticipated. Ideally, you should still check your work; in reality, you skim read it and think ‘it’ll do’. This is why red teaming is so key: organise a time to discuss the work, constructively criticise it and spot those little errors.


First things first, how can you avoid sailing a bit too close to the wind when it comes to deadlines? If you know that you have a tendency to finish things last minute, create your own deadline to stick to. If you make plans to go through your work with other people, something which is extremely beneficial to the resulting bid, there’ll be more motivation to get it done in advance.  


Once you have met your own deadline, it’s important to get a second opinion before that of the commissioner. Go through your work line by line, picking up on any small turn of phrase or grammatical mistakes which could be improved, as well as keeping in mind both the question and your win themes (if you find yourself scratching your head at this term, keep an eye out for our next blog!). Don’t be afraid to change it up a bit – on a first draft, it’s important to answer all of the points and, on the second, make it a more engaging read and ensure it will stand out above the others.


Finally, be impersonal. Obviously pick up on things you could improve next time you’re writing, but don’t take anything to heart. Your colleagues criticising your work constructively isn’t them criticising you, and it’s always easier to improve pre-existing work than to write it from scratch! This is what a red team is all about: a joint effort and open discussion will ensure an all-round better bid, helping to secure that win.


There are no prizes for second best – clichéd maybe, but very true here! There is little point in writing a bid half-heartedly, and so if you want a new yet extremely knowledgeable pair of eyes to have a look through your bid, contact us on 07341 338 200.



The Strengths of Story Time


The Strengths of Story Time

There is no doubt that writing is a powerful tool. When you’re young, bed-time stories are one of the highlights of your day. When you get just that bit older, despite the narratives changing slightly, stories still remain a great channel through which to engage people and express a point. This is why we believe they are a key factor to bear in mind when composing a bid.

Evidently, the aim here is slightly different to when you were a child; instead of falling into a blissful slumber, you want a story to bring your day-to-day accomplishments as a company to life, and strike a chord with the commissioner. Short of showing them in person how your company works, which of course you can do once the bid has been won, a story gives the most realistic impression of how what you do (and how you do it) would greatly help the situation in question.

Simply describing the way in which your services work and letting the commissioner deduce its benefits is a passive method which makes the reader disengage. Be creative: imagine up a character who is using your solution in their organisation, use it to show them how it has a positive influence on the lives of the patients, and therefore how it’s their best option. They can then visualise why they should choose your bid and services over others, setting you up nicely on the path to victory.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell your company’s story. Just like tailoring your bid to the tender and to the commissioner as discussed in the last post, make your company relatable through giving it that more personal edge and help the reader to understand its purpose. Finding out who created the solution and why will make your bid stronger, as the commissioner will further comprehend your reasons for tendering. If you fancy getting your stories straight and streamlining your bid, don’t hesitate to call us on 07341 338 200 or send an email to!


Being Bespoke: the Benefits


Being Bespoke: the Benefits

So you’ve found a contract you want to compete for, you have a sound knowledge of your product and company, and you want to get cracking with composing your bid… At HealthBid, we know that when you're creating a winning response, it’s good to start early, rein in your horses a little, and reflect on precisely what is being asked of you and perceive exactly how you’re going to approach the task in hand.


In this day and age, personalisation is the key to winning people over. Just consider internet adverts, hotel stays... Recognising the importance of tailoring something to someone is a great way to increase their satisfaction. Writing bids is no different. The tender is there to express what is needed in that particular case, and so it’s no use writing a story all about your great product or method if it’s not fundamentally fitting the specific requirements.


Think about it this way: would you like it if someone got you a Christmas present that has no relevance to you, and quite frankly was probably given to them as an unwanted gift last year? Well it’s the same here – recycling old approaches to quickly fit the spec could make your life easier in the short term, but it’s important to establish your operational solution which can do precisely what this contract is requiring & more: you have to be in it to win it!


Finally, people react to people. Simply stating the role title when describing your work depersonalises it and can desensitise the reader – make it relatable! Say who will be doing that role if (when) you win, and why not throw in a nice little picture of them in there too? On the same note, do your research on the commissioner, and address them personally. Tailor your bid to the reader and make it about your people. Be perceptive of what is needed. Make that extra winning effort.



Answering the right question

Q: How did George Orwell's '1984' influence later writer's depiction of the future?

A: When thinking about George Orwell, it is easy to underestimate the influence of Aldous Huxley. 'A Brave New World', Huxley's depiction of a future...etc...etc

We've all done it - answered the question that we know the answer to, not the one that has actually been asked. In bid writing, it is a fatal mistake, and one that although easily avoided, is very common.

Once you as an organisation have put together your solution design, it is good practice to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of that solution. This is a positive step - it links your bid to your sales strategy, and allows you to weave a commercial thread through the bid.

However, then come the ITT questions - and they don't ask about your biggest strength. So, instead of answering the question asked, you instead answer the question you wish that they'd asked. 

When the evaluation panel opens the responses, and gets to that question, they will be confused - why is organisation x talking about Aldous Huxley when we asked about George Orwell? We really wanted to know about Orwell, and here's a load of Huxley. Mark it down.

There are some easy ways to avoid this.

  • Carry out a thorough review process - and if a response doesn't seem to fit, then speak it out loud. Often saying the words makes it clear that an answer isn't right.
  • Make sure that someone reviews your answers who didn't write them. And that you allow them to be critical
  • Think about how your strengths can be reflected in your answers without completely diverting them - this can be subtle, but is important

However, the best way of avoiding this situation can only happen before the writing starts at all - know and engage you potential customer. If they know about your strengths well in advance of coming to market, and if you have done a good enough job of convincing them that these strengths are critical to the success of their contract, then you will see that reflected in the questions.

It's one of our key tenets - writing a winning bid starts long before a tender is issued.



Win Half a Day Training for Free!

Winning work is an intimidating process, and commercial considerations can often be seen as out side of the core business of a public sector organisation.

HealthBid are looking to change this perception, to give public sector organisations the best possible chance of winning work in the healthcare sector. One way we do this is through meeting teams, and running through some of the important skills they need to win work.

That's why we've launched our new events page, showcasing the type of work we can do with you. And to celebrate the launch, we're offing two free half day courses for you and your team. To win these, simply follow our LinkedIn page, and when we get to 100 followers, two of our followers will win the half day courses.



Election Fever

The HealthBid team have a strong interest in the forthcoming election. We have placed a £5 bet on a number of potential outcomes. But more importantly is the bragging rights post election - we all believe we have got it spot on.

As I am sure nobody needs to be reminded it’s very tight right now and almost impossible to call. And we might be bid experts; but we’re not psephologists - I mention this only because I have noticed that the NHS has been central to many of the more interesting debates.

While following some of this this last week I notice that there was quite a few interesting stats flying about around privatisation and outsourcing. I have seen all sorts of different numbers mentioned around how many bids the private sector have won compared to the public as percentage anywhere from 40-60%. But no matter who you chose to believe one thing is very clear – NHS organisations seem to find it difficult to produce high quality bids on a regular basis.

What is the reason for this? Having ponder this I have two simple answers – one NHS organisations tend not to be bid–ready; they have less experience at creating clear sales vision and building strong bid libraries. Everybody finds it difficult to build a bid from the ground up and create a winning proposition first time round. Two they have competitors with bid teams and experience.

I’ll give you an example – I was running a large healthcare organisation when I decided to expand the portfolio of services we offered – this meant ‘new’ bidding. We pulled together the best of the current bid team and then some sector experts and started to create bids. We got lucky and won bid number three – but certainly never expected to win bid number one. And this was with a team of hardened bid professionals. We needed more time and better preparation.

This is probably how it feels for NHS organisations as they prepare a bid for the first time in sector they’ve never bid for previously. Only strong professional bid support can help. One of the driving forces behind HealthBid was to provide some specialist sector knowledge to NHS organisations. We learnt the hard way and I suspect it is something very similar for lots of NHS organisations.

So it's tough hitting bids cold – but it doesn’t help if your competitor is writing their 10th or 20th bid in this space and has a crack team of bid and sales professionals either. Very big independent providers will have bid teams, will have sales teams and will be bidding countrywide. They will understand what a good bid looks like because they will have learnt by experience. Once again this is something HealthBid brings. We understand how to create a passionate, winning bid using the same kind of skills and expertise employed by your competitors.

In essence what this election debate reminded me was that the NHS needs help to win work and grow. This isn't just about controversial strategic bids its also about the smaller, regular bids that are starting to become a fixture in the healthcare landscape. I don’t think they’ll go away regardless of the election result and that's why we would like to talk to organisation who know deep down they are simply not bid ready.

To find out how we can help, why not contact me or the team.

Photo - Amanda Wood



How do we win the bid?

Winning bids is a skill. It’s not just a simple process of creating bids. It’s about building a credible, dynamic and engaging strategy. This is often lost during the process of producing a compliant bid. It is especially difficult to do if you’re the incumbent on a contract. Over the years I have worked with many sales team to help them understand the crucial importance of building momentum into bids. It should not be a static process you have to gift the bid writer a winning strategy. This isn't done by happenstance and good fortune. It involves planning, vision and total understanding of what you would like to achieve, what the customer wants and what your competitors are doing. The bidding process should start months if not a year before submission date. 

This is really hard to communicate to disparate teams working across myriad of disciplines. The reality of this is that the NHS in particular finds it tough to win work in a competitive tender environment especially if the commissioner is driven by more than price. The statistics tells us the the hit rate for retention is low for NHS organisations. What can they do? The simple answer seems to be bring in a bid manager. Fine but that’s only part of the answer. This is somebody who is a specialist at taking a vision and strategy and turning it into a compliant and hopefully engaging answer. If you fail to develop that strategy and vision the bid manager is no more than somebody collecting information to shoehorn into a pretty dull bid. 

This process shouldn’t be a chore – it’s business critical – and the poor commissioner really does want to be engaged. They would like to see flare, vision and a deep understanding of how you can improve what’s already there. Successful commercial organisation build teams around this and have deep knowledge of sales and bid strategies. They plan to win. They invest to win. In many ways this makes for a unlevelled playing field. These are not skills honed in days, but in fact years and create winning environments built around accentuating current positives and building sweeping, grand visions. 

At HealthBid we have pulled together a team of people who have deployed these strategies with incredible success for many years. The core team won over £500m worth of contracts last year with the NHS and had a hit rate over 85%. We also won grants and governments programmes. Complex, difficult stuff which we built from a distance and worked towards over a period. We believe that simply employing consultants and bid writers isn’t the answer - you can spend less and get more by investing in a group of specialist to refine and develop a long term bidding strategy. You need to ensure your organisations visions is hard wired into the bid and is demonstrated at every stage, pre–bid engagement, PQQ, ITT, presentation and beyond. 

We love doing this at HealthBid and we really want to help healthcare organisations getting better. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune and can be amazingly productive beyond the simple scope of a bid. Learning how to be creative and sales focused is no bad thing and can transform elements of your organisations – after all it is all about improving care and developing new solutions.

If you’re interested in doing something different and moving beyond the mundane and developing long-term winning sales strategies then why not call me and the team. We’ll even do quite a lot of free just to help you on the way.