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Grappling with Graphics

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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 tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk to find out more.

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Deadlines: never miss one again

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Deadlines: never miss one again

We’ve all been there – half an hour before the deadline, and still hurrying to get the last pieces of the puzzle together. Your heart is pounding, hands are sweating, and you’re completely rushed off your feet.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Since HealthBid are experts at meeting strict deadlines, we have come up with a few handy tips to help you on your way to meeting all your future targets.

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Word Counts: Make your Words Count

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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.

 

Capped

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.

 

Uncapped

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 tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk.

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Style & Substance

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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