What Saville Row Tailors Can Teach Us About Bid Writing

Advocacy tailoring

Tailor your bid like the pros by outlining first

Bid writing can be a laborious process. Even for experienced professionals sustaining the energy and focus needed to churn out quality responses to 10 or 20 questions at a time is a challenge.

How can you speed it up? How can you make it easier?

There’s one traditional tailors trick that can make a critical difference. Without it you’re wasting your time. Time that could be better spent on things like managing your advocacy organisation.

Measure twice, cut once

Amateurs sit down and write their answer. Professionals outline first. They sketch out their answer before they write it. Just like tailors, measure and re-measure, just like how moviemakers storyboard and artists create compositions. Amateurs always just do the finished product, the final round, they just start painting.

Pros measure up first because they know that the outline is critical.

How to create the meat of an outline

To write an outline you need to think like a 5 year old. Think about how when you’re going to somewhere exciting a 5 year old will ask you, when are we going, how are we going, who will be there? An outline is about the who, what, where, why, when and how. It forms the meat of your answer.

Answer these questions

Within the meat the most important question is the what. For example what your advocacy service will do to make sure it involves service users, or what it will do to offer value for money over the length of the contract. This provides the context for the rest of your answer and gets the read on the same page as you.

Next comes the how. How are you going to do what you say you will? What are the details of it? What’s unique or special or extremely good about the particular way in which you do it?

Often the how will include the who and the when. Outlining these details, even just with single words or phrases strengthens your outline and helps prepare you for ‘the cut’.

The why is often the last element of your answer’s meat. It’s where you say why you do things the way you do or why you’re proposing to deliver the service in a particular way. The why should be benefits or outcomes focussed, for example “we’ll deliver the advocacy service through drop ins in community locations because it increases the services’ accessibility”.

How to create the bread that holds your meat

Your outline should include a strong opening point. One that shows off your organisation’s skills, experience and values, followed up my a clear statement of intent. Identifying this point and intent before tackling the meat will help you focus on the rest of the process.

The final part of the process should be outlining your end point. This can be as short as a single sentence that wraps up your answer.

There you go. That’s the very basic, very structural outline that each one of your bid’s answer needs to have. If you apply this format and process to your bid’s questions it will make each one much easier to answer.

And you’ll be on your way to cutting a bid worthy of Saville Row.

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