Formatting Bids to Win

Document layout and graphic illustrations are often a highly underrated element of bid preparation. The layout of a bid, and use of various graphics help to optimise the chance of the reader understanding and interpreting the full win strategy and key messaging intended by the tenderer.

By optimising layout and images in a bid, we can achieve the following outcomes:

  • Break up pages of heavy text to relieve the eye and assist the reader
  • Illustrate key points in an alternative way, remembering that some people are more visual than others
  • Break down technical processes to their most simple format
  • Attract the attention of skim readers
  • Highlight key points and win strategy elements.

The first thing I do when managing a tender is to lead the bid team through a process of identifying the key messaging and win strategy. The first stage of this process identifies and analyses the key audience members (I use the three A’s to keep it simple):

  • Assessor: This is the person or people who make the ultimate purchase decision; normally a procurement officer and/or technical lead.
  • Advisors: Advisors are individuals whose opinion and advice the Assessor group will listen to and take into consideration.
  • Advocates: These are people within the prospect company with whom you – or your business development team – have built relationships. These are your internal champions; advocating your cause.

The use of diagrams, illustrations, graphics and photos should be designed to meet the needs of the different audience members in receiving the key messaging of your win strategy. Understanding the different roles these audience members play is an important step to ensuring your tender success.

A time poor audience (normally Advisors) will be skimming the page and looking for simple ways to obtain information about your bid. Images are the perfect opportunity to pass key messages and win strategy to these stakeholders, often consisting of senior management.

Following is a list of some of the key format and graphic ideas you can implement to develop your next successful bid:


Tables are a great way to document numbers or words. Longer explanations can be summarised into a table and more easily absorbed. They are great for comparing factors or features, or cause and effect. If a table gets to complex and needs to take up more than a page or so of text, reconsider if this is the best way to illustrate the information.


Diagrams can be a fantastic way to break down pages of complex technical information. If there is a way to visually outline the topic either as a replacement to the text, or an accompaniment, this will only serve to enhance your response. Always use referencing throughout the text to direct the reader to the diagram in question.


Graphs are a great way to illustrate data which shows trends or analysis. As a guide, use:

  • Pie chart to show fractions or percentages
  • Line graph to show performance over time
  • Bar graph to compare performance of multiple factors against each other.

Process Flowcharts

Process flow charts can be a great way to easily outline steps and decision points within a process. In tender responses, these are often used for methodology or complaint/feedback processes.


Photos are a powerful way of illustrating previous experience either with the client, or within a similar setting. They provide proof of the situation occurring but also the accompanying caption is a fantastic opportunity to explain how you will draw on this experience to benefit the prospect’s situation.


Logos provide a useful way to illustrate brand and provide an instant visual cue of reputation and credibility. For instance, including a well-known brand’s logo in your bid next to a case study about your business with that company can give the skim reader an instant benchmark to align themselves with. Do they resonate with that company? Does it help them to see that you have established credibility of working with companies of the same size, capability and stature?


Organisational charts are a fantastic way to illustrate hierarchy of your assigned or proposed contract team for the contract. Relationship charts or zipper diagrams are a fantastic way of illustrating the various stakeholder relationships that will need to be fostered within and between the two companies, and often where there are other stakeholders involved.

These diagrams can provide a quickly and easily understood outline of the frequency and intentions of various meeting structures.


Where multiple stages have or need to take place over a specific period of time, sometimes a timeline can provide a great illustrative reference, which assists the visual learner.

Call out boxes

Call out boxes and quotes are a fantastic way to highlight key figures, statistics and elements of your win strategy that are intended to capture the reader’s attention.


Article originally published by Robin Hastings on LinkedIn Pulse – view here.

Robin Hastings

Managing Director & Founder of PitchThis, Robin is a senior bid manager and corporate writer with extensive experience in bidding and project management across corporate, public and NFP sectors.

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