Clever Design Is Just as Important As The Messaging

Using best practice formatting tools, structures and layouts are often a highly underrated element of bid preparation. Done well, it can create a positive first impact that impresses your audience and makes a lasting impression.  

While it’s true that looks aren’t everything, submitting a well formatted bid with strong visual appeal will improve the chances of the reader understanding and interpreting your win strategy and key messages. Here are our tips for your next proposal to help create maximum impact and win more business.

Know your audience.

Firstly, identify the win strategy and make sure it aligns to your audience. You need enough detail to satisfy the people scoring your submission, have visuals and infographics to appeal to a skim reader (often the senior team) and a solid methodology/project plan along with team details, so the people who will be interacting with you are convinced that you can do the job and that they want to work with you. We 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. This type of audience is typically detail-orientated and are rigorously scoring your response against their evaluation criteria. It means your response needs to be compliant and be as clear and succinct as possible, so it’s easy for them to navigate your document.
  • ADVISOR: Advisors are individuals whose opinion and advice the Assessor group will listen to and take into consideration. This audience may include the senior management team and/or trusted advisors. It is likely that they won’t read the full tender response you’ve submitted. They are looking for a high-level solution and need to be quickly convinced of your key messages and proposition. It is important to make sure the layout and formatting highlights the win themes and key points. Pull-quotes, larger font, diagrams and infographics work well for this audience.
  • ACCOUNT TEAM: These are the operational key contacts who will run the contract from the client side. How you service the contract and manage the account will be important to them. Demonstrating a proven track record will be of key interest, so we recommend clear case studies, visual CV, highlight experience clearly, put referees front and centre, and make project management plans easy to understand.

Reinforce your brand.

When possible, create a branded proposal template to help reinforce personality and brand identity. Using a well-designed template will help improve the overall readability and visual aesthetic of your response – to elevate your proposal and help you stand out from the crowd.

(Although it’s important to note that some procurement guidelines may not allow a designed template. In this circumstance, do not alter the format/structure of the response document).  

Set consistent fonts and styles.


Consistency is key. When content is pulled from multiple documents with varying fonts and layout – copying and pasting can create a messy look and often corrupts the document. Utilise a style gallery early on to set a standard structure for your response content. It will make it more easily readable.

  • STANDARD TYPEFACES/FONTS: From a reader’s standpoint, multiple fonts give the impression the tenderer is disjointed. Set a standard font type for a concise and well-structured response to highlight business capabilities.
  • LARGE FONT HEADINGS: Headings in a larger font and different colour helps with structure. Then use subsequent scaling-down of headings to highlight specific points within that section.
  • INTRO PARAGRAPH FOR EMPHASIS: Including a succinct summary in the first paragraph will highlight why your company is the best fit for that criteria.
  • DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN QUESTION TEXT AND ANSWER TEXT: Make the RFP question a different colour or within a coloured box/table to differentiate the question from your response. It makes it easier for the assessor to score your response.
  • BULLETS/NUMBERING FOR LISTS: This a simple way to break up large amounts of written content. Skim readers can also pick up on key points without reading walls of text.

Follow requested formats.

Buyers often outline the general format that they wish for tender responses to be submitted in. This can range from using a specific font type and/or size, to word and page limits for responses. They can also specify the format of the document (PDF, Word, Excel, etc.).

Align as closely as possible to the buyer’s stated submission requirements. This shows you have read and understood the tender documents. Don’t underestimate the detail and make sure you read the tender requirements in full. Failure to meet the specified requests can lead to disqualification!

A graphic speaks a thousand words.

Minimise words. Use diagrams, illustrations, graphics, and photos to break up large blocks of text for visual appeal. It can also help simplify complex/technical information into bitesize chunks to help convey your message more effectively. Optimising layout and images will help:

  • Break up pages of heavy text to relieve the eye and assist the reader – to help make your point quicker.
  • Illustrate key points in an alternative way. Remember that some people are more visual than others.
  • Make your message easier to understand by breaking down technical processes to their most simple format.
  • Help a time poor audience and attract the attention of skim readers.
  • Highlight key points and win strategy elements, quickly and succinctly.

To find out more on why it is important to use visual elements on your next proposal, see Formatting Bids to Win.

Proofread with a second pair of eyes.

Proofreading will not only ensure spelling and grammar mistakes are corrected – but that key messaging is being delivered in the most effective way. It will also help ensure you score as highly as possible.

Best practice is to utilise a second set of eyes to read your response. This will ensure the structure, readability and formatting is consistent for the intended audience.


Bid and tender proposals have come a long way from walls of text. There are many great ways to format your bids so the reader stays engaged and can clearly see your winning strategy. PitchThis can provide a range of business consultancy, training and mentoring services to assist with your bidding and business development needs. GET IN TOUCH with our team today for a no obligation consultation



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