Are your Win Themes really winning?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Win Themes are part of a bidder’s staple diet when developing a bid response but, as discussed during our recent webinar ‘Are your Win Themes really Winning?’, they often fall far short of actually being ‘Winning’.

Drawing on the experience we’ve gained from working with many of the largest organisations that bid into public sector procurements, we’ve identified several key areas for improvement in the development of their Win Themes. These include:  

Overly self-focused

Often, the basis for many Win Themes is simply the areas that an organisation feels are its key strengths. Whilst this may at first appear to be a solid approach, unless these strengths align with what the procuring Authority deems to be important, they are not going to have the required or expected impact when the bid is being scored.


Many Win Themes that we see lay claims to ‘experience’, ‘expertise’, or ‘capacity’, but unless you clearly demonstrate what benefits these bring to the customer, and provide evidence to support them, you are merely highlighting areas that the customer would expect from any bidder. After all, if an organisation didn’t have experience, expertise, and capacity, they would likely not be in the competition in the first place. Unless a Win Theme includes a feature of your solution/approach, a relevant customer benefit, and evidence to support your claims, it is simply not a Win Theme.

Lacking differentiation from competitors

Without clearly defined Win Themes, and evidence of why your bid meets the brief, you won’t be able to demonstrate how your offering differentiates you from your competitors. In the UK and Europe, whilst Public Procurement Regulations (Public Contracts Regulations 2015 / Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011) do not allow for ‘comparative’ evaluations (where the bids are compared to one another and scored accordingly), differentiating your solution/approach is one of the key ways to build confidence with the evaluators.

‘Woven-into’ responses in latter stages of the bid preparation

Unless responses are properly planned (including which Win Themes should be included, and how) for each question, Win Themes are often missed at the first pass and have to be ‘massaged’ into the text in the latter stages of bid preparation. This usually results in the need for additional review stages and reduces the efficiency of the bid process – leading to delays as well as increased bid costs. A key cause of this is that although Win Themes have been developed, they are often kept separate from the answer plan and are therefore not ‘front and centre’ in an Author’s mind.

No buy-in from the Authors

Even when all the above issues are avoided (i.e. the Win Themes are focused towards the customer’s needs, they are clearly and fully defined, and show high levels of differentiation from the competition), if the Authors are not fully ‘bought-in’ to the Win Themes they often will not be  utilised to best effect. This lack of alignment can lead to multiple rewrites, disjointed bids, or worse: losing. We’ve found this can be overcome by including Authors in the development process, so they have some ‘ownership’ of the Win Themes and are more likely to become advocates/supporters.

To help you avoid the common Win Theme issues outlined above, we’ve developed a ‘Win Theme Development’ process, based upon the ‘Structured Criteria Development’ approach typically used by Procuring Authorities to define their ITx question set. This process ensures that your Win Themes are attuned to those of the Stakeholders and Evaluators from the Authority. By coupling this Win Theme Development process with a structured approach to planning each of the separate responses (‘Maximising Marks’), you can not only make your Win Themes more ‘Winning’ but also ensure that they flow through your bid response as a whole to build confidence with the evaluators and, ultimately, be awarded a higher score. Get in touch.

Further best practice for bidders:

Missed our webinar: ‘Are you Win Themes really Winning?’ Access the recording here and learn how to optimise your Win Themes.

You may also be interested in our guide: ‘5 steps to better bidding‘ in which we take you through our best practice guidance on how to optimise your next bid.