You will need to decide at the outset how much money, time and effort you are going to spend on the production side of the bid. Here at ShineX, we design our bids to look like magazines so they are highly readable, portable and exciting to look at. For dense bids, we split them down, still magazine size, with nothing over 100 to 110 pages.

Our production process is fairly efficient, we build everything in Word, and have a concept design developed, usually in InDesign or Illustrator. Once we have a concept, we artwork the whole document into an artwork design package. We find this delivers a good quality end product and enhances the impact of the written content, aiding navigation for evaluators and drawing out key elements of the offer.

If you have the luxury of an in-house creative designer or know a freelance designer to work on your bid you can create a really strong brief. This should all be coming from your strategy input. Once you have your concept, and you have worked out how your concepts define your bid brand, you are going to apply this liberally or scantily all over your bid, depending on what point you are trying to make. If you are going to design your bid, you design it as per your control sheet. In a major bid with us, that control sheet would have about 11 versions, so it is your master plan for how you are going to deal with the bid.

Version control

Most bid blunders and time delays can be attributed to poor version control. Sometimes you can have 20 people inputting to a bid, a lot of them on different sections, misnaming files, using different collaborative software. Even though you might have a smart platform solution, you will get the non-compliant person who will mess it up. We use the control sheets to track the status of responses and communicate the protocol for version control at the start of the bid. We have a filing convention for names allowing only one version of the document to exist on your system.

Digital submissions

An increasing number of RFPs are submitted digitally. For character uploads cut and paste into the portal from the original text. Don’t write original copy into the portal directly. Check character limits on uploads against instructions in the requirements. We had a situation on a very important legal bid where the buyer’s written instructions required 4,000 words, but the portal was set to accept only 4,000 characters, the buyer made a mistake between words and characters. We were ready to load 4,000 words, however, our upload stopped at 4,000 characters. We had enough time to edit and rewrite to get it compliant. Imagine the panic if we did not have the time. Of course, you can go back and complain but it is too late.

Make sure you leave plenty of time before and after uploading. The worst upload we have ever done was with 37 seconds to spare, which I would never recommend, but typically we will aim to upload with at least three hours to go. There have been plenty of nightmare scenarios, especially when you are working in different time zones and there is a big traffic migration to that site in a different country. We think it is 02:00am in the morning and uploading gigabytes of material, but actually it is 5:00 p.m. in somebody else’s world. You are working with a global company that has 10,000 bids going up, the site just cannot take it and you need every minute of those three hours to get all your material up. Plan, calendar and stick to your schedule. Carry out a system test run a day or two before the deadline to make sure you are familiar with it. And then allow enough time to upload your submission on the day.


This may sound really trivial, but make sure you have an ironclad delivery option in place. Your production does not end until you have the bid in its delivery box with its brown wrapping paper and its no-logo address with a registered logistics company delivering it before the deadline and getting a signed receipt, then the bid is in – not until then. If you’re delivering the bid via a courier, or a team member delivering the bid in person or a taxi waiting for you outside, make sure you have a back-up if it falls through. Then get a delivery receipt from the place you delivered it to.

In Summary

  • Decide at the outset how much money, time and effort you are going to spend on the production side of the bid.
  • For digital submissions, make sure you do a test run, and leave plenty of time before and after uploading.
  • Your production does not end until you have the bid in its delivery box, make sure you have an ironclad delivery option in place.