Developing Win Themes: A Practical Guide

Win themes are a key part of a successful bid, and without them you are at risk of submitting a bid that sounds just like your competitors. They provide an overarching narrative that runs through the bid and ensures you communicate the story that you want to tell. They help to drive consistent writing throughout your response, making it a coherent document rather than a collection of very separate responses. Like the chorus of a song, you keep coming back to your win themes to tell the story of your bid.

If you haven’t developed win themes before, where do you start? Our practical guide will take you through the process so you can develop robust win themes.

Competitor analysis: where can you find information?

Your competitors are trying to win the same work as you, so you need to understand what you are up against. Competitor analysis will help you identify your strengths and your relative weaknesses in comparison to them, which in turn will help you develop your win themes.

Sources of competitor information include:

  • Published information
    • This can include:
      • Their website
      • Social media
      • Published reports
      • Whitepapers
      • Newspaper articles
      • Industry publications
    • Use this to understand whether your competitors’ cultures align with the buyer’s
    • This information can ensure that your win themes differ from those of your competitors
  • Staff and customer knowledge
    • Your staff and customers will have a broad knowledge and experience of your competitors’ service as well as your own
    • Hold a session with your colleagues and some trusted customers to brainstorm the marketplace
    • Ensure you find out both strengths and weaknesses to inform your win themes
  • Industry events and knowledge
    • Information is shared freely at industry events
    • Attend your competitors’ talks
  • Public sector information
    • Councils’ public records will give you information about the incumbent provider’s performance
    • Committee and Board meeting minutes must be published and can provide useful insights


Competitor analysis: asking the right questions

Once you have gathered your intelligence, you need to interrogate it to inform your win themes. Ask the following questions to ensure you have properly analysed the information:

  • What are our strengths and weaknesses relative to our competitors?
  • What solutions and features do we have that they don’t, and vice versa?
  • How does our experience and pricing compare to that of the competition?
  • What can we do to improve our market position before bidding?
  • What win strategies will the competition use?
  • Are the competitors well-established with the target customer? If so, how can we unseat them?
  • Are we the incumbent? If yes, how can we protect our position given the likely competitors and their strategies?


Unique selling points: what are they?

Unique selling points (USPs) are tangible features that make you better than the competition. They go beyond just being a statement to attract customers; they are the way you position yourself in the market.

A USP is not:

  • A slogan or marketing phrase
  • A bidder-focused statement
  • A specific offer or time-limited deal
  • A generic statement of your ability


A good USP:

  • Is customer-focused
    • What benefit or value does the customer derive from your solution?
  • Has specific value
    • This could be cost, quality, speed, customer service or any other area of importance to your customer
    • You can develop multiple USPs for each area
  • Is supported by evidence
    • Keep a record of facts and figures to support your USPs


Unique selling points: how to develop them

Outlined below is the process you should follow to develop clear USPs:

List your features and benefits –> Research the competition –> Consider the buyer’s needs –> Draft the USP statements

  1. Start by listing your features and benefits and look at the value each one offers your customer. What problems do they solve? What goals do they help them achieve? What challenges do they help them overcome?
  2. Research the competition and use your competitor analysis to focus on the features and benefits that your competitors do not have. Test your features and benefits by asking: could another bidder say this? If the answer is yes, you need to revisit the USP and make the value that you offer unique.
  3. Consider the buyer’s needs and frame the USP around them. Show that your solution will benefit the customer and solve their specific problem or help them achieve their goal.
  4. Draft USP statements that show how your product meets your customer’s needs. An example USP statement that does this is shown in the box below.

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Discriminators: what are they?

A discriminator is a feature of your solution that quantifies a customer benefit. It is something that:

  • Your customer wants
  • Your solution has
  • Your competitors don’t have


Crucially, a discriminator is a benefit that your customer can only get from you and is something that you know your customer values. Your discriminators should be things that the people reading your bid will recognise as being of value to their organisation.

Bringing everything together to develop your win themes

Your win themes are the articulation of your win strategy. They are the key themes that will differentiate you from your competitors and position your bid to win.

Win themes:

  • Link your solution to a specific need or hot button
  • Are specific to the opportunity
  • Are client-focused
  • Are specific enough to differentiate you from your competitors


You can now bring together your competitor analysis, USPs and discriminators to develop your win themes. Do this by:

  • Reviewing the customer
  • Identifying their needs
  • Matching their needs to your solution
  • Adding evidence of past performance


You can focus themes on members of the panel who will be evaluating your bid. For example, a theme focused on cost-saving might appeal to a member of the finance team sitting on the panel. Or a theme which highlights your sector-leading customer satisfaction rates might appeal to the account manager on the panel.

Bring in expert help to support your bids

If your in-house team do not have the time to work through the whole bid process, consider bringing in expert help to give you the winning edge. At AM Bid, we’ve harnessed our expertise in bids and proposals to achieve a win rate of over 80%. Our specialists use their sector-specific knowledge to craft stories that get decision-makers’ attention.

More information on this subject is available through Ultimate Tender Coach, our unique online bid training programme designed to provide you with the building blocks to win public sector contracts. For more information visit Bid and Tender Writing Training Course | UK | Ultimate Tender Coach