Reusing proposal content is kind of like making a movie sequel. You invested so much in the original’s success that it only makes sense to reuse what you can to be efficient and drive more success. The problem is movie sequels often fail.
Movie sequels often fail because they rely too heavily on the first movie. Reusing proposal content fails for exactly the same reason. While it can help your team avoid the “blank page” and jump-start development, there are certain dangers inherent in relying too heavily on the original for the sequel.
Here are three dangers of reusable proposal content, how to avoid them, and how avoiding them helps you write a winning proposal.
#1 Plot Hole Dangers
You experienced success with the original proposal because it resonated with the audience. It spoke to their pains, their vision and their goals, making it satisfying and compelling. While RFP questions are often reused across the industry from business to business and agency to agency, every prospect is unique.
Trying to compel a new client to take action based on a proposal that is in-part written to someone else’s pains, vision, and goals is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Like a movie sequel, it sort of fits, but usually fails to hit the mark with the new audience.
Remember, you’re in the business of providing solutions, not mass produced widgets. So, yes, leverage your content library, your past proposals, boilerplate content, and get to your first draft. But don’t stop there. Turn to your team of experts and collaborate. With secure, online tools, your team can come together from anywhere, at any time, fill the gaps, correct the inaccuracies, meet compliance, and tailor your proposal for a sequel that resonates with your new prospect.
Tip: With automated workflow, you can place a lot of recurring content into the proposal document before your team even meets. That recurring content can be edited, saving more time for your writers to focus on the fresh content that changes every time.
#2 Story Continuity Dangers
Whether you pull a bit of reusable content from a content library or directly from a past proposal, you’re basically cobbling together a new proposal from different sources in order to satisfy the RFP requirements. As a result, each bit of reusable content comes with its own “intent” or elements of story. By separating it from the original source, you are breaking the story arc and potentially introducing different bits and pieces of different story arcs.
The story, and its continuity throughout the proposal, is how you compel the prospect to believe, and buy. Just like a movie sequel, if there is no continuity, it fails. To make it whole, you need review teams.
Your review teams are your gate keepers; they provide feedback on where the team may have blinded themselves to certain compliant issues and solution or strategy weaknesses. With the right feedback loop, they can review together, anytime, anywhere, discuss, even consult past versions for clarity, and come to consensus on revisions that transform the bits and pieces of your proposal into a compelling story evaluators want to read.
Tip: Make sure your review teams know the story that your capture and proposal teams are trying to tell. Today’s fast-paced word processing applications are great, but they sometimes lead people to merely edit the document in front of them for clarity and quality, without ever considering whether the document actually tells the winning story. Provide your reviewers with a centralized online workspace where they can read the win themes and discriminators, capture strategy, and information about the customer that the business development, sales and/or capture teams learned over time.
# 3 Diminishing Returns Dangers
A movie franchise’s diminishing returns happens when they keep doing the same thing. The same is true for reusing proposal content. Following a formula is fine, but when you drop in text you’ve used before, remember, your team’s old habits also come along for the ride, such as not-so compliant answers, grammatical errors, and informative, rather than persuasive, writing. Worse is language that may be unwittingly hiding in there that could cause an issue with compliance.
A new proposal is your team’s opportunity to hone their participation in the sales cycle; to fix previous mistakes, plunge into fresh strategies, bring prospect-specific benefits to the forefront, and win. So, before you start searching, copying and pasting reusable content take a page from the most successful movie sequel directors – start with a fresh script.
Of course, we’re talking capture strategy here, AND annotating each writing task so your team knows how to tailor the reusable content based on the strategy. When you start with the strategy, or story, in mind, you can better choose reusable content and better tailor reusable content to the evaluating prospect. Plus, a lot of downstream proposal problems are easily solved if the team just sits down at the beginning and writes the prospect-specific story.
Tip: Use your online workspace to provide your writers with iterative document formats leading to the actual proposal. Automated rules and notifications can get them started with win themes and discriminators, then writing to a templated storyboard, and, finally and only when ready, into a templated proposal document for the final writing and editing phase. Don’t start with the final and just have them edit!
Conclusion: Use technology to leverage past content, but don’t forget to write a fresh story.
Don’t get burned by reusable proposal content. Thinking your team can just “push a button” and automatically create a comprehensive, compelling, winning proposal is highly misleading, and not what you want to risk your pipeline on. Worse, the practice is easily recognized by the evaluator. How can evaluators trust you with their project if you didn’t even take the time to make a proposal specific to their goals?
So, establish your content library of reusable content and use it wisely to craft your first draft. Then, let your teams do what they do best; create, write, review, innovate – and establish a written dialogue with the evaluating prospect that takes your sales cycle to the next step.