Reusing bid content – a warning

Reusing bid content – a warning

Reusing bid content – a warning

Congratulations! You are the winning bidder in a highly competitive tender competition. This is great news! You scored well, answered every question in full and demonstrated clearly why your business is the obvious choice for the contract. Your confidence is high and you’re ready to bid for more.

Now what?

It’s tempting, when you’ve had a good result, to view the content you created for that bid as your secret weapon – the silver bullet with which you will take out the competition, again and again.

But it’s not that simple. The number one reason why winning tenders win is because they address the specification precisely. Of course, a winning bid also needs to be backed up by an effective demonstration of the processes, procedures and policies you work to, your capacity and general capability to do the work, your staff numbers and other resources, your financial status and more. Exceeding the specification is also important, so long as it adds real value.

But if you don’t demonstrate that you meet or exceed the actual specification, then you’re in trouble – whether you actually can meet or exceed the specification in reality is really beside the point during a tender process if you’re not able to clearly explain this to the assessors.

One of the most common reasons for falling success rates is relying on content from past bids. When you do this, you run a real risk of diluting your content to the point that it becomes too weak for the assessors to assign any real value to your answers.

Why does this happen?


You’re in a rush: you’ve got a deadline to meet and your day job to do as well – reusing content is a natural choice to speed things up.


You’ve won a ton of these things before: If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Reusing what’s worked before seems like a no-brainer, right?

When you reuse content from past bids, inevitably what you’re reusing are all the areas that could apply to any contract – generic information that, while still true, doesn’t address the actual specification of the current bid.

If you can meet the spec, you need to prove it

The obvious area to focus on is the main objective of the specification; what you are going to deliver, when and how. In fact, if you’re not prepared to spend the time addressing how you are going to meet the specification then you may as well not bid at all!

I know I bang on about this continuously but it bears repeating. If the question requires anything other than a straightforward ‘yes/no’ answer, then you need to answer the question fully.

If the tender asks how you are going to do something, tell ‘em how. If it asks what you will do in a certain situation, tell ‘em what. If it asks who is going to do something, tell ‘em who.

Think about it: If you’re not answering the detail of their questions, you’re effectively saying:

“Er, yeah, we can do that (probably)”

“Ehhh, I’m sure it’ll be fine (hopefully)”

“Oh, we’ve done this loads of times before (kind of)”

Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it?

If you don’t answer the who, what, how, why, where and when, then not only are you not giving them the information they need, it’s highly likely you’re actually giving them reasons to be wary of contracting you.

Give yourself the edge

Of course, there are areas where rewriting content isn’t the best use of your time, for example, your company history or other very basic information that doesn’t affect how you will meet the specification.

But virtually any other area can – and should – be tailored to suit the tender.

Along with the core specification, there are other areas that, on the surface, may seem like a generic response will do and, in fact, may seem to be difficult to customise; your internal processes, the policies you work to, your company organisational structure, and so on. Whether it’s worth customising your answers for those questions can be determined by reading the spec and the rest of the tender documentation from a slightly different perspective.

For example:

Your team structure:

While the job titles and overall responsibilities of each of your team members may not change too much from project to project, assessors will be keen to see that you have considered how your team will work together – and with their team – on this particular contract. You can demonstrate this by highlighting key staff in your organisation chart and by adding a little extra detail to the profiles and areas of responsibility of those key staff with specific relation to the contract you’re tendering for.

Your quality processes:

Copying and pasting from your quality policy or manual will certainly demonstrate that you have processes in place but adding further detail about how these processes will deliver positive benefits to the contract you’re tendering for will demonstrate that you have fully considered the requirements of the specification and aligned your quality processes to them.

By tailoring your answers throughout your entire bid, you demonstrate to the assessors that, not only can you deliver the spec, you have given thought to how it will all work in practice, once you’ve won the contract:

  • You’ve understood how they work and matched your own processes to theirs
  • You’ve looked at potential risks and considered how they may be avoided or minimised
  • You’ve demonstrated how they will benefit from your experience
  • You’ve offered alternatives that save them time or money
  • You’ve made their job easier

The bottom line

Every tender is different, therefore your answers should reflect that.

It is worth the time and effort to tailor each response to the particular tender, in every way that you can.

Don’t mistake a handful of past bids for a bid library

A bid library is a useful thing to have but a successful bid library is built upon the knowledge that there’s only so much you can write ahead of time – there are very few areas where you can write it once and never need to adapt it to an individual bid. Even then, over time things change; staff leave or change, processes and policies are updated, new equipment and technology is brought in, accreditations are gained and so on.

Effective bid libraries contain well written templates for responses to the most likely to be asked questions and are written in a way that purposely leaves room for adaptation.

Personally, I’m not a massive fan of bid libraries but I do acknowledge their usefulness in general.

Reusing content from past bids however is risky business. Where library responses are deliberately developed to prompt for specific information for each individual bid, with content reuse, the burden is on the person putting the bid together to identify how and where that specific information needs to go in the new bid.

During the bid process, there’s rarely time to go through six or seven past bids to pull out all of the potentially adaptable information. More often than not, it’s only the last bid submitted that gets mined for content. As this goes on, the content becomes more and more generic and gets weaker and weaker, until the latest bid contains very little of substance for an assessor to score.

In this respect, developing a strong bid library is infinitely preferable to content reuse.

Get in touch

If your success rates are falling and you want to pull that ship back around so that your bids start winning again, get in touch. Whether through team or one to one coaching, day training, bid library development or anything else, I can help you get back on course.




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