5 Really Good Reasons to Stop Copying and Pasting in Proposals

If you’ve ever worked in proposals or bid development, you’ve likely been tempted by the maxims of “Don’t reinvent the wheel” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

You can save time, effort, and money by just grabbing the last proposal that was written by/for your company and then tweaking it based on the new requirements. What could go wrong? There’s so much to be gained from this approach, right?

You won’t get an argument from me that this will save you time and effort. In fact, it could save you even more time than you bargained for. Once the project is awarded, you’ll have all kinds of time on your hands, because more often than not, you will have lost the bid.

Why Not Just Copy/Paste?

Over the last 15 years, I have seen time and time again the temptation to take the easy route and just start from the previous bid or similar proposal section. Let me share with you, from my experience, five reasons why I think this is a dangerous route to take and how it’s an irresponsible use of your bid and proposal funds.

1. You are limited by the boundaries of your previous proposal’s vision/solution

This is the biggest issue of them all.

If the proposal development plan of attack is to copy and paste content from previous proposals (even a portion), you are choosing to completely bypass vital features of the development process for written content. If using the Salentis System, this would include losing elements from our Proposal Development Worksheets and Storyboards, such as:

  • Fleshing out and customizing from scratch a solution based on the who, what, when, where, and how of your response against the specific requirements
  • Establishing applicable themes, discriminators, innovations, ghosting elements, tools and systems, and technical and management approach strengths as outputs from your Blue Team, Black Hat, and Kick-Off Meetings/win strategy sessions
  • Conceptualizing draft graphics with designers prior to narrative content development resulting in the most appropriate, relevant, and effective graphics for the section
  • Analyzing and preparing for applicable and relevant risks, their likelihood, and mitigations
  • Preparing the most effective and persuasive proof points for your arguments
  • Determining and planning for the best use of key words from evaluation criteria within each section
  • Building a visual storyboard of the layout of each section to achieve the ideal mix of text to graphics ratio, readability, ease of evaluation, and thus, the best score possible
Image of worksheets used to develop proposals

When these fundamental proposal development techniques are skipped over and content from a previous proposal is used, even if you’re confident it is ‘mostly’ relevant, you are accepting the mindset, concepts, objectives, readability, and voice that was best for that bid, not this one. And that’s assuming all of the above things were actually done for that bid! What if it was a copy/paste too? Do you even know where the content came from originally? How many times has it been copy/pasted?

2. Typos, mistakes, or different voice in the existing material

This may seem minor, but typos, grammatical, and spelling errors are the biggest form of distraction in proposal documents.

You assume documents that have already been submitted are edited and ‘clean’, right? So, you and your team will naturally pay less attention to the content that has been pulled in from a previous proposal, thinking it’s already been through multiple color team reviews, edited, and polished.

While that might be true, it’s not the case for this proposal, this solution, this specific team, these subject matter experts (SMEs), these writers and their writing style, and through the lens of this set of requirements for this customer. You get my drift. Newly developed content will likely stand in stark contrast to the old, and it should. Doesn’t your customer deserve a bespoke solution and description of how you’re going to meet their needs that is free from errors and written in one cohesive voice? 

3. Leftover irrelevant content

By this, I mean content specific to the previous proposal that isn’t relevant to this one that doesn’t register with a new writer (someone who didn’t originally write the copy/pasted content); therefore, it doesn’t get removed from the writeup or tailored out.

Many proposal writers are not technical experts or SMEs so they may not recognize all the content that was specific to the last bid. Many of the executives or even current SMEs may not recognize it either.

But your customer, who only cares about their project/program, and likely has little-to-no knowledge of your other projects/programs will definitely recognize something that is irrelevant to the bid at hand, and it will stand out…not in a good way.

4. Customer recognizes re-used content

On a similar note, sometimes you might be bidding into the same customer for different projects. If you’re re-using majority of the same content, the customer will notice, and it is obvious that you are taking the easy way out. It shows a lack of innovation and investment of time and effort in your customer’s objectives and initiatives. This is an indication of what kind of contractor you will be.

5. It’s lazy and non-competitive

The bottom line is the bidder who actually puts in the effort to create an innovative solution that is customized and tailored to their customer’s needs is going to be the most appealing to that customer. They want to feel special. They want to feel like you care about this project/program and have invested your time and effort because it reflects what you will be willing to do for them once you win.  

Age Old Adage is Out

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.” – Colin Powell

The opposite of copying and pasting isn’t necessarily starting from a blank sheet of paper. It doesn’t have to be a scary task that is all-consuming and detrimental to your schedule or something that will derail your bid team’s progress.

The Salentis System is full of tools and templates that guide bid team members through the process, cultivating new ideas that are relevant to your customer’s hot buttons as well as your company’s own new and improved solutions for this specific bid and customer. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones with a process that has helpful tools and templates, right? You just need to make the effort.

If you don’t have the time, give us a shout!

Author: Mindy Marchel

Article published: June 2022

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