Whether you’re new to bidding, or a seasoned veteran, you’ve likely heard of a bid library (or content library). This is a collection of responses and materials that you and/or your company has submitted to buyers across previous tenders. More than that, it is a central pool of relevant and accurate information that can be easily and reliably reused to create good drafts, which will lower your resourcing requirements, and streamline your bidding process. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
With just a brief look online you’ll find bid professionals exalting the virtues of using a content library as the foundation of your tendering approach. You’ll find countless software applications that have specialised library tools with AI so smart it will manage your content, cross reference your solutions, wash the dishes, and walk the dog. What is harder to find is a fair assessment of the limitations of a bid library, whether it is actually right for you, and if it really can offer a benefit in excess of the resource you would need to commit to its creation and management.
Every company, by virtue of actively bidding, will begin to build up a back catalogue of files. If we are honest with ourselves, that catalogue is more often going to look like that one drawer we all have somewhere in the house that is filled with odds and ends that we’re saving ‘just in case’. In this form, any library will present minimal value.
So, should you deploy dedicated resources, invest in custom software, or hire cutting edge consultancies to sort this junk drawer into a well-appointed storage area?
Generally speaking, yes. There will always be some value in a bid library. How much value it will have and how much time, effort, and money you should invest are the more important questions to answer. It will also depend on how you tender, and your approach to developing a submission.
So, how do you work out whether a bid library is right for you?
Think through the following questions, and remember our team’s on hand to help you pick through them if you’re considering developing a bid library.
1. What do you tender?
Broadly speaking, tendering will break down into two categories that sit at opposite ends of a spectrum. On one end you will find a higher frequency of lower value or Selection Questionnaire (SQ) submissions. On the other, a lower frequency of higher value or Invitation to Tender (ITT) submissions.
For SQs and lower value submissions, the bid library can be an invaluable tool. These tenders tend to take on a reliable and generic format that can be responded to by proven material taken from your library and given minimal modifications. You will be able to fill the majority of any SQ just by having the necessary mandatory information, insurance certificates, and company policies to hand.
ITTs and higher value submissions, on the other hand, will tend to be more unique. They represent a significant investment from the buyer and for that they will want assurance that you can meet their specific requirements. In this instance, bid library content may be able to get you some of the way since there is always going to be some overlap in the topics, but using it has its risks.
The chief amongst these is that your content was originally built for a different set of questions. The questions may be similar, but they will also have variable nuanced differences that set them apart. Using your bid library content will give a solid foundation, but to get top marks you will need to show that your solution hits every requirement of the question in front of you. This will sometimes require significant adaptations to the content you are starting with and, depending on the level of change needed, can lead to you investing more time and effort into updating existing content than it would have taken to start from scratch. After all, it is often far more costly to renovate an old house than it is to build a new one.
2. How do you approach bidding at your company?
Similar to ‘what do you tender’, how you bid can often fall into two main categories: the so-called snowball and the snowflake approach.
The snowball approach means you will have a suite of active content that you’ll dust off and update for each new tender, reviewing it for relevance in any downtime. The idea is that with each bid you will be improving and enhancing the content, so that next time you have easily accessible information that represents the strongest starting point possible. If this is your preferred approach, your bid library will become one of the most important resources in your arsenal. You’ll want to invest in having the most navigable and maintainable library possible since it becomes the ever-evolving foundation for future bids.
The second category would then be the ‘snowflake’ approach. With this worldview you see each bid as its own unique snowflake that needs to be responded to individually. With this approach you will be working closely with your SMEs to develop new and engaging content that has been tirelessly matched to the buyer and their specific needs. Your solution has been reviewed against the landscape presented, your social value matched to the needs of the communities you will work in, and your added value carefully attuned to the desires of the evaluators. In this category a bid library will have use, but this will focus on the context your writers and SMEs need rather than offering collateral to work from. These libraries should be orderly and easy to navigate but heavy investment will lead to diminishing returns.
When the virtue becomes a vice
With this considered, it’s important to be aware of how the virtues of a bid library can lead to vice…
From above you can see that if you take the ‘snowflake’ view, and focus on high value ITT tenders, then investing heavily in a bid library is not the path for you. However, if you are looking for high frequency turnarounds with snowballing content – the more you invest in the best possible library, the more value you will realise.
If you are in that latter camp, the virtues of a good bid library are clear but the path to vice may not be as obvious. This ‘vice’ can be summed up as an over reliance on your library and an assumption that the content it holds is actually winning content.
Even the best designed bid library in the world is going to be limited by the value of its input. If you fail to take an objective view of the material in your library and don’t continuously review and test its efficacy, you risk building your bids on a foundation of sand. It is advisable then, when heavily invested in using collateral, that you have rigorous third-party reviews of your material to ensure that you have a realistic understanding of how well your catalogue of content is going to perform against your competitors. If your content really is the best, then you should consistently be scoring higher than your competitors on the technical evaluation. If you are not, you either need to re-evaluate your material or your approach because as Henry Ford said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.
The other main vice that comes out of a virtuous bid library is more insidious in its nature. By scoring highly in previous tenders you become confident in your material, often worried to change it for fear of losing content that has made it so successful in the past. In this you can find yourself defaulting back to your existing well written answer or ‘all singing, all dancing’ solution. This presents the significant risk of answering the question you wish had been posed and not the one you’ve actually been asked to answer.
So, do you need a bid library?
In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to bid libraries, and it would be astute to question anyone who tells you that you simply ‘must’ have one.
This article has given you the tools you need to evaluate their potential benefit and become clear on the nuances of bid libraries and what they can really offer.
You’ll be well placed to zero-in on the ideal cost/benefit balance for your company but, if you’d like to mull it over further, or dive straight in with additional support to get the most out of what you have, give us a call and we can help.
Get in touch
To find out more about how we can help you improve your bidding, get in touch via Hello@kittle-group.com, or give our our Business Development Director, Sam Nimmo, a call for a no-obligation chat at +44(0) 118 449 2506.