Shed the Obvious

How to effectively manage RFP responses with content audits

“Shed the obvious.” There is always something to learn from Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs and prolific digital content creator. For any proposal manager corralling tens of thousands of Q&A pairs, shedding the obvious is content-quality advice worth following.

In a recent RFPIO survey, 50% of proposal managers said keeping RFP response content up to date is their primary challenge. Yet only 18% audit their RFP responses annually, and 25% never audit their proposal content. It’s time to renew your proposal management commitment by focusing on the power of content audits.

Effective RFP Content Management Equals Success

“Winning the business” is why we’re all here. Quality content influences the win potential of your proposal. How you manage this content affects your entire proposal management process.

When your most arresting proposal content is buried beneath a pile of antiquated information, you’re throwing a wrench in your process. You will waste precious time on an information hunt, time that could be better spent personalizing and polishing your deliverable.

Effective RFP content management is about preparation, ensuring the best version of your content is ready before the proposal arrives. With properly maintained content, you have a stronger foundation. This gives you the upper hand under a tight deadline and speeds up completion so you can address other priorities—like responding to more RFPs to win new deals and be more successful.

An RFP Response Content Audit in 7 Steps

At its core, proposal management is content management. Take a cue from other content marketers, who frequently perform content audits as a regular content management practice.

  1. Take Ownership

There are many contributors to RFP responses, yet there should be a definitive proposal content owner. That’s you, proposal manager. You are the content gatekeeper and the point person for content audits. Handle the workflow to ensure all of your answer library content is clean and compelling.

  1. Identify Accomplices

You are the hero of your proposal management process. You become the superhero when you call upon the strengths of others. If you have 14,000 Q&A pairs in your answer library, how will you audit them? Delegate content to your organization’s specialists:

  • Subject Matter Experts and Sales audit product or service content for technical accuracy.
  • RFP Writers and Marketing audit language and tone for consistency, readability, and impact.
  • Compliance, Legal, and IT audit content to comply with security and privacy regulations and requirements.
  1. Shed

Be unmerciful as you shed content in your answer library. When you clean out your closet, you realize you are hanging onto clothing you haven’t worn in years. Use the same mindset to discard nonfunctional content to make room for high-impact responses.

Effective RFP content management is about preparation, ensuring the best version of your content is ready before the proposal arrives. With properly maintained content, you have a stronger foundation.

  1. Question

Once you have “shed the obvious” in your answer library, the next step is to question the value of the remaining content. This is an opportunity to deduplicate, strengthen, and identify gaps. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Are we conveying the benefits of our offerings?
  • Is this technical content accurate and easy to understand?
  • Are we being consistent and on-brand with tone?
  • What are we missing?
  1. Categorize

The goal is to make your RFP responses easily accessible, so categorization needs to make sense to all of your contributors. Develop an organized system using team input. For example, you might organize by product names, the challenges your solution addresses, or previous projects.

  1. Determine Frequency

RFP content audit frequency depends on the nature of your organization. A software company with rapidly changing features and technical specs might require a monthly audit cadence. At a minimum, content audits should occur once a year—but quarterly is a better practice.

  1. Automate

Lean on technology to help you stay on top of content audit frequency. Automate your process by setting calendar reminders—or set triggered email alerts if you’re using proposal management software.

Content audits are worth the time. Investing more energy in your content management practices will yield positive results. Start taking ownership of content quality by performing consistent content audits.

Ganesh Shankar is CEO of RFPIO, a Beaverton, Oregon-based proposal response software company. He can be reached at


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