Picture this — your company’s website hasn’t been updated in five years and is running on an outdated version of WordPress. You’ve got broken links galore and haven’t updated your staff page to reflect your new employees. You know it’s time for a change, but you don’t know where to start. Plus, you don’t have the time or resources to do the work yourself.
The situation above may sound like a huge headache, but the solution is easier than you think. Create a request for proposal (RFP) and send it out to qualified vendors If you’re unfamiliar with RFPs and how to write an RFP for the product or service you need, this blog on creating an RFP for marketing services is the perfect place to start. We’ll begin with a request for a proposal definition. Or, you can use the index below to skip to your preferred content.
What Is an RFP?
Businesses create RFPs when they need a product or service they can’t provide for themselves. RFPs outline the details of the project and are sent to businesses that have the ability to complete the work. For example, a landscaping company may want to jumpstart its marketing with a new website. In that case, they would send a digital marketing RFP to qualified agencies.
Companies that are interested in the work described in the RFP will provide a personalized proposal in writing. The business that issued the RFP will review proposals, conduct interviews, obtain references, and request bids. At the end of this process, they’ll award the project to the vendor of their choice.
In most cases, the project manager or a member of the marketing / communications team will write the RFP. Because they’re very familiar with the project, they’re most likely to create a comprehensive RFP that gets the best marketing results.
Why Should I Send an RFP?
There are a variety of reasons why you should send RFPs. Ultimately, RFPs help you make an informed decision on the vendor that’s right for you. Here are a few more reasons why you should send RFPs and how you’ll benefit from doing so:
- RFPs help you find the most qualified companies for your project, which is especially important if your job requires technical expertise or research and development.
- RFPs help you get the best solution at an affordable price since vendors are competing for the opportunity to complete your job.
- RFPs help you make an apples-to-apples comparison between different vendors since they’re all answering the same questions.
- RFP responses give you insight into the quality of the bidder and help you quickly weed out unqualified vendors.
What Should I Include in My Marketing RFP?
Deciding what to include in your marketing RFP can be tricky. You need to provide enough information for vendors to understand your expectations, goals, and the scope of your project right away. At the same time, you don’t want to include superfluous information or ask for things you could easily find on the vendor’s website. Us the marketing RFP guide to help get started.
Let’s review a few requests for proposal guidelines and what you should include in your RFP.
Starting with the basics may seem obvious, but this essential information is often overlooked. Your RFP should begin by providing vendors with the who, what, where, when, why, and how. Give them a brief overview of what your company does, including your history. Just make sure you’re not including too much information they could easily find by visiting your website.
Vendors also need a concise overview of what you want to get out of the project. Clearly state your goals so they understand what’s expected of them if they’re chosen. This is also referred to as a statement of work since it defines the scope of work the winning vendor will provide.
When it comes to RFPs, whether or not you should include your budget can be a gray area. There’s no real consensus on the topic, but we recommend including your budget in your RFP. Your budget doesn’t factor in intangibles (like the vendor’s experience and the talent of its employees), but it does help the vendor structure their response to the proposal. It also helps you gauge the quality of the vendors since a good vendor will do everything they can to give you what you want within the confines of your budget.
Your RFP must include a detailed project timeline with specific due dates. Tell potential vendors exactly when their response is due (date and time). This helps them determine if they have enough time to submit a thorough response.
Don’t overlook the details! Your RFP should include phone numbers and email addresses for everyone involved with the project. Vendors should also know who they should send their responses to and who to contact if they have questions. Make sure you tell them how to submit their proposals. Should they print and mail it, or do you prefer email, Dropbox, Google Docs, or some other platform? You’ll get the best response to your RFP when there’s no confusion among vendors on their next steps.
How Do I Write an RFP?
There are plenty of RFP best practices to keep in mind when you’re creating your RFP. In this section, we’ll walk you through writing an RFP for marketing services. We’ll also provide examples of language you can use in each section of your RFP.
Start by determining everything you want to include before you start writing your RFP. Make sure you’ve gathered the info we outlined in the previous section and that you’re only including the most important information. We recommend creating a detailed outline that maps out the sections of your RFP and what you plan on including in each section.
To make your life easier, here’s a quick overview of how to write your RFP:
- Start with a brief introduction. This section is essentially your project overview. Tell vendors why you’re putting out an RFP and the end goals of your project.
- “[Company] is seeking proposals to [brief job description] as described herein. We are seeking quotes from a minimum of [number] vendors for this project. We request that all bids be finalized and submitted to [contact] by [due date / time].”
- Clearly state your vendor requirements. This section should list the requirements vendors must meet to be considered for your project. You’ll probably be seeking qualities and values that match those of your own company.
- “[Company] greatly values [X, Y, Z] and is looking for the same values in a vendor. Ideally, we are looking for: [list of requirements/qualifications].”
- Example characteristics :: responsive to communication, innovative, honest, etc.
- Explain your selection criteria. Providing vendors with information on your selection criteria in your RFP helps you weed out unqualified vendors ahead of time. Don’t feel like you need to show your entire hand right up front, though. You can provide as little or as much information as you want.
- “[Company] will evaluate vendors based on the following: [list of selection criteria].”
- Example characteristics :: years of experience, case studies, familiarity with a specific technology, etc.
- Provide a comprehensive timeline. This is where you’ll lay out a detailed timeline for vendors. Your timeline should include the proposal submission deadline, the length of your evaluation process, and when vendors will receive your decision.
- “Bids are due on [date / time]. We will review all bids to ensure they meet our requirements and score them based on our stated selection criteria. The review process will take [length of time]. All vendors will be notified of our decision by [date].”
Where Should I Send My RFP?
You’ll get the best results (and reach the most qualified vendors) when you send your RFP to a wide variety of vendors. Don’t just focus on large, big-name companies during the RFP vendor selection process. In many cases, smaller vendors can provide personalized customer service and attention that you can’t get from larger companies.
Make sure you do as much research as possible on qualified vendors before sending your RFP for marketing services. If you want to keep your project local, scour the Internet for qualified vendors within a certain radius of your business. If you’re open to vendors in any geographic area, you’d obviously do a broader search. Take the time to compile a long list of qualified vendors to send your RFP to. You’ll be glad you did!
Along with sending your RFP directly to vendors, you can post it on the Internet. There are a number of companies that collect and categorize RFPs, allowing you to easily search for qualified vendors.
What Should I Ak My Top Vendors in a Follow-up Period?
Once you’ve chosen your top vendors, there are some specific questions you should ask them. We recommend asking your top vendors the questions below:
- Who will I be working with (designers, engineers, writers, account executives, etc.)?
- Who will my contact person be? How long have they worked at your company?
- How long have you been in business?
- How many clients do you currently have (if they’re an agency)?
- How many projects have you completed of a similar nature to my project?
Which RFP Mistakes Are You Making?
There are a number of mistakes we’ve seen companies fall prey to during the request for proposal process. To save you time and headaches, here’s our list of RFP mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t let your RFP replace a sit-down meeting with your top vendors. You can’t compare vendors solely based on their written responses to your RFP. The RFP should simply be a qualifier to get vendors through to an interview phase.
- Use bulleted / numbered lists wherever possible for conciseness. You don’t want to read neverending walls of text, and neither do your vendors.
- Be very specific about what you want. For example, if you’re vetting digital marketing agencies, don’t use generalities like “we want our site to be easy to navigate” or “we want to eliminate friction.” This is a waste of valuable RFP space, and it doesn’t tell the vendor anything they don’t already know just by looking at your website.
- Don’t make cost the main focus of your RFP (or the project itself). This almost always sets you up for failure, because you get what you pay for. If you choose the vendor with the lowest cost, chances are you’ll get lower-quality work. Instead, focus on finding a vendor that shares your values, and build a relationship with them from there. In most cases, this will produce the best results.
- Don’t ask for references until you’ve chosen your top vendors. This ensures you don’t waste your time and the vendor doesn’t waste theirs. Make sure the references you receive are detailed and up to date.
- Don’t ask dozens of vendors to submit responses just because you think you’ll get a variety of choices. Instead, limit it to three vendors that you vet yourself from their websites, social media, word-of-mouth referrals, etc. It’s also much easier to meet with a smaller group of vendors.
- Don’t rush through the selection process timeline. Selecting a vendor should take a long time and involve multiple meetings and lots of conversations.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to determine which vendors are interested in the job. You should include a phase early on that requires vendors to acknowledge that they’re interested in the work and will be submitting a response. This prevents you from waiting around for a bunch of RFP responses that never actually come.
- Don’t feel obligated to include a production timeline. Based on your requirements, the winning vendor has the experience to recommend the best timeline for you and them. An RFP timeline only has to go through the selection of the vendor. You may, however, include a target date on when you’d prefer to have the completed deliverables to coincide with an event, milestone, or sales cycle.
What Are the Most Common RFP Questions?
There are plenty of frequently asked questions when it comes to RFPs. We’ve curated a list of some of the most common RFP FAQs below:
Q: What are RFIs and RFQs?
A: An RFI (request for information) contains fewer questions than an RFP and is designed to help companies decide whether a particular vendor should be included in the list of vendors they send their RFP to. An RFQ (request for quotation) seeks specific, relevant cost details related to the product / service that is the subject of the RFP.
Q: How long should my RFP be?
A: As we said above, your RFP should be concise and to the point. Longer isn’t always better. There’s no set number when it comes to how many questions you should ask in your RFP. The length will depend on the scope of your project.
Q: How many vendors should I send my RFP to?
A: Again, there’s no cut and dry answer to this question. If the product / service you need is highly specialized, you’ll send your RFP to a smaller number of vendors. If what you need is less niche, you’ll be able to send your RFP to more vendors.
Q: How should I format my RFP?
A: Opinions on this question vary, but we recommend using tables and lists wherever possible. Each of your questions should correspond with a specific section to keep things organized. Make sure you leave space for the vendor to reply!
Q: How should I evaluate my RFP responses?
A: We recommend using a scoring system to evaluate RFPs. Score the responses you receive on a scale from 1-5 or 1-10. This helps you make more apples-to-apples comparisons so you get the best value for your money.
Q: Should I notify vendors that didn’t win the job?
A: Yes! Vendors put a lot of time into their responses. Let them know which vendor won the project and accompany that with a brief reason why they didn’t get the job.
Where Can I Find Request for Proposal Examples?
We’ve seen a lot of RFPs over the course of our 20 years in business — good and bad! We want you to benefit from our experience. Below, you’ll find three examples of well-written RFPs similar to ones we’ve received. By emulating these, you’ll be able to create an RFP that’s sure to get results.
- How to Write a Digital Marketing RFP That Gets You the Right Agency Partner
- Demand Metric Agency Selection Tool
Where Can I Find a Marketing RFP Template?
Looking for an easy-to-use RFP maker to make creating your next RFP a breeze? Check out our RFP template below!