Project Inquiry

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    Keeping up with web and digital technologies is a full time job. Hell, that’s one of the reasons you’re hiring a digital agency to begin with—so articulating exactly what you need and being the face of the company can be daunting. To help you write yours, we’ve compiled a handy list of key points.

    Begin with the End

    Envision how the website will help to achieve your organization’s goals six months after launch, or one year, or two years, or even more. What potential barriers to you predict?

    The main purpose of just about any website is to accelerate a sales process—and if you’re a non-profit, government agency, or other entity that doesn’t “sell” anything, don’t let the terminology distract you.

    Everyone wants something:

    B2B More, better leads
    B2C More, better customers
    E-commerce More, better orders
    Financial Services More, better accounts
    Government More, better engagement
    Healthcare More, better patients
    Non-profit More, better donations

    What are all the problems that are preventing you from getting more of whatever it is you want? Which fall under the marketing umbrella? Which of those might be addressed with digital marketing? Once you can articulate those bigger-picture problems, you’re ready to get started on your RFP process.

    Create Momentum with a Smart Process

    The time it takes an organization to select an agency is a gauge of the time it will take to complete the website project. If your company has taken over six months to select an agency don’t expect a custom website to be completed sooner than that. The internal dynamics and decision-making speed should match that of your desired agency.

    Before you ever start writing the RFP, map out the full process so that you don’t lose momentum. At the absolute maximum, your RFP process should take three months; two months is a better target. Use this chart as a guide:

    Task People Involved Duration
    Find candidates (8-10) and talk with them Influencer 2 weeks
    Select finalists (2-4) and talk with them Influencer, Decision Maker 2 weeks
    Write RFP Influencer, Decision Maker 1 week
    Distribute RFP and field questions Influencer 2-3 weeks
    Conduct Interviews Influencer, Decision Maker, and others 2 weeks
    Contact references Influencer, Decision Maker 1 week
    Select and negotiate Decision Maker 1 week

    Define Goals, Not Solutions

    It can’t be overstated the importance of identifying and defining goals. The number one mistake with RFPs is when they dictate a solution instead of stating a problem. You’re hiring an agency for their expertise with interactive design and online behavior—let them do what they’re good at. Identifying problems leads to articulating needs; your ultimate goal will be to explain your needs in the most helpful way possible.

    A list of goals allows vendors to demonstrate their competence and decision-making process, both of which should be big factors in your choice of firm. You’re contacting companies to utilize their expertise in web design and digital marketing—so why are you telling them exactly how everything should look and function.

    “RFPs that proscribe solutions can only describe solutions that the client already sees. When you’re hiring a designer, you’re hiring them to come up with solutions that you haven’t been trained to see.”
    -Mike Monteiro

    Supply as Much Context as Possible

    Why you want to do something is just as important as what you want to do.
    You’ve proposed a 2-month launch window—why? Is this because of a big event you’re planning, or is this an arbitrary internal deadline?

    You have requested that you stay with a Drupal CRM—is this because that’s the only format you’ve used, because you have a Drupal developer on staff, or because your IT director thinks it would be a good fit?

    You want to improve your search ranking? How do you rank now and who are your primary competitors?

    The more background and insight into your way of thinking or requesting, the better an agency can look at your goals and determine the most effective solution.

    Be Realistic and Respectful

    A lot of RFPs contain quick turn-around times for a proposal response, or for the final project. There’s that old saying, “Your lack of planning is not our problem.” By rushing through this process, you’re limiting the amount of time and attention these firms can pay to you, and ultimately hurting yourself.

    Please list a budget and do some research on realistic budgets before you set a firm limit. This is a good way to let companies figure out if they are a good fit for your project, and vice-versa, before going through the full scoping process.

    It’s also important to remember, while this is your only RFP, agencies you’re contacting may get 10-20 of them per month. They want to respond in a thorough and thoughtful way, but if you put too many restrictions or require too much time from these companies, you aren’t valuing their time, and you may not get a great response (or any response).

    An RFP Outline

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