Many people think that an RFP will give them the most value for their dollar—they’ll be able to make an apples-to-apples comparison and choose the option providing the most features at the lowest cost. The problem is, that method might work when you’re buying a product, but it’s useless when you’re buying a service. As a result, RFPs are often too long, full of redundant questions, or based on a one-size-fits-all RFP template. RFPs that are stuffed with irrelevant information waste both the time of your business and the agencies who read them.
For all the runaround, emails, drafts, approvals, NDAs, and general headaches RFPs can be—the number one reason to write them is confidence. The RFP process gives you the peace of mind that you’ve selected the right agency to partner with your team to start knocking out projects and smashing goals.
At the very core, an effective RFP includes:
- A clearly identified problem
- A understandable, measurable solution
- Timeline and budget expectations
Let’s break it down further. A thoughtful RFP process will erase doubts and help you to:
- gain insight into your own organization and the problems you’re facing
- confirm your true needs
- become clear-eyed about your own level of readiness for the project and the effort you must put into the process
- identify the website partner who offers the right solution for the right problem.
Force Agencies to Differentiate
You’re probably in one of two scenarios.
Either. . . You’ve written RFPs before. You researched, drafted, scrutinized, revised, and distributed them to agencies you and your team agreed sounded like a great fit. The problem was, for one reason or another, when the proposals came back (if they came in at all—many agencies refuse to respond to RFPs) you were met with ambiguous deliverables skewed to fit the agency’s services, rather than your company’s goals. Great, that was a waste of time.
Or. . . You’re already slightly jaded by the whole RFP process (possibly because you’ve had your time wasted in the before) and threw together a generic RFP and cast a wide net to every agency you came across. Proposals came in and you were met with the same vague language and promises.
Something has to change. Nobody says you have to follow the rules and even the RFP process itself is negotiable. If you force agencies to think out to the box early on you can quickly filter your list of potentials down to something more manageable. Before starting the RFP process, some CMOs find it useful to ask a series of direct questions to agency salespeople—found in Step 2: Specific Questions You Should Be Asking.