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Request for proposal, not request for pain

So, you need to develop a Request for Proposal for agency services. Yeah. We know. Ugh! The “P” can stand for “Pain!”

Here are some tips to help make it a more pleasant experience for all involved.

Include ALL of these three items in your RFP

Ideally, an RFP should outline an entire project or campaign with enough information to quantify and qualify. Here are the essential things every agency will expect you to include: scope of work, timeline and budget.

What do you want?

The scope of work details what you’d like the bidding agency to do for you. Be as specific as possible, so the agency team developing your proposal know which elements they need to estimate and quantify. It would be most helpful to include an end-goal. You may think you need one thing, but upon evaluation, an agency may recommend another to get you where you want to go.

Some examples may be:

  • Increase membership by 30% within 18 months
  • Support the launch of our new product at upcoming industry expo
  • Obtain a cover story in the industry’s top magazine
  • Increase revenue by (a certain) percent within the next 24 months

When do you want it?

Include your desired timeline, including a target delivery date. Build in some wiggle room in case the amount of work you’re expecting simply can’t be done within your ideal timeframe. And especially note if there is a hard delivery date. For instance, you need a new website or marketing brochure because you are exhibiting at an important conference, which is an immovable date.

What’s a reasonable budget?
Resist the urge to NOT include your budget.  When you don’t include a budget, it forces the bidding agencies to use a blank-canvas approach and it opens up to all kinds of interpretation. So, really, there’s nothing to be gained by keeping your budget a secret.

Your budget should be honest. Think about your ultimate marketing goal. How many new clients might you gain? How long will they be your clients? What is the lifetime customer value to be realized by adding these new clients to your roster? Then think about how much you are willing to invest to obtain those new clients. Be honest with yourself and with the company you hope will become your partner.


Clarity is the best policy

Discuss the project with your internal team. Find out their needs, wants and preferences. Go through the process of defining your scope of work based on your goals. Include this thinking in your RFP. It will help the agency to understand how best to achieve those goals.

Prospective agencies are going to do the same thing. They’re going to review your desired results and think about the best, most efficient way to get you there. They’re going to evaluate your project or campaign to determine the resources necessary to achieve success. They’re going to articulate their strategic plan in a proposal, and you certainly want to be able to compare apples-to-apples when you begin your review of the RFP responses you will receive.

You’ll thank yourself later when you’re evaluating relevant proposals that all cover the same items and you can truly choose an agency based on relevant criteria. You’ll end up with a professional relationship with your agency as opposed to a vendor relationship. And take our word for it … this is what you want.

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