Are You Ready to Issue an RFP for Marketing Services?

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Your internal request to seek outside marketing support has been approved and you have a decent pool of funding for your assignment. You are anxious to get going, so how can you prepare?

Crafting a successful Request for Proposal (RFP) requires a significant time commitment by the writer and the respondent. It pays to be prepared. Here are some best practices we have put together over the years:

Consider opening up your RFP bid to a select number of agencies that you feel have the experience, resources and passion to do a great job on your account. One way you can do this is to set aside time to create a qualified list of bidders. You can do this in many ways:

  • Ask for referrals from your business network.
  • If you admire the work performed for other brands, seek out the agency responsible for the work. You could also contact the brand’s marketing director and get his or her opinion.
  • Conduct an internet search by using keywords that describe your needs. For example, you could try typing in “ad agency, healthcare, Georgia” and then checking the results.

If you want to further qualify the list, you can send out what is called a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI is usually a simple questionnaire that allows you to get your basic questions answered. It may include:

  • Agency location(s)
  • Size by billings/staff
  • Current client list (to identify potential conflicts with your assignment)
  • Overview of capabilities
  • List of past/current clients for whom they have done similar work
  • List of standard bill rates
  • List of awards and recognition
  • Bios of key personnel
  • Contact information

All of the above should be readily available at each of the agencies and can go a long way in screening potential bidders. It also is a way to add another touch point in the process, which can give you insight into how potential bidders work as an agency.

Are you wondering how to actually write the RFP?

When crafting the actual RFP, it is your responsibility to set the stage. Share the current status of your business and marketing efforts. Inform the bidder of available research, data and performance of prior efforts. Tell them why you are issuing an RFP at this time. The more relevant and detailed information you can share, the more relevant the response. Concerned about sharing your business details? Have every bidder sign a confidentiality agreement before you provide the RFP.

Last but not least: the RFP should not be a fishing process for setting your budget. If at all possible, share your anticipated budget. It is a significant qualifier for bidders when deciding whether or not to participate in your bid. The bidders will still have to provide the rationale for their pricing, but they will know what they have to work with in terms of marketing-related expenses such as media, production, etc.

And if you have any more questions, feel free to email me. I’ve been on the flip side of RFPs so many times, I’ve got several more best practices up my sleeve.

Photo Credit: Flickr’s Calsidyrose

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  • Carey Jernigan

    We just received a smart proposal. Here is what impressed me.

    They sent the cover letter via email with a pdf RFP attached. (They also followed up by phone to insure it was not relegated to the Junk file.)

    The RGP had links to referenced information, hot links to contacts and examples of similar projects they admired.

    And it was 2 1/2 pages long! Clear, concise and open for questions.

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