RFPs are an important part of the process when you’re hiring an agency for a project. You may have never worked on one before, or you may be familiar with how to draft one, but this article will help. In this article, we’re going to pull apart the best structure for an RFP and examine each section and what it needs to achieve, and how you can do that.
When you write a Request for Proposal, you’re upfront about your needs. You’ll get a clear idea of what the client will deliver, and they’ll get an idea of whether or not they can meet your requirements. A strong RFP makes it more likely that everyone will be happy with the results.
Use A Template As A Starting Point
The RFP template we’re going to go through in this article is a good starting point because it’s a great way to organize your thoughts and get the conversation going with potential vendors. It can also serve as a way to get started if you’re not sure where or how to begin.
Every business needs to pitch its services and products to other businesses. Whether it’s your own startup or an established company, it’s likely that you’ll need to write an RFP (Request for Proposal) at some point in the future. This template can help you structure your pitch and make it more effective for both parties.
Set A Budget
Before you even start drafting your RFP, make sure to set a budget for the project.
- The budget should be enough to pay for the services you need. If you’re looking for a copywriter, for example, it won’t do any good if your budget only allows for someone who can write headlines only, or does SEO content.
- The budget should also be enough to pay for the time needed in order to complete all of your objectives and goals within the time frame that works best for everyone involved (including yourself). The agency needs to know what they can expect so they can plan ahead and work with their staff accordingly – and as usual, it’s best if both parties are on the same page when it comes down to deadlines and deliverables.
Define Your Goals
Next, you need to define your goals. Asking yourself this question is the first step in writing an RFP: what are your goals for the project? Defining these parameters will help you understand how you want the project to turn out and if your agency has the skills and experience necessary to get there. Here are some examples of common objectives that companies may be looking for when they hire an agency:
- Increase website traffic
- Improve brand awareness among target audiences
- Acquire more leads through marketing channels, like social media or email campaigns
Set A Timeline
There’s no way around it: setting a timeline is important. The longer you wait to get your RFP out there, the more likely it is that agency opportunities will be missed. But don’t just set a deadline – set time limits as well!
For example, if your deadline is 10 days away and you want two agencies to respond in that time frame, then plan on contacting them five or six days before the due date so they can have ample time to respond and meet your requirements. And make sure you set a schedule for yourself – you don’t want to end up rushing at the last minute because things got behind schedule!
List The Must-Haves For The Agency
It’s important to make sure you are selecting an agency that can meet your needs. To ensure they have the right skills and experience, it’s a good idea to check their portfolio and references. If you want an agency with a proven track record, ask for proof of past work and how many years they’ve been in business.
To ensure that the agency is collaborative yet also independent enough to meet deadlines, ask about their culture and how often face-to-face meetings take place. Be sure that the agency has remote workers so you don’t have to worry about them being on-site all day long every single day! You should also consider working with multiple teams within an organization rather than just one person alone at home who handles everything by herself (or himself).
Finally, be on top of things when it comes time for delivery by setting clear expectations from both sides so there won’t be any misunderstandings down the line!
The Request For Proposal Template
The following is our template for the ideal RFP. Remember though that this is a starting point, and it’s also not going to work perfectly for every single business and situation. So work through this and ask yourself how each section best applies to your situation and needs, and adapt where you feel best. But the advice given here is based on years of experience with developing RFPs and working with businesses and agencies who are often involved in recruitment and collaboration, so ignore any section at your own peril!
The introduction of your RFP is the first and most important part of the document. You need to get right to the point and make sure that whoever reads it understands what is expected from them. Here are some tips for writing an effective introduction:
- Keep it short and to the point. The purpose of an RFP is to find a client who can meet your needs, so there’s no reason to be overly verbose in this section. A good rule of thumb is no more than two sentences, which can be followed by one paragraph explaining what kind of information you’re looking for (i.e., project requirements).
- State clearly who you’re addressing this proposal towards (the audience). If you’ve done your research correctly, this should be easy – but if not then take note now because it’s important! If there aren’t any limitations on who can send in their proposal, then say so here; otherwise, specify age groups or education requirements etcetera.
Establish Your Project’s Goals
The first step in any proposal is to establish your project’s goals. Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish with this project? Will it help solve a problem, or create something new and interesting?
Describe the problem you are trying to solve. Describe the final product of the project in terms of how it will be used by your target audience and what they will gain from using it.
Describe the results or outcomes that you expect from this project, including how much money it will save or make for the company, how many lives it will save or improve across an entire community, etc., with specific numbers whenever possible.
Explain Why You Need This Proposal
Explain why you need this proposal. The first thing to do is explain the reason behind your request. If there’s a problem or situation in your business, explain why and give details on what happened or how it’s affected your business. Also, explain how this proposal will help your company and its employees, as well as customers and the community.
The following is an example of a good explanation:
“We are having trouble keeping up with customer demand for our product because we don’t have enough employees on hand to meet their needs.”
Present A Strategy
The next step is to present a strategy. Before you begin, it’s important that your company understands what the problem is that you’re trying to solve, and what your company’s goals are for solving it. If possible, this should be done in meetings with all relevant parties so that everyone can come on board with the plan.
Your RFP will include:
- What is the problem we’re trying to solve?
- What is our strategy for solving it?
- How does this solution benefit the client?
- What are some risks associated with this solution?
- Are there any other assumptions we need to make in order for this plan or product/service offering to succeed (i.e. if another solution would work better)?
To ensure that your meetings are productive and timely, include a schedule in the RFP. The schedule should outline the dates and times of all meetings, along with their locations. The schedule should be flexible so that it can change as needed (for example, if you have to reschedule the meeting because someone gets sick). Finally, the entire duration of your project should be outlined in one single document.
Describe The Results You Expect To See
A good RFP should also define success. How will you know whether the project has been successful? What are the goals of your company, and how do those goals align with this project?
Defining success for both your business and the agency is crucial to making sure that you’re both on the same page from day one. If you’re not sure how to get started, ask yourself these questions:
- How do I define success for my company?
- What business goals does our company have that can be reached through this project?
- What does our company want out of this engagement, specifically (and generally)?
List All The Documents You Require In A Response
List all the documents you require in a response.
- Provide a deadline for all documents to be returned, and if they are not returned by that deadline, the agency will be disqualified.
- You may also want to include a list of documents you will not accept (such as when an agency submits an invoice with only nine digits of their company number).
Set A Firm Deadline For Proposals To Be Returned
You should establish a firm deadline for proposals to be returned. This helps keep the process moving and ensures that you move forward with your project on time, so it’s important to choose realistic dates and make sure they’re clear and easy to understand. The same deadline should be set for all agencies you plan to invite, as well as for each phase of the project (for example pre-qualification or selection).
You will want to include the names of key people in your organization who are responsible for signing off on the proposal and seeing it through to implementation. You may also want to list their direct phone numbers, email addresses, and any other contact information.
This section will also include any budget details: how much money you have available for the project, how much time you have allotted for it, etc.
Finally, this section should include a list of what’s included in this project scope – including who will be doing what work (you or someone else)
Additional Points To Consider
That’s the basic structure of a good Request for Proposal, but there are a few other factors to consider, and mistakes to avoid, which we’ll cover next.
Request Additional Information From Agencies
Once you have finished evaluating all of the proposals, you should have a list of the agencies that are serious about working with your company. You will want to request additional information from those agencies. This is usually done through a follow-up email or phone call. Here are some things you should ask for:
- A copy of their existing marketing collateral (brochures, direct mail pieces, etc.).
- An outline/skeleton of their proposal (if not already included in the proposal).
- A list of references from past clients they have worked with who would be willing to talk about their experience working with this agency and its employees.
When requesting additional information from an agency, it’s important not to come across as overly critical or condescending – even though you are in the process of selecting which company will work best for your company! If they do not provide what you’re asking for within 24 hours, send another reminder email letting them know that “you look forward to hearing back from them.”
Create A Timeline
Creating a timeline will give you a better idea of how long the process will take and when you need to have certain information ready, like an initial consultation or a draft of the proposal. Include dates for these items in the timeline:
- RFP submission deadline (1 week)
- Initial consultation with client (2 weeks)
- Proposal delivery date (4 weeks)
- Final decision by the client (6 weeks)
Get The Tech Specs Correct
The most common mistake people make when writing RFPs is using generic language to describe the technology they need. It’s important that you be specific about what you want in terms of your software’s functionalities, features, and capabilities (and even down to data flow diagrams).
If it’s not clear what your company needs, how will a vendor know how to meet those needs? Also if there are certain features or capabilities that are non-negotiable for your business, make sure these are spelled out clearly so as not to get locked into an expensive contract with no way out.
Make It Easy To Understand
You want to make sure that your Request for a Proposal is easy to understand. Writing in plain language makes it easier for your potential clients to read and interpret your RFP. Use bullet points, white space, and a well-designed template to help guide their responses.
If you’re not confident in your own writing skills but still want an effective document out of the gate, consider hiring an outside company that specializes in writing RFPs.
Be Specific About What You Need From Them
If you’re asking an agency to bid on a project that includes a new website and social media campaign, be specific about what the site will look like and how many times per week your company needs a post on Instagram or Twitter sent out. If there’s anything else that goes into the scope of work (like SEO), make sure they know that up front so they can give their best estimate during their proposal process.
- Be specific about what you need from them.
- Be clear about what you want.
- Make it easy for them to understand.
Offer Concrete Examples Of The Deliverables
A deliverable is a defined unit of work that you can measure and evaluate. For example, if you’re looking for an agency to create your website, you might ask them to provide a mockup of their proposed design (a deliverable). Or, if you’re hiring an agency to create a blog post for your company’s website, asking them to provide a sample article will allow you to evaluate their writing skills (another deliverable).
Asking for concrete examples of deliverables allows you as the client to know exactly what each service provider will be doing for you. If they don’t have any examples or can’t show how they’ll help your business achieve its goals, then they may not be the right fit.
Don’t Forget To Talk About Your Company
When you’re writing an RFP, it’s important to remember that the agency you hire will be working with your company for a long time. You want to make sure that they know exactly what kind of company they’re getting into and what sort of experience they’ll be getting.
In order to do this, explain your company’s history, culture, values, and mission in detail. Talk about how long you’ve been around and explain how far your business has come. Describe how many clients you have served over the years and what kind of impact they’ve had on society (if applicable). Talk about any awards or recognition the company has received along its journey as well as any other accomplishments that are meaningful to its identity as an organization – these can include social impact campaigns or even just being featured in national publications like Forbes or Bloomberg Businessweek!
It’s also important for potential agencies to know who works at your firm so that they may better understand who their colleagues will be working alongside every day once hired by them too!
Emphasize Confidentiality And Non-Disclosure Agreement
Emphasize confidentiality. This is often the first thing that comes to mind when a client thinks about an agency, so it’s important for you to address this in your RFP. You want your agency to understand that they can’t share confidential information with anyone outside of their organization without first having your permission – and even then, only if doing so is necessary for the successful completion of the project(s). You should also discuss what kinds of things might be considered “confidential,” such as:
- Your intellectual property (IP)
- Personal information about clients or employees (such as their names or phone numbers)
- The personal details associated with projects, such as budgets and deadlines
- Any other sensitive business data
With these tips, you can write an effective RFP that will help you find the right agency for your project. It’s important to remember that every industry is different and every client has different needs.
If one of these steps isn’t applicable to your situation, feel free to skip it or adjust it as needed! Remember that the goal here is finding a partner who meets your needs – no matter what they are – so don’t get too hung up on making sure every word hits its mark perfectly.