Writing a comprehensive RFP document without spending a disproportionate amount of time on it can be a challenge, even for the most experienced marketers. As a business, Found is lucky enough to receive its fair share of RFP documents; some are good and some don’t quite hit the mark. From a procurement point of view the RFP document is one of the most important parts of the process. At its best it can give a bidding agency all the information required to build a strategy and commercial proposition; at its worst it can confuse and misguide agencies, leading to poor proposals that don’t meet the requirements of the seller.
At Found we feel privileged to be considered as a potential partner for so many new businesses. Our desire is to deliver the best proposition to each and every one, with this in mind we have built 5 top tips that should be considered when building your RFP.
Tip 1 – Open communication
Always look to open up a conversation stream with your shortlisted agencies. The Q&A stage will enable the agencies to fill in any gaps that they might have internally. It also enables a dialogue to be set up allowing the client a snapshot view into what it would be like working with an agency (speed of reply, intelligence of questions etc). Setting up a halfway call/meeting allows the agency to divulge their initial thoughts and is critical to ensure that neither party will be wasting their time come the pitch. Ultimately you will be looking to work closely with your chosen agency; make sure that you get to know them during this time. From an agency point of view the more we know and understand, the better our solution will be.
Tip 2 – Current internal challenges/Issues
Be sure to document any particular issues that the business is facing (resource, internal communications, training etc.). It is important not to give the whole story away but guide the agencies in areas that you feel are most important; after all you’re not looking to send an agency out on a treasure hunt hoping that they stumble across the very thing you are looking for. Instead you are trying to find the most appropriate party that match your requirements the best. In terms of identifying external issues, again it is important to guide but it is also important to challenge the agencies to identify what they believe to be areas of concern or opportunity.
Tip 3 – Quantitative and Qualitative targets
Where possible it is important to detail how an agency will be judged; core KPIs if you will. Be open and honest when dealing with simple revenue/sales targets. As an agency we would much rather know from an early stage if expectations are going to be achievable or not, we can then manage accordingly. Identifying other areas that will be judged such as reporting, client services and design will allow any decent agency to ensure that they cover these points in their proposal. An RFP should not be a cryptic script but instead a document that details your requirements, allowing an agency to address these directly.
Tip 4 – Challenge the sellers
Having previously stated that the RFP should not be a cryptic script, it must also be noted here that it’s still important to challenge a seller on how they will address the given requirement with a specific strategy or solution. It is easy for an agency to say they can solve all your problems but the true test is how these will be implemented. We are firm believers that a pitch/proposal is our opportunity as an agency to showcase potential solutions for the client’s problems, we can then detail strategies in line with these requirements. Setting specific challenges within the RFP not only allows the agency to build a strategy but can also showcase past case studies where they have had particular success.
Tip 5 – Deadlines
Agencies are no different to your business, they don’t employ excess people that sit around all day awaiting a call. Very often new business departments are juggling a number of potential enquiries at one time and if you want the best possible proposal/pitch, then ensure that you are giving the agencies adequate time in which to meet your expectations. Typically from initial discussions to a completed proposal, Found would require at least 14 days. This will change depending on the other pitch requirements but in order to ensure that the best resource is spent on any given RFP this is the minimal amount of time. During this time we would expect to be given a deadline for questions (a deadline for answers would also be in place), a deadline for initial thoughts and ideas to be discussed (typically a call is put into the calendar) and then finally a deadline for the proposal to be submitted.
Getting the most out of the RFP stage is so important and is sadly often undervalued. Getting it wrong can lead to countless hours spent reading or listening to proposals that are way off the mark and add little/no value to your selection process. A well thought out RFP will ensure that the proposals are bespoke, detailed and innovative. Perhaps most importantly if you get this stage right you will achieve much more clarity into how an agency works.