Tips to Writing an Effective RFP

Marketing Tips: 12 Key Components for an Effective RFP

Your business, non-profit organization, or government organization is ready for a new website. In the past, you’ve worked with a freelance developer, but the time has come to transition to a professional marketing agency. Unless you have a background in technical writing, you may have never written a request for proposal (RFP) or request for quote (RFQ), and the process can be intimidating.

A quick search of the web will show you that there are many examples. There’s also an abundance of feedback from web developers who dread receiving them. The primary reason an agency or development house would toss an RFP in the trash happens to be poor writing and a lack of critical information needed to make a decision on the project.

How do you get a response to your RFP from quality agencies and developers?

  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Be honest, upfront, and transparent – you’re pitching them, too
  • Give the opportunity for questions (and give good answers)
  • Set a timeline and stick to it (yours)

 

The RFP process is also a chance for the website development house or digital agency to get a preview of what your business or organization is like to work with. Show them your personality. Share your frustrations. Demonstrate to them you’ll be a great case study in the future.

Here are a dozen key components that make for a great RFP. Will all of them apply to you? Maybe or maybe not, but your odds of success go up significantly if you include the following details:

Set Goals & Start with a Summary

1. Project Summary

Treat this like an executive summary. Your summary or overview should be a concise description of the project with critical goals. Try to keep this to two (2) paragraphs or less. Indicate if the project will be managed by a single individual or a specific committee.

Include critical milestone dates (e.g. the website must be live by our summer 5K event on July 15th) or critical budget elements (e.g. we are utilizing a grant to fund this project and must come in at or below $20,000). Position your budget at the beginning! This will help qualify respondents right out of the gate. -See more details in #9.

2. Company Overview

The vendors receiving your RFP may not be as familiar with your organization as you might think. Introduce your organization, and share your company org chart or a list of key personnel who will be working on the project. Expect vendors to look for you on LinkedIn or even Facebook, as well.

3. Your Online Community

Take this opportunity to share who will be visiting the website, who you want to engage, and any habits that you’ve observed. This will be a tremendous help for user experience planning and design. (For example: are most of your users 21 to 35-year-old women visiting your website from mobile devices).

4. New Website Goals

How will you determine if the website is a success? Will you be measuring the number of leads? Do you need to increase online donations? Are you looking to expand an e-commerce section? Understanding what you expect from a completed website project will help vendors create more effective solutions.

Talk About Your Current Website

5. Talk About Your Current Website

If you were happy with your website, you wouldn’t be planning a new one. Create a list of what works and what doesn’t work on your existing website. What has been successful and what has failed?

6. New Website Functions

What do you need your business or non-profit website to do – from a functionality standpoint? If you are seeking a specific feature or function for the new website, describe it in as much detail as possible. A full explanation here will save time in RFP questions and will give you more accurate quotes.

7. New Website Wish List

If you’ve been investigating websites, you may have a list of “pie in the sky” features. Is it a comparison tool that shows the difference between products? An automatic membership renewal feature? How about recurring payment structure for donors? Be sure to include these in your RFP. You can request these as line items to see if you can fit them into your budget.

Will you need an E-commerce or Donations platform?

8. E-commerce or Donation Details

Website development can change as soon as money is involved. If you’re building an e-commerce website, be sure to include critical details such as:

  1. Number of SKUs
  2. Details on product sizes or options
  3. Shipping methodology and vendors
  4. Payment gateway (PayPal, Authorize.net, or Stripe)
  5. Returning customer functions (order history, favorite items, etc.)
  6. Marketing automation platform or CRM integration
  7. Presence of an ERP

If your non-profit organization would like to collect donations via the web, your request should include:

  1. Outline of donation options and methods
  2. Desired donation management platform (Blackbaud, Click-n-Pledge, Abila)
  3. Direct donation options (PayPal)
  4. Sponsorship opportunities
  5. Recurring donations

9. Budget Details

No one likes to say it, but it does come down to budget. It is a sliding scale: the more you need your website to do, the higher the budget. Please be completely up front, honest, and realistic about what you can spend. Websites have a cost of development and a cost of ownership. Remember to take a few recurring costs into account:

  1. Website hosting
  2. Website maintenance and updates
  3. Ongoing SEO
  4. Traffic reporting

We often hear, “I don’t have a budget,” or “How do I know what a website will cost?” from businesses and organizations. Prior to sending out an RFP, do some research. Ask other businesses or organizations what they spent. Expect a wide spectrum of pricing, but we recommend you think – not twice – but three times, before going with the lowest price. You get what you pay for in website design.

10. Additional Vendor Information

What do you want to know about the vendors? Should respondents include an org chart, past industry experience, or references? What information can be provided to give you the clearest picture of the vendor? (One cautionary note: some businesses and organizations (especially government) can go overboard. The more complicated you make this section; the less likely vendors will respond).

Be Sure to Include Your Project Timeline in the RFP

11. RFP & Project Timeline

Outline the milestones and deadlines. Try to give your vendors at least several weeks to respond. If your features and functions list has custom or specialized components, give a little extra time. Is there a specific deadline your website must be launched by? Include it. For a website of any significant size, easily plan for a three (3) to four (4) month process – or more.

12. How Will You Choose?

How you select your winning vendor is important. Whether you choose to assign a point-value to each component, a percentage to each criteria, or you’ll be voting by committee, transparency can help you get better responses from your vendors.

 


From businesses to non-profits, developing an effective website is critical. The more details you provide and the better you share your vision puts you at a greater advantage to have a successful web presence.

Signalfire can help you with more than just developing a great website. Our creative marketing guides and outfitters can help you develop the right marketing plan and put your website to good use.

Get the most from your website and marketing efforts. Call us at (262) 725-4500 or request a meeting for more details.

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