How To Write An Effective RFP

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NOELLE WEAVER: Dear Client – If you’ve ever had to write an RFP, please read this.

Over my 12 years working in new business I have come across more RFP’s and Questionnaires than you can shake a stick at. This is my plea, for those of you on the client side who read Small Agency Diary, to please think about the objectives you need to accomplish and what you are really searching for in an agency before you write your next RFP.

The longest RFP that I’ve ever encountered was 83 questions long. 83!

While I’d love to have the time to write an agency dissertation in two weeks, truth is…I’ve got other stuff I need to be doing!

A few other quick tips [with some real examples] for you:

1. Please ask simple, direct questions.
“As the leading [Industry] manufacturer [Client name] working relationships and marketing efforts with retailers are very important so we would like to have you describe examples of your agency’s experience working with quick-response and retail-type accounts. Specifically we would also like you to cite examples in which the agency’s work and creative and otherwise has produced sales and driven client revenue. Indicate the types of programs such as customer loyalty, competitive response and what the results were.”

2. Please don’t let your legal department write the RFP for you.
“In case any bidder should fail to conform to these said instructions, its bid will nevertheless be constructed as though this communication had been so physically annexed and publicly initialed.”

3. Please don’t send out an e-mail to your entire marketing team and compile a list of everyone’s questions.
[these 3 appeared in one RFP]
“How would you describe and measure effective advertising?”
“How do you measure the effectiveness of your clients’ advertising and spending?”
”How do you plan and measure the effectiveness of client expenditures?”

4. Please take a moment and think about what you need your agency to do vs. what you can afford to spend.
“Required services will include but not be limited to: development and implementation of comprehensive marketing communications plans, corporate identity, direct marketing and promotional campaigns, events, community and public relations outreach for multiple audiences, conceptual development and production of promotional brochures (including but not limited to) sales kits, premium, newsletters and other collateral material, conceptual development and production of electronic media campaigns, tv, video, radio, web and e-commerce communications, out-of-home and direct marketing/promotional campaigns, media planning and placement of a variety of print, ….. execution of sponsored public events programs, flexibility and availability to meet at designated [CLIENT] office within two hours of being called upon.”

The budget - $4M over two years.

5. Please give the agency realistic time to complete the rfp.

While you may want to see how fast they can respond, trust me, you’re more likely to get cookie cutter responses and lack of real insight to the agency you’re about to hire.

“Please respond to the questions outlined above and mail back 12 bound copies of your response, video and print materials plus 1 unbound copy of your response by Friday, May 7.” [We received the rfp 4 days prior]

Truth is, most agencies actually do put a lot of heart and soul into their responses. If you make the process simple for us to respond to, we’ll make it simple for you to choose an agency that’s right for you.
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