Any business that uses the services of marketing agencies and freelancers will require a marketing request for proposal (RFP). This document tells potential service providers what you're looking for and how they can pitch you their services.
Looking to hire a new agency? Use this article to learn more about creating an effective marketing request for proposal.
What you will learn:
- What a marketing request for proposal is
- Why marketing RFPs are important
- How to create your own marketing request for proposal
What is a marketing request for proposal (RFP)?
A marketing request for proposal is a document that businesses create when they want service providers in the marketing industry to send them proposals. A request for proposal contains all the relevant details about your marketing needs, budgets, and expectations.
Based on that, external vendors can pitch you their proposals, which contain information on what they can do and if they can meet those requirements.
A marketing request for proposal helps businesses compare different service providers and their offers.
You can then choose the best provider for the job such as a digital marketing agenc.
There are different types of requests for proposals, such as:
- SEO request for proposal
- Web redesign request for proposal
- PPC request for proposal
- Social media marketing request for proposal
Why are marketing requests for proposals important?
Marketing requests for proposals are important because they help your business write down its needs, requirements, budgets, and expectations. Before you even talk to an agency, you'll have a clearer idea of what you want to do with your next marketing campaign.
There are some more practical benefits to the RFP process.
They demand specific, actionable goals
You have to sit down and think about the metrics you want from your next campaign.
You can't state that you want "your rankings improved" and call it a day. You have to define the project scope and the marketing services you need.
The more specific the goals, the higher the chances of finding someone who is a great fit.
They help you compare service providers
Perhaps you get a recommendation for an agency and reach out to them.
You then ask what they can do for you. This is the old-fashioned way of getting responses from digital marketing agencies.
Instead, an RFP process lets you create one request for proposal and send it to as many agencies as you want. That way, you can collect their offers, compare prices, and find the best marketing agency for the job.
They evaluate incoming proposals
When you write a proposal, you'll see right away which marketing agencies are the best fit for the job and which ones are the worst.
With an RFP process in place, you'll have evaluation criteria to compare different agencies. This makes it easier to explain the cost to your management team, as you'll have well thought-out reasons for choosing one agency over the rest.
You'll also have legitimate reasons for not choosing agencies that are not a good fit.
They quicken the process
It can take a handful of meetings for an external firm to find out your needs and whether they are capable of meeting them. This can be a time sink for both parties, especially because this is not billable time for most agencies.
Instead, you can create a single RFP document and have dozens of providers send in proposals at a time. You can effectively shorten the time to hire a vendor from weeks to days.
Using an RFP template can also help your marketing department build proposal requests much quicker.
How to write a marketing request for proposal
A good marketing RFP can be instrumental in attracting the best vendors for your business. You want to spend significant time and effort writing a proposal request for service providers.
You can use web-based tools for writing, as there are specific tools for sending out RFPs. However, with a bit of preparation, you can use basic tools such as Google Docs or Google Slides to get the job done.
Here are 10 steps to creating a marketing request for propsal.
1. Include a statement of purpose
A statement of purpose is the reason you are writing an RFP in the first place.
It's also the first and most important section of the RFP process, so think through it carefully.
Your statement of purpose must define your whys and can reveal important information about your current situation.
Cover the following points in your statement of purpose:
- what your goals are
- why you need marketing services to achieve them
- what you hope to achieve
The statement can be as short as a few sentences or as long as an entire page.
Think of your SOP as a quick way to communicate who you are and what your goals are to service providers like marketing agencies and collaborators.
By clearly articulating your objectives and ambitions, you can effectively convey your situation to service providers.
2. Tell vendors what you want
Tell service providers exactly what you're looking for.
- What specific services are you looking for?
- What is the project timeline for these services?
- What kind of results do you need?
An effective RFP will list your requirements and expectations in detail. You don't want to be in a situation where you receive hundreds of irrelevant proposals because your RFP iss too generic.
This can act as a filter because the more specific you are, the fewer personalized proposals you'll receive.
You already know that you've attracted the most motivated service providers by including details in your request for proposal.
For example, if you are looking to hire a marketing agency, you should mention which marketing services you seek. There's no point soliciting agency responses from paid advertising companies if you need an SEO marketing firm.
3. Mention expected results
This is different than telling external companies what you want.
By listing out the results you expect, you are telling them about your expectations for the relationship. This is crucial for ensuring that both parties have a clear understanding of the desired outcomes and can align their efforts accordingly.
Expressing your wants can also save you and them a bunch of time and set a bar.
For example, you may want to grow your website by 200% in organic traffic. A smaller agency without the resources to scale content and SEO strategy is not going to be a good fit for your business.
You will need an experienced agency partner who understands the project overview and can implement a plan to attract users from search engines.
Stating clear goals and expectations upfront will help ensure that the agency you choose is capable of meeting your specific needs.
4. Add relevant information
This is a no-brainer.
Add a company overview but don't withhold important project details from prospective vendors.
The more information you arm your vendors with, the better they can help you.
Include items such as:
- What your business sells and to whom
- When the business was founded
- Who the ideal target audience is and why
- What kind of specific goals did you have in mind
- What your in-house marketing team has done
- What your biggest marketing wins are
- Whether you worked with marketing agencies before
- What kind of experience have you had with those agencies
This is crucial information that vendors like digital marketing agencies need. It helps them create a good marketing strategy, a project timeline, and specific details for your business.
They will also be able to personalize their marketing strategies to stand out in the agency selection process. A customized proposal can help you judge an agency's capabilities much better.
So even though your RFP response library may attract tons of applications, you will be able to pick out the ones that actually read through and incorporated your information.
5. State your marketing budget
To get a more accurate proposal, always list a budget in your marketing RFP.
Sometimes, stating a specific number can be difficult because of the many variables involved in a particular project. This is why you should list your project budget as a range.
- This can be in the range of $50–80 per hour.
- It can also be a monthly retainer range, like $3,000–4,000 per month.
- Alternatively, it can be a project fee for the entire work that you have planned out.
You should conduct some research before writing an RFP to get a clear idea of what related services cost.
You'll also know what to expect for a given amount of money. Many agencies will look at this part first to see if you and their company are a good match.
Your budgets will also decide the scope of your marketing campaigns.
6. State your terms of contract
You don't need a lawyer for this part of the marketing RFP, but consulting with one may help.
This is the general outline of the terms you want to present to potential vendors.
Include basic terms in the RFP that you can then expand on:
- when the work will start and end
- legal requirements such as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
- grounds for terminating a contract
and any other finer legal nuances required in your industry.
If you send out many RFPs, you'll quickly realize that this portion stays the same for the most part across all of your RFPs.
But you still want to have the finer details checked by your legal team.
As a bonus, it will also help when you make the official contract, because neither side will be surprised by anything.
7. Explain your criteria
The marketing RFP timeline should not be a guessing game for vendors.
In this section of the marketing RFP, clearly outline the factors that will determine the chosen vendor and their proposal.
Will you need agency references or prefer them to submit proposals in a specific format?
Here are some ideas for your selection criteria:
- relevant industry and niche experience
- a portfolio with previous clients with impressive results
- budgetary matches
- Timelines and scope of work
Of course, it's hard to predict which provider will respond with the best offer. However, you can be transparent about your selection criteria.
The second part of this section shows the proposal timeline.
You need to tell applicants exactly when this process needs to be completed.
- when companies can send you proposals
- the date when you will decide on the winning proposal
- the date when the work should start
That way, they have all the information necessary about the RFP process. This can help them personalize an RFP cover letter and include other relevant data to improves their chances of being selected.
Needless to say, make sure that you actually stick to the deadline that you set yourself.
Ensure that you stick to your own timelines and set an example.
You may also reach out to the agencies that did not get the job and explain why.
You might want to work with them again in the future, so it's good to stay on good terms with them.
8. Add any technical information
Your external partners will need to know if you have any preferences when it comes to the format and type of proposals you receive.
- How long should the proposal be?
- Do you want just an email or a PDF brochure?
- Who is the person in your business to contact and reach out to?
- Do you use specific tools, platforms, or processes that the agency needs to know about?
These are more important in specific situations.
For example, if you are sending out a design RFP for website development, perhaps you want applications in Figma or other similar design software.
9. Review your marketing RFP
Be sure to proofread everything at least once before sending it to potential partners, as errors can slip through the cracks.
You may then start reaching out and sending the RFP to vendors you'd like to review.
If you have a list of references, you can start sending emails to them first.
You should also research potential agencies on aggregator websites for marketing agency vendors, such as Clutch.
The wider you cast your net, the higher the chances are you'll get great external partners to send in proposals.
10. Create a marketing RFP template
If you've found a process that works for you and attracts impressive proposals from external partners, save and reuse it.
You can create a marketing RFP template as a skeleton, including the most important bits and pieces necessary for a successful RFP.
Just like an agency would use a proposal template, you can use an RFP template too.
For example, the bits about your company and the terms and conditions are likely to stay the same across different RFPs.
As for the others, you can create templates with the most important information and then add in the details later.
3 key things to do before writing a marketing RFP
If you've never written a marketing RFP before, here are some important steps to make the RFP creation process easier.
Conduct internal research
The essence of the RFP process is that your business is asking potential vendors to offer their services. To do this well, you need to do your own research and learn what solutions exist.
Even more importantly, you'll need to learn the typical cost of the services that you want to hire a service provider for.
For example, if you are soliciting proposals from marketing agencies, go online and see what kind of services they offer.
Also, check what the typical cost is for a retainer job on a monthly basis. Find out what kind of project scope and marketing campaign you need, as that will make it easier to hire the right digital agency for your needs.
Define your goals
What are you looking to hire a vendor for?
The more specific you are with your answer, the higher your chances of finding a great partner for the job.
A clearly defined goal is much better because it's highly specific and time-bound.
Think about the kind of results you want to get.
The more specific you are about your goals, the better an RFP response you can get from another partner.
Define your criteria
With a marketing RFP, you are on the receiving end. You can choose which companies and firms to send the RFP to and read each response to find the best candidate.
But before you send anything, you should think about what your ideal partner would look like.
These are the answers you want to have responses to:
- Do you want a vendor that has experience in your industry?
- What kind of budget do you have? Is it flexible?
- Do you have in-house expertise to meet your business goals?
- Is it important to hire someone locally or is working remotely an acceptable option too?
- How involved do you want to be in the project management processes?
- Do you want a long-term partner or a firm for a one-time job?
Having answers to all of these questions is going to make it significantly easier to go through the selection process.
If you've never written a marketing RFP before, it can seem like a time-consuming, complicated task. However, if you take your time in the preparation process and do your research, the actual writing part will be a breeze.
Be sure to follow a structured outline and provide clear and concise information about your needs. You want to make sure that your marketing RFP acts as a filter to bring in only the most relevant firms.