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A marketing RFP (request for proposal) is a document specifically for soliciting marketing proposals. This solicitation process is usually done through a bidding process by the business that is interested in procuring the marketing services. However, most firms cringe when RFP documents land on their desks, mostly because the documents contain so many requests and stipulations that most agencies don't have the expertise for. Some marketing RFPs are uncertain and are poorly organized, leaving the marketing company at a loss of how to decipher what the solicitor needs.

As a digital marketer looking for more significant business, understanding what request for proposal (RFP) documents are all about is essential. Digital marketing RFPs are bidding solicitations that companies use to announce that funding is available for a digital marketing project. This process is usually followed by larger companies since small businesses prefer other avenues to solicit marketing services.

However, as a digital marketer, understanding the Ps and Qs of a marketing RFP may land you the business you have been dreaming of since it isn't the name of the company that will get you the contract; but, the way you handle the digital marketing RFP.

The purpose of the RFP is to convey to the marketing firm what is needed for a particular business relationship, the budget allocated and capabilities required to carry out the campaign successfully. Creating an FRP is time-consuming and wholly involving. However, there are a few elements that are considered when preparing the request for proposal.

‍Image credit: theheights.us

So, what elements should not miss from your marketing RFP?

1. Your company profile

Your company profile outlines your company's background details. This profile isn't similar to a typical "About Us" page that is on every website. Your company profile offers the prospective bidder key insights on your company, allowing the bidders to understand precisely what drives your business. It also indicates your company's differentiators in the market, the value propositions, team structure and other details that explain how your business structure and its projections in the future.

2. Your digital environment

It's paramount that your marketing RFP outlines the communication channels you are currently using, and those you have used in the past. This information seems redundant, but it will save you from getting vague or pointless answers. The performance of your current digital platform allows the agency to know where you come from, and they can also project where to take you depending on your needs. You will also outline which digital environment has worked for you, which hasn't, and the general analytics. This step helps the agency to tailor your solutions based on the needs you will have outlined in your RPF.

3. The challenges you are dealing with

You will have to specify your pain points; otherwise, the chances are that you will end up with generalized solutions that may fail (once again). Without knowing the specific challenges your business is facing concerning marketing, it's almost impossible for the marketing agency to understand what you need. If there are newer solutions or technologies in the market, your business may miss out. Some businesses have had challenges like yours, and they have received solutions from marketing agencies. However, if you keep these pain points hidden, you may miss out on a particular set of strategies and recommendations that may work well with your current business need.

‍Image credit: dtkshow.com

4. Your Business Goals

Always know what you want. It's well known that getting more traffic isn't the ticket to directly more sales, nor do they guarantee brand affinity or loyalty. It is crucial that you understand the issues deeply, and make sure your marketing RFP reflects this. Your potential marketer wants to work and grow with you for the long haul, but you can only achieve this through clearly defined business goals in a well-structured RFP.  

For example, do you wish to gain more market share in the industry, or do you want to target a particular customer type? These requirements will help the bidding agencies understand if they have the capacity to partner with you, and will help the bidding agencies understand the true scope of your needs and how to help you get to where you want to go. Defining what you need also includes letting the winning candidates know how they will work with you. It also allows you to specify a particular geographical region if you feel like it is paramount to your success, as well as detailing how much experience they need before you can sign the contract.

‍Image Credits: narrafy.co

5. Why use RFPs

Large corporations and governments use RFPs when soliciting products and services from different providers since it makes the procurement process more transparent, as well as ensuring that the bidders know what they are bidding for.

A typical digital marketing RFP will outline the bidding process, the contract terms and guidance as to how the bids should be formatted. Thus, the solicitor will describe the kind of service providers they need and what they consider as qualifications for eligible service providers. The marketing RFP also favors the bidders since they can gauge the health of the soliciting company, thus preventing bad business relationships. Therefore, freelancers should not shy away from handling any RFPs as long as they are within the scope of the services they can provide.

6. Questions you can expect

Generally, you should anticipate questions on your company's ability to deliver the digital marketing services. For example, the scope of issues will include (but are not limited to):

  • ‍How your company can manage a budget versus the ROI.
  • ‍How your team will integrate information from data.
  • What competitive edge your digital marketing has over other providers with regards to each digital marketing service.
  • They will want to know what you require from them (the soliciting company) to ensure a successful partnership.
  • Who will own the data and the accounts?
  • You may have to provide contact information of two or three clients, or a case study on the clients or both.

You may have to provide a fee structure for services you plan to offer, as well as how your accounts are structured. Studying how your accounts are structured allows the soliciting company to gauge your company's financial health concerning the size of the project.

Image Credits: slideshare.net

7. Be proactive

Sometimes, as the bidder, it is useful also to ask questions. This move gives you more insight on the project, and what the client expects from you may be broken down further for clarification. This proactive move also boosts your company's image. While the questions will not influence how the winner is selected, it improves your company's image in case they may need further digital services that won't require a bidding process, your company will have an edge. As you study the digital marketing RFP, these are some of the questions you should ask the prospective client.

  • ‍What tool (if any) will be used to grade the marketing RFP, and how does it work? What factors will be considered (such as value addition, match to needs, metrics and so on)?
  • What do they consider as the most crucial aspect of the entire project?
  • What happens to competitive responses once they have been submitted? Are they usually considered for future projects or they are binned?
  • Who will review the responses? Will they send blind answers to eliminate any chances of preconceived notions or any form of bias?

8. What not to answer

Please note that the digital marketing RFP process is usually too early to answer detailed questions on biographies of key personnel. You won't have to deal with the process of having to identify and "reserve" key personnel and their teams at this stage. Also, unless asked, provide just generic details lest you are suspected of trying to "bait-and-switch" in case there are shifts in your internal mechanisms (bait-and-switch process involves a company listing influential personnel, and when the contract has started, they are never seen or heard of by the client during the duration of the contract).

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