Requesting excellence for your enterprise

A Decent Proposal


My firm gets the call almost weekly – “Hello, my company needs a website and some revised marketing materials. Can you tell me how much it will cost?” Clearly these inquiring minds are just kicking tires– not to mention diverting resources away from current client work.

Unlike an automobile, your company’s marketing isn’t a commodity, making answering those questions off the cuff nearly impossible. When potential clients are ready to get serious about their company’s marketing campaigns they formally invite vendors to formally respond.

Employees of larger companies with purchasing streams, contractors, government purchasers and bidding agents all know the drill – it’s called a Request for Proposal or RFP and it’s the essential blueprint for strategizing your project and selecting a vendor.

In marketing and advertising, the RFP is an invitation for agencies or developers, through a bidding process, to submit a proposal for a specific campaign. The RFP is usually part of the marketing plan, which is derived from a business plan. The more planning and strategy you can inject into your business the fewer tires you’ll have to kick when you’re searching for any kind of partner.

The driving force behind the development of any RFP should be the objectives from a solid business plan. After all, you shouldn’t just be spending marketing dollars without just cause and a strategic business plan that defines your company’s near-term and long-term goals will give the agency you select concrete objectives.

With actual goals to work toward most agencies can insert metrics into their response to your RFP or, at the very least, recommend the best vehicles for your company to employ to reach those goals. For example, a start-up business may think they require an aggressive new website but an agency’s experience may suggest other ways of blasting the new brand.

Be as clear as possible when defining goals and objectives and be just as clear with other information as you prepare your RFP. Budgetary constraints, target audiences, existing efforts all play into the agency’s response. In fact, the more time you spend in developing your RFP the better your agency responses are likely to be. The basic process for authoring a request for proposal goes something like this:

PROCESS: Tell the agencies about your procurement; define the universe of potential candidates.

OBJECTIVES: Explain the purpose of the RFP document to the agencies selected top receive the RFP.

DETAIL: Inform the agencies of the information that you require from them.

REVIEW: Evaluate all agency responses.

DECIDE: Make your preferred agency decision.

RFPs often include detailed specifications of the marketing projects or services for which a proposal is requested but other times clients depend on the agency to make recommendations to achieve objectives. The more detailed the specifications, the better the chances that the proposal provided will be accurate with your expectations and budget. Generally RFPs are sent to an approved supplier or vendor list that your company has researched as possible good partners.

The bidders return a proposal by a set date and time. Late proposals may or may not be considered, depending on the terms of the initial RFP. The proposals are used to evaluate the suitability as a partnering agency. Usually one or more agencies that submitted an attractive response to an RFP are invited to present their proposal in greater depth so that your team can meet with the creative partner.

RFP Variations
The Request for Quotation (RFQ) is used where discussions aren’t required with bidders (mainly when the specifications of a product or service are already known), and price is the main or only factor in selecting the successful bidder. RFQ may also be used as a step prior to going to a full-blown RFP to determine general price ranges. In this scenario, products, services or suppliers may be selected from the RFQ results to bring in to further research in order to write a more fully fleshed out RFP.

A Request for Information (RFI) is a proposal requested from a potential seller or a service provider to determine what products and services are potentially available in the marketplace to meet a buyer’s needs and to know the capability of a seller in terms of offerings and strengths of the seller. RFIs are commonly used on major procurements, where a requirement could potentially be met through several alternate means. An RFI, however, is not an invitation to bid, is not binding on either the buyer or sellers, and may or may not lead to an RFP or RFQ.

As you consider a formal partnership with a full-service or specialized marketing firm or advertising agency, consider the value in defining your goals and outlining your requirements. In the end, your expectations are more likely to be met and, even more importantly, both you and your new partner will have a blueprint to help your company reach real objectives.