There are many reasons why your company might choose to outsource some or all of your marketing functions to an outside agency. Whether you have a short-term project that your internal team doesn’t currently have the bandwidth to take on or there’s a specific aspect of marketing you lack the expertise to execute effectively, you need to find the right partners to deliver the results you want within your budget. This is when you start sending out a Request for Proposals, or RFP.

What is an RFP?

Whenever you need to enlist an external vendor to complete a project for your company, you need a succinct way to communicate what you need done to your prospective partners. In return, vendors will present proposals—their plan for completing the project to your specifications.
Having a well-written RFP is the easiest way to find the best agency to complete your project. You can send your RFP to as many vendors as you are interested in much faster than you would be able to arrange individual meetings with each agency. Your RFP will serve as a template for the proposals you receive, ensuring that all of the proposals contain the same information and are therefore easier to compare.

How to write an RFP

The more specific your RFP is, the more detailed proposals it will return. Thorough proposals will give you the best idea of which vendor best suits your needs and budget. An agency might even decide from your RFP that they are not a good fit for your project and save you both time by passing outright. If your RFP is not detailed enough an agency might not even take the time to respond.

If you want to your RFP to return quality proposals that help you find the best vendor for your project,
here’s what you should include:

  • An introduction and background on your company
I’m sure you’ve heard of the importance of first impressions. This will be the potential vendors’ first impression of your company. For your project to be successful, you and your partner need to have compatible cultures and workflows. Understanding the industry you are part of and the services you provide is crucial to helping a vendor build a marketing plan that fits your goals.
  • An overview of the project
A brief overview of what you need done and why allows vendors to quickly determine if they are capable or interested in taking on your project. If they are a large marketing firm with several RFPs to respond to, this section can determine whether the vendor even keeps reading. Clearly outline what type of project you need done and what you are hoping to accomplish with it. The rest of your RFP will go into detail; this is just to give the vendors an idea of whether they have the time and resources to take you on as a client.
  • Your budget range
Knowing your budget right out of the gate will help the vendors decide if the resources their firm has to expend on your project will be worth the investment. As they read the rest of your proposal, they will be able to determine if what you are asking for is feasible within your budget. If you need help determining what a reasonable budget for what you want done would be, try reading client reviews of several agencies. You can also seek out advice and referrals from other businesses on online forums. Identify must have versus optional items and itemize the add-ons separately.
  • Your expected timeline and any important deadlines
This is another crucial section for helping vendors determine whether they are able to take on your project and if your expectations are feasible. Outline the deadline for proposals, when you expect to notify vendors of your decision, and any launch dates. Remember to allow time for multiple rounds of feedback and revisions.
  • A summary of your current marketing strategy, including its weaknesses
If you’re looking to outsource some of your marketing activities, it is because you have already identified some gaps in your strategy. Let the vendors know what they are and what improvements you would like to see. Give them a sense of what challenges they might be facing. Laying out your current strategy will also help them integrate their work with your established branding and keep your marketing cohesive across all channels.
  • Your goals for the project
Let the vendors know what measurable results you will use to determine if your project has been a success. This could be more social media engagement, an increase in ticket sales, or growing your mailing list. Having a set of measurable goals clearly defined helps the vendors build a marketing plan designed to achieve those goals.
  • The scope of work and deliverables
This is where you define exactly what tasks the vendors will need to take on and the content they will need to create. You want to give the vendors a good sense of how many hours they will need to invest in your project to produce everything you are asking for. While your timeline defines long-term time investment, this helps them establish how many hours they will need to work on your project on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis.
  • Your target audience
Successful marketing content is optimized to engage a certain audience defined by demographics like age, gender, income, geographic location, or interests. You can create amazing content but if the wrong audience sees it, you won’t see any increase in your key performance indicators. Knowing exactly who you want your marketing to reach will help vendors decide on which channels they will use, how they will format content, and what kind of tone they will convey.
  • What input and collaboration your internal team will be able to provide
How, if at all, will your team be able to contribute? Be honest about their experience level and time to take on extra work. If the external marketing team will be mostly on their own, let them know that. This will help them accurately determine what they can accomplish within your timeline and budget.
  • Examples from other companies of what you are looking for
If there are other marketing campaigns you found effective and engaging and would like to model, let the vendors know by sending those examples. The more specificity you can give the vendors about what you are looking for, the better able they will be to determine if they are a good fit.
  • Any relevant brand guidelines
Including your brand colors, typography, logo, and other visuals helps the vendors get to know your brand better and understand what kind of tone and content will fit your business.
  • Your selection criteria
Save you and the vendors time by outlining exactly what you want to see in their proposal. This can include samples, a break down of the cost for each service, or references from past clients.
  • Contact information and submission instructions
Establish clear communication from the start. Make sure the vendors know who to reach out to if they have any questions, and where to send their proposals once they are done.
An RFP is designed to help both you and potential vendors decide if your project is a good fit for them and vice versa. Taking the time to develop a well-written and clearly organized RFP can mean the difference between success and failure for your project. Before you start on your RFP, begin by looking into agencies you might be interested in working with. Reviews and references from past clients are immensely helpful. First-page google results that aren’t paid ads can also steer you in the right direction.
Still feel overwhelmed about writing your RFP? Download our RFP template!
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