If you’re looking for a digital agency to help your business or nonprofit organization with an upcoming project — or if you’re seeking a partner for ongoing services like web development, graphic design, or marketing — you will likely need to create an RFP.
What is an RFP? A “Request for Proposal” is a document that outlines your project needs and invites potential partners to submit proposals to meet those needs. Developing a concise and effective RFP is important, but it can also be a daunting task. Perhaps you know that you need to bring on a partner, but you’re not sure what information to provide. If so, it may be tempting to issue a very general RFP just to get the ball rolling; however, you will receive more relevant and higher-caliber proposals if you spend a little extra time writing a detailed RFP. Continue for our list of tips and best practices — plus, enjoy a free, customizable RFP template to help you get started.
Why Is it Important to Write a Great RFP?
When you start this process, you may find yourself wondering, “Shouldn’t potential firms be working to impress me — not the other way around?” While any firm or agency’s proposal should reflect an effort to impress, there are several reasons why you should also work to create a quality RFP document.
A good first impression will increase the likelihood that high-quality firms will want to submit a proposal.
First, any collateral coming from your company should serve as a polished representation of your brand. Although you are currently the one seeking services, remember that you are also building relationships — and it’s possible that someone who views your RFP may request or tout your services in the future. Beyond that, a good first impression will increase the likelihood that high-quality firms will want to submit a proposal.
Second, the process of creating a detailed and organized RFP will help you and your team think through all the components of the project. Putting the proverbial pen to paper is a proven and time-tested way to plan out complex tasks. This process will help you define your needs, goals, pain points, project timeline, and milestones for deliverables.
Third, when you create a descriptive RFP that lays out your project’s specific needs, prospective firms will be more capable of identifying whether they can realistically meet those needs and if they would be a good fit as a partner. This will help to filter out any firms that do not have the capability or bandwidth to complete the project, saving you valuable time down the road.
Finally, creating a high-quality RFP will set the tone for responses — potential firms will know that, at the very least, their proposals should be as specific, descriptive, and thoughtful as your initial document. This will allow you to get a better overall sense of which firm will best meet your requirements and form the most mutually beneficial partnership.
What Should Be Included in an RFP?
Ready to get started on your RFP? Here are some tips for what to include, how detailed you should be, and what questions to ask yourself (and your team).
- Begin with the basics.
Start with an overview. Provide the point of contact for the project, any additional stakeholders, and a brief summary of the project. Additionally, provide a brief rundown of your organization and its mission. Finally, describe the services or products that you offer and how the project will play a role in your business.
- Dive deeper into the project details.
Now that you’ve introduced yourself and the gist of the project, it’s time to get specific. Outline the goals of the project and rank them from the highest to lowest priority. Describe all relevant aspects of the project (e.g., website pages, apps, events, marketing integrations, etc.) and the audiences associated with each. Specify any technical requirements, existing project structures, and brand guidelines that the prospective firms will need to follow. In addition, identify the pain points you hope to resolve by undertaking this project, and rank them from the highest to lowest priority. If you have recommendations for how you would like to resolve these issues, include those as well.
- Identify and state what you don’t know.
Sometimes, being specific about your needs includes stating what you don’t know — and thus, what you’d like guidance on. Examples may include:
- A nonprofit organization is looking to create a new website. They are skilled in cause marketing, fundraising, and copywriting, but they are not experts in technology or web development. In their RFP, they may say: “We would like to hear your recommendations regarding site hosting and development.”
- An SaaS company knows that they want a site built on Drupal, with “xyz” integrations, for the purpose of increasing their conversion rate. They may say: “We know we want to build this, but we want your recommendations on how to best optimize it to get new leads.”
- Look to the future.
Consider what the future of this partnership looks like and include that information. Are you looking for a long-term contract? Will you need continued support for hosting or website maintenance and updates?
- Detail what you are looking for in an RFP response.
List any criteria the firm may need to meet in order to secure the project, whether that be specific technical capabilities, experience with similar projects, or mission-based or ethical requirements. Ask for background information from the firm, such as the company’s size and experience, the number of people who would be made available for the project, and/or information about key personnel. List out your must-haves for any proposal to be considered.
- Lay out your timeline.
Provide key dates, including when the window for RFP responses opens and closes, when you expect to shortlist proposals or make a selection, the estimated project start date, and the required completion date (if applicable).
Finish your RFP by providing the next steps that prospective firms should follow, including where to route any clarifying questions and where to send the final proposal.
Easy as 1, 2, 3: Download a Free RFP Template to Get Started Today
Now that you have the tips, it’s time to access the tools. PRI’s team of technical experts, designers, and communication specialists have combined their expertise to create an RFP template to help connect you with your ideal project partner. As a bonus, our template also includes a style guide to help you make the template your own. Receive your free, customizable RFP Template and RFP Style Guide to get started today.