9 Simple Ways to Write a Better Marketing Services RFP

As you might expect, we receive numerous Requests for Proposals (RFP). Usually, they come from communities wanting a new economic development website or branding effort in order to help attract jobs and investment. Perfect! That fits us. We’re all about promoting communities in order to attract jobs and investment. That’s what drives us. Sometimes, the community wants a powerful new video or even a full-blown strategic marketing plan. These, too, fit us, and we’re thrilled to have an opportunity to show our stuff and partner with great economic development organizations.

First, let’s consider the difference between an RFP (Request for Proposal) and an RFQ (Request for Qualifications). An RFP is great if you know exactly what you want and have written a clear Scope of Work. Sometimes an RFQ is better suited. If you’re unclear about what your needs are, but want to identify a partner to help develop and execute a marketing communications plan, then the better approach might be a Request for Qualifications. Very likely, this document will not ask for pricing, but may instead ask for a price range. Look at it as the selection of a marketing partner rather than a vendor.

Occasionally, we decline to submit based on the way the document is written. If we can’t understand the real needs or if the process is crazy cumbersome, we’ll likely take a pass. Unfortunately, highly-qualified companies sometimes bow out for this reason. At Brand Acceleration, we have a “Go-No Go” process that helps us determine whether to invest time and resources in the development of a proposal. Believe me, it does take time. No proposal is quick and easy to write.

Based on our experiences, here are a few pointers that may help you find the right partner who will generate the results you desire:

1. Shorter is better — It shouldn’t take forty pages to ask for something that could be described in three.

2. Keep the procurement officer out of the process — The person writing the RFP and the primary contact should be the economic developer. Procurement people have no clue what you do or what you need.

3. Write a clear Scope of Work — If you don’t know what you need, switch to a Request for Qualifications and find a great marketing partner who can help.

4. Keep the Legalese out of it — Marketers are marketers. Don’t make them fill out thirty forms and provide proof of car insurance in order to design your new website or logo.

5. Use plain English and avoid jargon — Don’t try to sound like a lawyer or a procurement officer. Just say what you want and you’ll receive better ideas.

6. Be respectful of other people’s time — If you’re going to hire your old friend anyway, please don’t take advantage of other people’s time just to reach your three-proposal requirement.

7. Send to a short vendor list — You’ll get much better results by requesting proposals from a half dozen competent professionals than thirty low-cost vendors who know nothing about economic development. You might even be better off by having a short phone interview before sending anything.

8. Don’t ask the hourly rate — True professionals work faster, do better work, and cost more per hour. The real question to ask is, “What is this going to cost?” FYI: We don’t have an hourly rate.

9. Keep the Conversation Door open — If I have questions, I want to be able to call the economic developer to get answers. Without this conversation, I can’t provide the solutions needed to assure success.

Isn’t that what you really want?

Do you have suggestions to add to my list? Feel free to chime in.

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