Why Your Digital Marketing Request for Proposals (RFP’s) Result in Disappointment

Think smarter. Custom proposals are absolutely the way to go.


Digital Marketing Request for ProposalYour business needs digital marketing and advertising skills or tools, but you don’t have the expertise in-house, you issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), but don’t seem to be getting adequate responses. You may have partnered with a marketing agency you felt completely missed the mark. What happened there? It might have been the RFP that let you down in the first place.

Your requests help your business communicate the needs and expertise you are looking for as well as the right concepts and personalities to integrate well with your onsite team. If the RFP is too generic or vague, it’s hard for a marketing partner to offer a solution or give an accurate quote. When it comes to marketing services, each component of the process is highly customized. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to find the right fit. When you are looking for digital marketing services, the last thing you want to do is reuse your last RFP template. The marketing agency will be faced with unanswered questions, wondering how to respond. A successful business partnership starts by sharing your exact needs.

That requires:

  • Being relevant
  • Being concise
  • Making a response easy

A long paper RFP with unrelated and missing information creates extra work for you. Also, a single line brief about the project or a verbal description leads to miscommunication when your expectations differ from the delivered product.

When sending out your RFP, what do you really want in a marketing partner? Cheap? Fast? Quality? Do you care whether they are local or not? Do you want an agency with an entire in-house staff or are you okay with subcontractors? Get the best possible scenario that is affordable. Figure out the timeline for submitting the proposals and whether you will interview in-person or remotely.

In today’s world, Sympler recommends using digital RFP’s that are easy to tweak and allow everyone to collaborate for a better project and outcome.

What to include:

  • A rough outline of the work to be done
  • The budget and timeline constraints
  • The request for a knowledgeable solution
  • A detailed question-and-answer section
  • The key points that define project success

Introduce your company and explain the “pain point” you’re experiencing. Avoid sharing a solution based on your own conjecture that may lead to assumptions and cloud the outcome. Let the marketing agency provide the solution based on the problems you are describing as they may come up with an entirely different scenario you haven’t considered. Answers you have yet to learn about may exceed your expectations. That is why you are consulting an expert.

Describe your business, what it does, and why. Your values may come into play when creating goals and processes. Also, marketing agencies have niches; your business should be looking for particular skill sets to receive better recommendations.

If you have separate budgets for website development and marketing, be sure to explain it. You don’t want to waste your time or the marketing team’s time preparing a proposal that doesn’t fit your price range. Your proposal should indicate the level of expertise involved in the project, and the marketing agency can then attempt to prioritize the key elements for your website to fit your budget and suggest dealing with other aspects that may have to wait. If you don’t know your budget, describe other websites as examples of something that would work for you.

If you have timelines you need to meet regarding when the site needs to be live, websites can vary on the time it takes to complete them. It may be 4 weeks or 4 months to incorporate everything you need to establish your unique market strategy. Know from the beginning whether the project can be done within your anticipated time frame.

Explain your goal or the desired outcome. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What ingredients or results define project success?
  • Are quantitative metrics used to increase business or qualify leads?
  • What do you want your site visitors to do?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Are you incorporating case studies and client stories?

The more clearly you articulate what you want out of the process, the easier the development team’s job is to meet your criteria and budget. Decisions will be derived from objective outcomes rather than personal bias.

If you already have some thoughts on how you’d like to reorganize your website, let the marketing agency know. Developing a sitemap for navigating the website will help you determine the new content you need to write and what existing material can still be used. The amount of new copy being written gives the marketing team an idea of the size and scope of the project. Identifying different kinds of content being published governs the number of templates or views requiring additional design time.  Custom layouts are used for blogs articles, newsletters, photo galleries, testimonials, case studies, and more.

Describe all the services that must be outsourced. These may include:

  • Content strategy
  • Coding for content management systems (CMS), 3rd party APIs, and custom software
  • Coding for HTML/CSS and animations
  • Copywriting
  • Custom software or app development
  • Illustration
  • Information design
  • Mobile device optimization
  • Project management
  • Paid search placement/advertising (SEM)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Software training
  • Testing and quality assurance
  • Visual design

An accurate estimate looks at the average time to complete the project and a cost determined by multiplying by an hourly rate. Knowing all the services involved gives you a more accurate estimate.

Examples of things to share with your potential marketing partner

Discuss any limitations or requirements that will impact the project. E-commerce, non-profit, or service-based business websites have vastly different needs.

Specify which Content Management Software (CMS) you are currently using (e.g. Drupal or WordPress). The marketing agency may want to suggest alternatives for your industry or circumstances.

Share your present programming language to make sure they are compatible with new software (e.g. PHP, Ruby, or Python). The marketing experts need to be fluent in existing infrastructure.

Discuss the use of old browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer 8) and if you want to continue to support or change this. Old legacy browsers require additional development time. You may want to make changes that will reduce this time frame for updates to the website in the future.

Explain any third-party services being used for email newsletters, marketing automation, contact management, inventory control, intranet, or accounting, etc.  The marketing team needs to know what software apps need to be synched or integrated with your website to make it work properly. Some functions are included easily while others require writing custom code.

Determine who will manage and track data like inbound visitors and content engagement and how they will do it. Google Analytics is a popular choice because it’s free and works well but there are many options that offer additional functionality, such as Hotjar.

Ask about the need for a separate mobile-optimized version of your website. Optimizing the format for small screens and tablets can make a big difference in the satisfaction of younger site visitors.

Mention if you have membership management for user accounts on your site. You may need password-protection for certain pages.

Include whether you need to be accessible to blind or limited-vision users. Older audiences may respond better to larger default text and clickable areas with a very prominent design. Government and public sites may require legal compliance.

Are you getting a sense of the number of variables that can impact the scope of a website or marketing project?

Make sure the RFP specifies who the point of contact is and whether there is an individual or team leading the project internally. Do they have expertise from a prior web redesign or marketing project? Is there a specific decision maker or a committee that needs to sign off? This helps the external team anticipate the amount and ease of communication and adjust the estimated timeline.

What to expect after a website and digital marketing project launch

A website launch requires adjustments like fixing bugs or adding new features and posting regular content to drive traffic to the new site. New technologies and uses come up all the time requiring updates or scaling systems to different volumes of traffic.

When your website is built, the work continues as you make changes and updates on a monthly basis to maximize your efforts through hosting. Marketing partners can handle site backups, monitor automated processes, and conduct a caching and content delivery (CDN) strategy. Ask about abilities related to security, speed, technical skills, and reliability. They may use a specific provider that is recommended for the best possible service. Do you have a separate budget for this?

If you want qualified proposals from Sympler, the better the RFP is, the better the proposal and response. A good RFP makes it easy to gauge the cost and effort to estimate the scope of work. We want to work with you to meet your marketing goals, but more importantly, we want you to be satisfied with the results and confidently recommend us as the best experience with a marketing agency you’ve ever had!


New Media Campaigns, How to Write a Great Website RFP, https://www.newmediacampaigns.com/blog/website-design-request-for-proposal-template-tips

RFP365, No More Chit Chat RFP’s, https://www.rfp365.com/blog/no-more-chit-chat-rfps

Oetting, J., 11 Tools to Help You Easily Manage & Create Proposals in 2018, https://blog.hubspot.com/agency/proposal-software


Photo Credit: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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