Some organizations only use custom market research services once in a while. It’s those companies that usually have the most trouble determining how to structure and what to include in RFPs.
When these essential documents are well-prepared, they can become an effective tool for both client companies and their prospective partners. If they’re done poorly, though, RFPs can create barriers to collaboration. Developing an RFP requires a good deal of time and an in-depth understanding of the company’s needs, so do some brainstorming first and find out what to include before getting started.
What Is an RFP?
Before discussing the specifics, let’s start with a basic definition. An RFP is a request for proposal, in this case, designed to solicit bids from marketing companies. When used correctly, RFPs allow for apples-to-apples comparisons of different marketing firms’ costs, quality, and timeframes for completing projects.
A Consistent Basic Structure
The best place to get started is to look for an rfp template that will suit the company’s needs. In many cases, it’s possible to find templates designed for specific industries or purposes. While a template won’t fill in the blanks for itself, it will create a useful basic structure.
Most businesses include a background section as the first part of their RFPs. This section provides a clear context for the request, allowing vendors to learn about potential clients and their key business needs and company cultures. It’s important to include enough background to enable the formation of a strategic partnership in the future once a firm is chosen.
The primary purpose of any RFP is to define the client company’s objectives and desired outcomes, and marketing RFPs are no exception. These essential business documents should include a clear articulation of the company’s objectives and outcomes, whether in formal or informal form. Try to keep the summary of objectives to one page or less.
A Broad Overview of the Desired Approach
Most RFP creators move on from defining objectives to outlining their desired approaches to accomplishing them in two separate sections. It’s important to stay relatively general here, though. Remember, the ultimate goal of an RFP is to gain insights to make an informed business decision, and getting too caught up in the particulars can get in the way of that goal. It’s generally better to offer only a broad outline and let potential marketing research partners help with developing and refining the research design.
A Sample Configuration
Because an RFP is designed to solicit comparable proposals from different vendors, it’s helpful to include a sample configuration. Don’t look at this section as the definitive design for the project. Instead, think of it as being more like a straw man proposal that gives the client a chance to learn about different firms’ costs and their approaches to collaboration and redesign.
Clear Time Limitations
If there will be predetermined time limitations for the market research study, state them clearly in the RFP. The writer can provide an entire schedule, including study milestones, or a more general timeframe. Generally, though, it’s better to be as specific as possible about a study’s time limitations since it might affect the methodology and configurations proposed by a vendor.
Creating the Perfect RFP Takes Some Time
Before sitting down to write an RFP, take the time to do plenty of brainstorming. It can also help to review templates and case studies from similar businesses.