Tool belt

Create the best RFPs by baring your soul

A well-thought out RFP is *always* appreciated to get the conversation started on a web, mobile or app project.

In my 19 years in business, I’ve seen some awful ones (i.e. boilerplate with more contractual and legal scary stuff than a look at the challenges you need solved), and a few super-informative ones.

The best RFP will be an authentic and informative look at your organization, and not a regurgitation of the same mission statement and About Us text I can find on your website. You’ll get the best response when you bare your soul 🙂

Probably the best RFP I have responded to in ages included the following:

  1. Statement of purpose/Summary of need
    Give us a thumbnail sketch of the scope (tech/creative/marketing/etc.) so we can think strategically as we read
  2. Organizational overview
    What makes you special and why do your audiences visit? Any nuances of your mission and visitors we should know about?
  3. A review of your full universe of offerings (i.e. not just a list of links).
    For example, if you’re a membership association, give us details on your member publications (types of content/who uses it/how members get access), details on how certification works; what needs members have for the annual meeting site and whether it’s part of the redesign, etc.
  4. Web strategy
    What do you want people to do? How will you measure success? Who will be involved on your end?
  5. Audience demographics and use cases
    Give us overall demographics as well as specific instances of how you envision they will use the new site (or issues they have now that the new site must correct). Here’s a helpful template for use case development so you can see the types of things we like to know.
  6. Project goals
    Dive into what deliverables you expect to receive and what you need assistance with for the new site. This can cover everything from personalizing content for visitors, streamlining SSO and login access to your resources, a new CMS, and any branding you can share. Bonus points if you can offer some sites/competitors that we can review to get an initial look at your vision.
  7. What tools are you currently using?
    Most sites use a broad assortment of APIs, web services and 3rd party tools to manage things like publications, commerce and of course member details. Let us know what you’re using, what you wish you had from a functionality standpoint, and what you hate that you hope we can replace! We also want to know the overview on your tech specs (CMS and CRM/AMS names and versions, hosting info) and info on any external sites and social media we should consider.
  8. RFP process and due dates
    Let us know what you expect, and when, for our response, and what’s the most important criteria for you when you evaluate the proposals.
  9. Timeline
    Do you have a specific need to hit a launch date? Do we need to work around staffing availability? Let us know so we can describe the project management process will work best.
  10. Budget
    It’s really important to give folks a general sense of what you have earmarked to spend. Much as you can buy a car in a huge range of prices, the same goes for websites. Many firms, mine included, will not take the risk to spend weeks preparing a detailed, custom project bid any without idea if we’re even in the same ballpark. Ask for ranges, if you like, so you can get a sense of what levels of work you will get from the vendor.

And finally, please, please vet a curated list of vendors that you contact. If I see that someone has contacted 12+ vendors, it means they haven’t really researched anyone to determine who would be the best fit. Much as I will put my heart and soul into a customized proposal for you, I expect that you’ve done a modicum of research to cull your potential vendors to a reasonable (read: three to five firms) list.

I’m always happy to review RFP drafts and give you a vendor’s two cents. Hope this helps, and best of luck!

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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