Is your nonprofit organization in need of marketing communications services to create a website, develop a strategic plan, implement a public awareness campaign, etc.? Are you required to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to formally solicit services and allow a wide range of agencies to respond with their best approaches and pricing? If so, we thought it might be helpful to hear from the “first responders,” or the marketing communications professionals about our input and feedback regarding the RFP process.
First of all, we understand the need for the structured and formal process that the RFP is famous for, and appreciate the opportunity to compete and be considered for your project. I think most firms will tell you that we want to be aware of your needs and have a chance to obtain your business. However, there are several tips and some advice we would give to the poor souls who are in charge of devising those lengthy and complex documents.
Simplify the language
As marketing communications professionals, we want to pour all of our efforts into clearly communicating our understanding of your problem and how we can offer the best solution. We want to respond in a way that answers your questions and leaves no rock unturned. We don’t want to spend time trying to translate language that is unclear, complicated or abstract. And, we certainly don’t want to spin our wheels trying to answer the question, “what exactly is it that they want?” Keep the language simple and to the point.
Ask questions that expose an agency’s personality
Keep in mind, the approach an agency takes to your project, the process of completing the tasks and the outcomes will all be affected by the agency’s philosophy. The RFP should be compiled in a way that brings this to the surface. Ask about the firm’s mission, vision and guiding principles.
Give us a chance to showcase our creativity
Many times, RFP’s are so formal, that the strict perimeters and guidelines don’t allow an agency’s true creativity and thinking to surface. Give us a chance to show you what we do best: devise cool, out-of-the-box (little cliché) concepts and interesting, compelling and impactful communications that inform and move your audiences. Give us the space to show you our best creative thinking.
Place a lot of weight on an agency’s industry knowledge
You wouldn’t go to a tailor to have your shoes resoled, would you? Keep in mind, you will get the best results if you have a firm working for you that has direct experience achieving results for organizations in your industry. These firms will have a better understanding of your audiences (and how to successfully reach them), their environments, challenges and barriers. Industry knowledge and experience will surely impact results!
Provide a budget
Even if you are not comfortable divulging an exact number, or perhaps you don’t have one, at least give a range. There are many options in meeting communications objectives. Some provide a greater reach or quicker outcomes at a higher cost; while lower cost options are still effective but could take longer to build or reach fewer people. The responses to your RFP will show you how much you can get for the budget you have.<
Always take the time to debrief us
If you decide that another agency is the better fit, take the time to let us know why. We understand it’s a competitive arena and we respect your decision, but we have invested a lot of time and effort into our response–we appreciate your insight and feedback regarding the decision making process.
If your organization is considering crafting an RFP and you are looking for additional tips or input, please give me a call at 717-432-2468. Let’s all work together to create the best marketing communications possible to help you better achieve your mission!