RFPs, or requests for proposals, are simply the broadly standardized format for engaging with an external vendor to support temporary projects or establish longer-term relationships. While each industry may have its idiosyncrasies, there is a general roadmap for how to create an effective RFP.

Identifying a Need

There are several reasons why you would need to bring in a new outside vendor to support your team or brand. Your internal team may need additional support because of capabilities or bandwidth, you may need specialized help to take a project from Point A to Point B, or you may even already have a partner but need to replace them. Regardless of your reason, it’s essential to create an RFP that clearly sets expectations for the prospective new partner. Like any kind of relationship, having solid and clear communication as the foundation is the best way to ensure a satisfying result.

Let’s take a look at the three categories of information we need to include to create an effective RFP.

Organizational Overview

This category may seem obvious but it’s critical to consider your prospective partner’s perspective as an outsider. You may know your brand inside and out, but you will most likely need to bring this new vendor up-to-speed during their onboarding. An effective organizational overview allows you to get a head start

This category should include basic information about who you and your brand are; this may include surface-level details like brand positioning or values. You’ll want to include a brief overview of your industry as well as your competitors and other challenges. It’s important for the prospects to get a lay of the land so they can make their best pitch.

Lastly, you should include general timelines and goals for your brand or team. What general direction are you headed in and what are targets?

Project Overview

This is the most important category and ultimately sets the tone for the pitch as well as the future partnership. This begins with establishing a clear and detailed scope of work that outlines the services or products needed as well as quality and quantity expectations. Once the scope of work has been established, you need to include budget information that informs prospects on what kinds of solutions they will be able to deliver for the scope of work.

Once the scope and budget are clear, the last parts of the equation are goals and objectives for the project. These help the prospects understand a start to finish view of the project at hand. With these three variables, prospects can developed their pitches based on what they’re being asked to do, what budget they’re begin given, and what targets they need to hit.

Partner Overview

Once you’ve detailed your own background as well as that of your project, you will end the RFP by requesting details about your prospective partner. This includes an overview of the vendor, a rundown of their experience with similar projects or within industry, as well as references from brands they’ve worked with in the past.

Depending on the project and your industry, you’ll also want to request details about the individuals who may be assigned to your project.

Why Effective RFPs are so Important

Ultimately, the goal of the RFP process is to source a vendor that can effectively and efficiently fulfill your needs. Regardless of your industry, having clear communication of expectations is the most critical piece of the sourcing puzzle. An effective RFP avoids a “garbage in, garbage out” situation, and maximizes your time and budget.

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