If you want to scale your digital marketing agency, there’s more to it than simply creating great online content and executing on existing client accounts.
True scale requires access to numerous enterprise-level contracts.
It means harpooning whales en-masse instead of fishing for minnows with a rickety pole.
The occasional $1,000/mo client retainer just won’t do.
Wouldn’t you rather report to a team of 3 or 4 whose corporate entity was paying $20K to $50K monthly, than have to report to the CEO of 20 companies paying $1K each?
Enter the digital marketing RFP.
By gaining access to large, corporate buyers for your digital marketing services, your marketing agency will be able to achieve remarkable growth.
Here we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using the RFP process, where to find RFPs, how to draft and submit your RFP and a bunch of other tips and tricks.
I’ve personally responded to hundreds of RFPs over the years.
The process can be tedious and time-consuming.
Worse, it can be a waste of time if you’re not extremely careful.
- What is an RFP?
- How to Get on the Digital Marketing RFP Shortlist?
- Avoiding Cooked RFPs
- Creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
- How to Design Your Response
- Length of Your Response
- Understanding & Outlining the Client’s Needs
- Creating a Strategy and Timeline
- Testimonials & Case Studies
- Outlining Pricing Models
- Crafting Your Response to Meet Requirements
- Tips for Making Your Proposal Stand Out from the Crowd
- Submitting Your Response
- The Fortune is in the Follow-up
What is an RFP?
An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a document that is used to solicit bids from vendors in order to obtain goods and services.
The purpose of an RFP is to provide potential vendors with the information they need to submit a bid on a project or service.
This document typically contains information about the scope of work (project scope), project overview, project deliverables, project timeline, evaluation criteria and desired project budget.
How to Get on the Digital Marketing RFP Shortlist?
Getting on the RFP shortlist is 90% of the battle.
But how, among thousands of digital marketing agencies, do you catch the eye of corporate buyers so as to get included on their shortlist?
Answer: do something great, notable and amazing and you’ll become a known entity worthy of receipt for large RFP invites.
Because reviewing RFPs takes time, most corporate buyers issuing them prefer to keep the shortlist for potential vendors small.
If their RFP list is too large, it creates even more work for them.
But if you aren’t regularly receiving access to some quality RFPs from government and corporate buyers, where else can you go?
Here are a host of online platforms exist where RFPs are listed for free or for a small monthly fee:
Numerous others exist.
We tend to avoid government bids as more of those are cooked.
And while we have used these solutions to submit large numbers of RFPs, we have found direct relationships are always best.
Avoiding Cooked RFPs
Your biggest downside risk of responding to and engaging with entities submitting a project out to bid will be the “cooked” RFP.
The vast majority of RFPs, particularly those that come from public governmental entities, are “cooked.”
What is a cooked RFP?
A cooked request for proposal is one that is created out of a requirement to issue one publicly, but whose recipient is already internally known.
Cooked RFPs have the following characteristics:
- They most often are public and come from government, civic or educational entities
- The RFP may name a particular software, and by extension, a particular company or group of companies, that has reseller rights to said software
- While rare, it may actually call out a particular vendor by name
- Other preclusions may indicate the RFP is cooked when you read between the lines of the RFP
If not 100% cooked for a particular purpose or vendor, many RFPs will preclude your business particularly if you don’t fall into categories like:
- Small business designation (officially recognized and not just by size)
In scenarios where RFPs have the aforementioned requirements, you may be S.O.L. when it comes to winning the bid.
This is THE biggest downside risk in the RFP process as it creates a time-suck if you complete the RFP only to be disqualified before the process starts.
Even if I told you to read the RFP carefully, that would not necessarily solve the potential impediment because RFPs can be extensive in their requirements and requests, and the details you need may be buried in a quagmire of words.
This can be a further waste of your time.
If you’re obtaining your RFPs from an online source and not being solicited directly, be more cautious and exercise more discernment when you read, as there will be a higher likelihood you’re wasting your time.
Creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
Like any sales initiative, the RFP process is a numbers game.
You need to execute at scale to be successful and responding at scale requires SOPs and the right team.
Your process also requires the right team.
Without the right team, it can be difficult to develop a comprehensive digital strategy and timeline for meeting the client’s needs.
Without experienced professionals on board, you may not be able to provide accurate pricing models or deliver quality work within the desired timeframe.
The key to success is assembling a process around a well-rounded team for both submitting the RFP and delivery of the services, including digital marketing, project management, budgeting and more.
With this type of team in place, you will have the knowledge and resources needed to craft a compelling response that meets all of your client’s digital marketing objectives.
How to Design Your Response
We typically design our response with our PPTX/slidedeck response team.
They have created beautiful templates for our RFPs that we can then use on repeat.
We’ll keep our RFP response template (which is some 50 pages long) a bit closer to the chest, but here is an example of the caliber of product our design team produces for our RFP responses:
If you want to stand out as a great marketing agency, a proper design of your response will be paramount.
Don’t just send a Word Doc that you have saved as a PDF.
You need something that makes you stand out.
If your team has the ability to produce custom video or interactivity to your response, it may be in your best interest.
You’re submitting an RFP response as a marketing agency, after all.
Quality RFPs are not only visually appealing, but they also do a better job of showing (in graphs & charts) versus telling (long-form paragraphs).
When it comes to design, always opt to show and avoid telling, where possible.
Length of Your Response
The length of your response to the RFP will vary depending on the specific requirements of the request.
Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to make it as long as necessary to thoroughly and accurately answer all questions, but not so long that it becomes overwhelming for the recipient.
It is important to keep in mind that you should only provide information relevant to the request and avoid any unnecessary details or information.
As such, try to be concise and succinct when presenting your response.
In conclusion, your response length should be a like a miniskirt: long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep things interesting.
Understanding & Outlining the Client’s Needs
Understanding and outlining the client’s needs is a critical step in responding to an RFP.
Before you begin crafting your response, you must first understand the client’s objectives, their target audience, and their desired outcomes.
This typically requires a detailed read of the request for proposal doc, which will outline all the necessary requirements for a response.
RFPs can be long, so being detailed could take some time.
But, it is important to take the time to listen carefully to what the client is asking for and make sure that you understand the scope of the project.
This will ensure that your response includes all of the necessary information and details requested by the client.
Creating a Strategy and Timeline
Creating a strategy and timeline for the response to an enterprise digital marketing RFP is essential to meeting the client’s needs.
A well-crafted strategy should include clear business goals, measurable metrics, and actionable steps to maximize success.
It should also define the timeline for completing each task as well as any potential obstacles or risks.
Testimonials & Case Studies
The only thing that works better than social proof is actual proof.
Start with social proof in testimonials.
The rest of the proof is in the ROI pudding.
Your case studies should show visually how you helped execute on past client digital marketing campaigns, delivering on key performance indicators (KPIs).
Here is one example we have used, but we typically include several in all our responses:
Outlining Pricing Models
If you have an idea on the client’s budget, then you may have the leeway to create a specific budget.
But most scenarios will be nebulous, like this:
To avoid this scenario, we always like to provide our clients with options.
Unless they want a specific quote for a specific level of engagement, give them a “choose your own adventure” novel when it comes to their pricing.
In doing so, be sure to explain what services are included in each package or plan.
If you can (literally or legally) estimate a return on investment (ROI).
Avoid outlining different payment options. That will come later with a signed MSA (master services agreement). It’s bad form to include it too early.
Crafting Your Response to Meet Requirements
When crafting a response to an RFP, it is important to ensure that you meet all of the customer’s requirements.
This means that you should be sure to read the entire RFP document carefully and pay attention to any specific instructions or requests.
In addition, use language that is clear and understandable so that the customer understands exactly what services you will provide and to what extent.
Be sure to address any questions or concerns that may arise, and make sure your response is tailored to the needs of the client.
Tips for Making Your Proposal Stand Out from the Crowd
A successful RFP response requires more than just meeting expectations and requirements. In order to stand out from the competition, your proposal must also be engaging, informative, and clearly demonstrate your ability to meet the needs of your customer. Here are some tips for making your proposal stand out from the crowd:
- Highlight Your Unique Strengths and Competencies
- Detail Your Experience Working with Similar Current or Past Clients
- Include Samples of Your Work
- Offer Specialized Knowledge or Insights on the Industry
- Provide a Sense of Urgency to Encourage Action
- Demonstrate Your Commitment to Quality and Value
- Leverage Your Professional Network
By following these tips, you will be able to craft a successful response that meets all of the customer’s needs and stands out from the competition.
Submitting Your Response
Once you have crafted your perfect response to the RFP, it’s time to submit it. It is important to ensure that your response is submitted in a timely manner according to the deadline specified in the request for proposal. Here are some tips for submitting your response:
- Double-Check Your Work
- Submit in the Format Specified in the RFP
- Make Sure All Necessary Documents are Included
- Follow Up with a Phone Call or Email After Submitting
- Responses Should Clearly Demonstrate Value and Benefits to the Client
Once you’ve written your response to the RFP, it is important to ensure that all documents are properly formatted and organized.
This will help ensure that the customer can quickly and easily find the information they need. Make sure all documents are clearly labeled with appropriate headings and subheadings, as this will make it easier for the customer to understand the information you’re presenting.
The Fortune is in the Follow-up
Once you have submitted your response to an enterprise digital marketing RFP, following up is an important part of the process. Following up demonstrates that you are organized, attentive, and committed to meeting the client’s needs. Here are some best practices for following up after submitting your RFP:
- Always follow up with a courteous “thank you”
- Maintain professionalism and courtesy in all communication
- Demonstrate a commitment to moving forward (sometimes by providing value without initial remuneration)
- Request an update on the proposal status (only after a reasonable or required amount of time)
- Offer additional information and or subsequent value if you feel there is a delay or stalemate
The RFP process is different for every company and/or government entity.
How and when you hear back can vary widely.
Responding to a request for proposal (RFP) from an enterprise can be a daunting task.
Whether you’re looking to provide digital marketing services or any other type of business offering, it’s important that your response is well-crafted and tailored to the client’s needs.
Hopefully we’ve provided some helpful tips on how to craft the perfect response for your enterprise digital marketing RFP, one that meets all of your customer’s expectations and wins you more business.
Nailing the first RFP is often the most difficult, but once you get a system and process in place for responding to more, you’ll find yourself getting into a groove.
Let us know how we can help you submit your next RFP response!
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