If you haven’t ever written an RFP, you’re missing out on some quality service providers in your niche. A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a business document that agencies create to outline a project’s requirements, and then request bids for it.
Agencies can use RFPs to solicit bids from different vendors, and get in touch with quality service providers who can get the project completed on time. From selling web maintenance services to complex development projects, RFPs can come in quite handy. RFPs simplify the process of finding a viable service provider for agencies, without burdening their resources.
- The Value of an RFP
- Free RFP Template
- The 8 Elements of a Well-Written Request for Proposal (RFP)
- When to Use an RFP
The Value of an RFP
There are many situations where you could find RFPs useful. Agency owners often write RFPs because the project is too complex for them to handle in-house, or because it requires additional resources that they do not have. Instead of hiring more employees, they simply work with vendors and pay them for their work.
So if an agency takes on a complex IT project, they could a formal RFP to engage with multiple bidders, and then choose an integrated solution combining different technologies, configurations, and vendors.
An RFP allows businesses to take advantage of skilled resources and to hire professionals with experience in areas like web design or software development.
Free Request for Proposal Template
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The 8 Elements of a Well-Written Request for Proposal (RFP)
Of course, writing a good RFP is easier said than done. A poorly thought through or carelessly written RFP will fall apart quite quickly. Make sure to research RFP examples you can use for inspiration before writing your own. Regardless of the many formats you’ll find, here are the essential elements you need to include in your Request for Proposal.
1. Outline Your Project Goals
The first and most important element of any well-written RFP is a clear description of the project goals. Write clear, specific goals that you want the project to achieve. Provide as much detail as possible here – if you have the numbers, add them in. Don’t conduct a project discovery phase just yet, but do some research so you know what’s required of you.
Make sure to highlight the selection criteria, and if you can quantify your requirements, all the better!
2. Lay Out the Deliverables
What are the deliverables that you would expect when giving out the award? Lay out in detail what you expect from the company or agency that will handle the contract. If you want to learn how to write an RFP, you may want to look at a few samples first.
Again, it’s important for me to highlight that successful Request for Proposals are detail-oriented and specific; they include all the points relevant to making a decision about a bid. This includes any quantifiable deliverables that you would expect. You can decide whether to request all the deliverables in one go, or if you’d like to go with a monthly retainer.
3. Scope of Work
Don’t confuse the scope of work with the project goals. In this section, highlight the major components of the project. Provide extensive detail about the support services you’ll require from the company, both during the development phase and after launch.
If you want accurate cost estimates, provide as much detail as possible here. Mention any fixed requirements that you can’t change at all. Link them to the section for goals, and then invite proposals.
You can also ask for a few creative solutions. Many companies that think out of the box are able to save a great deal of money by pooling resources and coming up with unique solutions.
4. Draw a Timeline for Completion and Define Project Milestones
What’s the timeline for the completion of the project? More importantly, what are the project milestones, along with their deadlines? You don’t have to make a definitive date commitment in the RFP, but you still have to provide reasonable deadlines for the completion of the work.
This section should also include a deadline for submission. A comprehensive Request for Proposal that includes lots of technical information will take some time to prepare, so be reasonable with your submission deadlines.
You can also specify the dates for selection and when you expect to notify the successful bidder, as well as when the project is slated to begin.
5. Provide Budget Estimates
Source: The Dough Roller
Too many agencies make the cardinal mistake of not providing budget estimates. Instead, they leave this open to discussion. That’s a terrible idea. If you want a business to really work on creating their proposal, you have to let them know about the monetary compensation they are likely to receive.
Most businesses will submit half-hearted proposals if you don’t highlight the pricing. This is one of the main elements in your RFP, so it needs to be very well-defined. Consider providing a pricing format in which a bidder is supposed to present their pricing and cost analysis.
This section needs to be easily comparable, which is why it’s best to provide a format of your own so you can easily compare multiple applicants and select accordingly.
6. Mention the Hosting (for Web Clients)
Do you already have a web host in mind? If you don’t, ask the applicants to give you a few suggestions. For instance, Cloudways has five infrastructure providers to choose from, including AWS and GCE. Many enterprise clients host their servers on AWS.
But, for instance, if you don’t need a lot of resources, you could choose a more affordable server from Vultr, Digital Ocean, or Linode. Hosting is a pretty broad term, so narrow it down according to your requirements. Specify who will handle the site backups, the process for recovering files, the use of a content delivery network (CDN), or any content management system that shall be deployed.
7. Highlight the Selection Criteria
Provide the details associated with the selection criteria. Do you want the proposal to include references or a portfolio of the bidder to help you make a better decision? Do you wish to work with entry-level agencies or are you looking for someone with a bit more experience?
Make sure you outline all of your requirements in the Request for Proposal so that you can narrow down your options easily and make an informed selection.
8. Metrics and KPIs
Source: Social Bakers
How do you plan on tracking the analytics and metrics of the project? Analytics are a great way to back up your successes with meaningful data. Include details about how analytical tracking will be carried out after the project has launched.
Additionally, you have to indicate the level of involvement for the agency in the Request for Proposal as well. Do you want them to just set up the analytical tracking, or do you plan on getting client reports from them in the future? Large projects are time consuming and require a lot of resources. You don’t want to put all of your time and money in without knowing what you are going to get out of it.
When to Use an RFP
It’s best to use RFPs for highly complex projects that are well beyond the skills available at your agency. A Request for Proposal should be reserved for projects that involve large amounts of technical data and information. They are ideal for when you want to compare different vendors and find the one that offers the best value for your money.
A common mistake that most agency owners make is that they issue RFPs simply because it seems easier than having to sit through a sales pitch. If you already have an idea about which vendor you are going to go with, invite them directly instead of issuing an RFP.
For example, if you are confused between two vendors for any kind of technical service, you can invite them to give a brief presentation about how they would handle the project. You can then assess their demonstrations and determine which one would be a better fit for the project.
Then, you can simply apply for a Request for Quote, which is essentially an invitation for a formal bid by a chosen vendor. As you can see, the RFP is not needed in this situation.
But, if the project is too complex for a “let’s discuss this over lunch” tactic, you may want to go the RFP route. By requesting a proposal, you will get a better idea about the bidder’s pricing models, the value that they are likely to add to the project, and how they intend on completing it.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to write a well-worded Request for Proposal allows you to get in touch with seasoned professionals who know their job well. It’s an excellent way for you to improve the quality of your services by working with vendors and professionals who specialize in different fields.