If you think writing a marketing RFP (request for proposal) can be a pain, try responding to a poorly written one. A common reason agencies cringe when an RFP lands on their desks is that the RFP is poorly organized, vague and uncertain, and too complicated.

In a previous post, we discussed all of the mistakes people make when writing a marketing RFP. Today, I’ll outline the 10 components you need to write an effective and successful RPF.


1. Company Background

Let’s start with the basics here: company background. I’m not just talking about the boilerplate copy scraped from your About Us page.

The purpose of your company background is to offer key insights about your business, its differentiators in the market, its team structure, its value proposition, etc. As an agency, I want to know what you think your brand’s greatest strengths are as well as your weaknesses.

As Simon Sinek says , “What’s your why?

Why is your company great? What do you hope to achieve in the long term? Go beyond this particular digital marketing initiative. Where is the company heading? What opportunities lay past the horizon?


2. Current Digital Ecosystem

As an agency, we can’t possibly know where to take you if we don’t know where you’ve been. Give us the relevant and pertinent details that keep our responses from becoming redundant or vague.

We want to know what communication channels you currently use—which have been successful and which haven’t. How does your overall digital presence perform? Share analytics, success stories, and where you think opportunity is to go further.


3. Marketing Challenges

At the most basic level, what are your pain points?

For many companies, driving traffic and increasing reach is always a struggle. If your top-of-funnel performance is lacking, be explicit about those dificiencies so we can provide appropriate lead generation best practices and recommendations.

Maybe it’s the middle of the funnel that’s causing the trouble. In that case, we may offer lead nurturing programs, remarketing, and personalized marketing strategies.

Or perhaps the last leg of the sales cycle is causing the snags. If bottom-funnel issues are driving your sales team mad, we want to know in the RFP so we can provide detailed sales enablement recommendations.


4. Business Goals

If you’ve written your company background well, you will have already laid a foundation for your business goals. In this section, go into more detail.

When I say business goals, I’m not referring to website metrics or social media performance. Everyone wants more traffic and more Twitter followers, but do larger numbers translate to larger revenue, larger brand affinity, and larger growth?

As your potential marketing agency, we want to be your partner and support your company every step of the way. In that case, we want to know more about your larger business goals.

Do you hope to gain the majority of market share within an industry, a geographical location, or a consumer type? Do you want to launch more products or service lines? Or maybe you want to position yourself for a buy-out within the next 5-10 years.

Whatever your business goals, provide them in the RFP so that you receive responses from the types of agencies willing to support and help you get there.


5. Project Objectives

Now we’re moving into the tactical areas of the RFP. You clearly had a specific objective or objectives in mind when you set out to write this RFP. We want to know more about what you have in mind.

Be specific here. What does success look like for you? Not just in terms of meeting KPIs or business goals, but in terms of projects accomplished.

Maybe you want a full-scale, automated email nurture program built across three personas for four different industries. Or maybe you want to launch a social media marketing campaign using specific channels. Or, then again, you may have a video campaign you’d like our agency to concept, write, produce, and distribute across all online channels.

Whatever objective you have in mind, detail it out and provide example ideas of what you’re looking for. Likely, some other brand has launched a similar program, and if you find one you really like, share it with us in the RFP.


6. Target Audience

The target audience is one of the most important aspects of any good marketing program, so I’d be remiss not to include it. While you want to share your known audiences you wish to target, you don’t need to include every specific detail.

If you have personas, for instance, you can include them, but it’s not necessary. At the very least, let the agencies know whether you have them or not because that will affect the types of responses you get back.

More important than listing your audiences, you also must include what you wish to accomplish with each audience. Do you want to increase leads to a certain group while building brand loyalty with another? Maybe one is your internal staff, and you want to create a fluid internal communications program.


7. Scope of Work

Get very specific here. The purpose of this section is to showcase the specific services you’re looking for so only agencies that are a good fit respond.

Keep in mind that you can break your deliverables into phases for budgeting, timing, or resources.


8. Competitors

Most agencies will know your competitors. A quick glance at LinkedIn can acquire that information. Instead, I’m really talking about comparable businesses. In other words, businesses you’d like to emulate.

You may have a list of brands outside your industry that are creating incredible, innovative campaigns you wish you could do. Share those!

Moreover, sometimes it’s difficult to explain your vision, so providing examples of companies you admire will help clarify what you hope to accomplish.


9. Timeline/Budget

Share any parameters that exist regarding the available budget and timeline for your initiative. If you do have a specific timeline, is there anything driving your go-live date?

By stating explicitly what you want to pay, you weed out the vendors who don’t fit within your budget range and vendors who won’t be able to finish the project in time.


10. Selection Timeline

A good RFP process is about setting expectations up front and sticking to them. List important dates that are driving your selection process. This will help you stick to a strict timeline and will keep your vendors aware of next steps.


Writing the Perfect Marketing RFP

If you follow the ten components above, you’ll write and produce an incredibly effective marketing RFP. However, nothing works better than picking up the phone and calling a few agencies you like ahead of time. Ask them questions about what they can do and what they think you should do.

Some agencies (like ours) will even work with you to answer a lot of the questions above, saving you valuable time.

Have you written an RFP? What advice would you give? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Download Our RFP Template
Digital Marketing RFP Template