Five tips for your next RFP

request for proposal

Few acronyms strike more fear in my heart than the dreaded RFP – Request for Proposals (Run For Pete’s sake, as I prefer). Every single one seems to have a different, esoteric requisite. Team bios that are no more than 50 characters each. File sent by 5:00pm on a Friday (are you really reviewing over the weekend?). Or my favorite “must be hand delivered.”

Craziness aside there are easier ways to get the very best RFP responses. All you have to do is follow a few simple guidelines:

Be narrow

Whittle down the agencies you’d like to see a response from. Don’t know who to ask? Set up a series of 15 to 20 minute exploratory calls and take it from there. Sending out an RFP to, well everyone, can result in too many responses to thoughtfully consider or not enough. Many agencies, like ours, don’t respond to RFP’s to which we weren’t specifically invited. It’s too much work for a shot in the dark.

Be specific

Give a scope of work and a budget range, so the responses you get are actionable.

Be considerate

A long and unwieldy RFP takes a lot of time to put together. An RFP response should be no more than five pages, with case histories and examples as links to a website.

Be realistic

Don’t ask for creative concepts on spec unless you’re down to two or three agencies. It’s always OK to ask for ideas, but not intellectual property.

Be transparent

Is there an incumbent you’ve worked with for 20 years and your charter dictates an RFP every three years? Let us know. We might have a blockbuster idea to knock our socks off or we might want to take a creative to a pitch that could be more fruitful.

What’s the craziest request you’ve ever received as part of an RFP? Do you have an RFP in the pipeline? Let us know in the comments box below.

This blog was written by Brianne Murphy Miller.

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4 Comments

  1. Sean Dowdall Reply

    Great tips and I know thousands of RFP respondents would appreciate if these were always followed.

  2. David Landis Reply

    Brianne: truer words were never spoken. And the most important thing to always articulate? Budget, budget, budget! Thanks for a great blog. Cheers, David

  3. Craig MacLellan Reply

    Thanks for sharing your insight, Brianne. I think being specific is the most important – tell us what you want and how much you’d like to pay us to do it, and we’ll be able to give you the best proposal possible.

  4. Ashley Boarman Reply

    Now that’s an acronym worth remembering! Thank you, Brianne. This is a post for the ages!