How to Write a Digital Marketing RFP that gets you the Right Agency Partner

Why use this template?

THE TRADITIONAL RFP PROCESS IS BROKEN.

  • It takes too long
  • The quality of the questions dictates the quality of the answers
  • RFPs encourage cookie cutter responses
  • Treats specialized talent like buying a commodity
  • No one has fun doing RFPs.

Who is this for?

  • Procurement
  • Project Sponsors in Marketing

What can this template help you with?

This RFP build helps you create an RFP that is accurate and meets all of your goals faster, without missing important details. It will help you get:

  • Internal agreement: allow you to discuss and finalize your requirements with all of the internal (and agency) stakeholders before involving a further supplier.
  • Accurate proposals: allow suppliers to clearly understand your needs so they can provide you with the most accurate estimates of their best solution.
  • Comparable solutions: ensure that each supplier receives the same set of requirements and therefore replies with a similar and comparable set of proposed solutions.

When should you use this template?

When you are seriously evaluating a brand new digital marketing partner to help you overcome challenges your current set of solutions (in-house or agency) cannot. Do not use this template if you intend on keeping your legacy agency simply to satisfy a procurement requirement.

How to use this template

The purpose of this document is to outline some of the most important elements that might need to be considered by an organization when putting together a request for proposal from a digital marketing agency. The factors considered here are by no means exhaustive, but equally, depending on circumstances, not all of these will always need to be considered.

Consider this document to be a starting point from which you can ‘pick and mix’ elements to include in your RFP.

What to do Next

1. Use the template we’ve provided to create your next Digital Marketing RFP.

2. Mix and match the questions that are most applicable to your marketing goals.

3. Review the RFP internally and get sign-off from the respective stakeholders

4. Use the email invitation template and send it to the agencies you wish to invite.

RFP Structure

Company Background

Start by giving an introduction to your company. The vendors you’re reaching out to probably know little to nothing about you. Share details such as who your company is, what the company strives to be, and what makes it unique. Provide those company missions and values.

  • What you do and whom you help
  • What you’re trying to do through digital marketing
  • Recruit applicants/volunteers, raise awareness, re-engage donors, implement a digital fundraising system, etc.
  • A quick summary for what makes a good agency partner for you:
  • Why are you looking for an agency?
  • What does a good working relationship look like for you?
  • Is experience within a subject matter, organization size or comparable campaign important?
  • Scope/Timeline – a one-time project, a two-year contract, monthly strategy, execution or consulting services, etc.
  • Specific goals you are trying to accomplish.
  • Key stakeholders for the project

    Tip: A single point of contact helps in any agency-client relationship to facilitate communication

  • Digital Properties (websites, social media channels)

Goal of this RFP

The goal of this RFP is for to select the most appropriate digital marketing agency partner to do the following for (Your Company Name)

  1. Outcome 1
  2. Outcome 2
  3. Outcome 3

Business Goals

Your business goals should reflect what you want your digital marketing strategy to achieve. What are the key initiatives that, if done well, will be a success for your company?

Examples of achievable business goals:

  1. Increase revenue for the next fiscal year
  2. Gain larger market share in the region
  3. Improve up-sell/cross-sell activity
  4. Increase operational efficiencies
  5. Reduce call volume
  6. Improve customer satisfaction

Current Digital Ecosystem

Provide an accurate and honest overview of the following elements of your digital ecosystem.

Shared Beliefs

  • What do the project sponsors and marketing executives in your company believe about earned, owned, and paid media as promotional channels?
  • What is your belief on how long it takes to generate demand and measure its ROI?
  • What is your attitude towards the specific digital marketing strategies you’re asking agencies invited to your RFP to bid on?
Strategy

Outline the key digital marketing strategies in as much detail as possible that you currently employ. Share insights on what’s working well, what isn’t, what you have tried, and what you wish to pilot but haven’t had a chance to.

Staff

Outline your team structure. Who’s responsible for what and how do they interface with your current agencies (if applicable).

Styles

Describe your company’s leadership approach to managing internal and external resources. Also mention your company’s overall operating approach.

Skills

What is the skill-level and competencies of your marketing teams and collaborative agencies?

Marketing Challenges

List your pain points and try to articulate the challenges of your digital ecosystem the best that you can. The more the prospective agency knows about your situation, the better they can deliver a customized solution for you.

Common marketing challenges include:

  1. Not attracting new leads
  2. Not converting leads into opportunities
  3. Lack of awareness in the marketplace
  4. No defined process for creating and scaling content development
  5. Outdated messaging that doesn’t resonate with audience
  6. Low retention rates
  7. Inconsistent branding

Project Objectives

Your project objectives are tactical plans that, once implemented, will help achieve your business goals. Now that we know your business goals, articulate how you want to get there.

Project objectives may include:

  1. Email marketing strategy
  2. Lead generation campaign
  3. Social media strategy
  4. Search engine marketing
  5. Forward-thinking website

Target Audience & Ideal Customer Profile

Describe your ideal customer and your target audience. Include as much demographic and psychographic information as you are comfortable sharing. If your team has created customer journey mapping or personas, include these.

Scope of Work

This is where you’ll want to provide more detail about your project. You can go as far as listing all the services you are seeking so only agencies that are a good fit respond.

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

In the scope of work you should include:

  1. Your needs per platform, channel, or business objective
  2. Your requirements for Strategy, Implementation, and Training
  3. The cadence of meetings, reporting, and reviews.

Giving a specific list of deliverables will give the agency a better idea of what to budget and plan for, giving you a more accurate estimate in return.

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.

TIP: If you do not have defined budgets, indicate a budget range. If a budget range is not possible, understand that the best agencies will be less likely to respond to your RFP.

List of Competitors

Give the names and URLs of at least three competitors so your agency can provide a competitive analysis that reveals what you are doing well and where you fall short. Looking at businesses across different industries can also provide innovation and inspiration.

It might be difficult to explain your vision, so providing examples of companies you admire will help clarify what you hope to accomplish. Send any websites, emails, social media, advertising, etc. of businesses you like and state why they appeal to you.

Selection Timeline

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.

Dates to include:

  1. Notification of intention to bid
  2. Q&A period
  3. Proposals due
  4. Notification to finalists
  5. Finalist presentations
  6. Vendor selection
  7. Project start Date

Selection Criteria (Quantitative, Qualitative)

Explicitly list how you will select the successful agency partner and award the RFP. Common ways to define selection criteria include adding a parameter and weighting.

Criteria                                                                   Weighting

Skills and Competencies                                                  30%

Response Acumen                                                            20%

Pricing                                                                                30%

Prior Experience and Performance                              15%

Fit with Contractual Terms Desired                            05%

How will RFP’s be evaluated? Using a standardized scoring system, “points”can be assigned to each criteria component according to the degree (extent) to which the proposed solution meets stated requirements. This is illustrated below:

5 points     Fully Meets

4 points     Meets, with minor gaps (no compromise required)

3 points     Meets, with moderate gaps (some compromise required)

2 points    Partially meets (significant gaps, compromise required)

1 point       Does not meet

Standard Master Services Agreement and Scope of Work

If your company’s legal department insists on implementing a standardized MSA (Master Services Agreement) include this as part of your RFP invitation. The same applies to a standardized Scope of Work agreement.

Be prepared for agency responses to include their own desired SOW and MSA templates, including unique terms and conditions.

Expert Tip: 

In our experience, using a pre-approved SOW and MSA, if you already currently have an agency and are seeking a new partner saves nearly 25% in the selection and placement process.

Response Requirements

Let vendors know what information you are expecting to receive. The clearer you can set expectations from the outset, the less chance you have of being let down.

Criteria for Response:

  1. Background of company
  2. Project approach and timing
  3. Relevant experience & Qualifications
  4. Scope of Work recommendations
  5. Responses to specific SEO, SEM, CRO, UX Questions
  6. Project management
  7. Pricing

Lastly, provide the number of copies you would like to receive and to whom they should be addressed.

Main Point of Contact Information:

  1. Full name
  2. Job title
  3. Address
  4. Phone number
  5. Email

Questions

Indicate your desired period for accepting questions about the RFP. Include the fact that all questions and answers will be distributed to all attendees with reasonable time

to update their proposals.

Example:

Questions arising during the proposal period must be directed via email to yourname@yourcompany.com

[Your Company] will not accept questions any later than two (2) business days prior to the RFP Submission Date. If [Your Company] chooses to answer any question, both the question and answer will be distributed to all vendors.

Partner Questions and Answers

General

Your Company

  1.    Describe your company structure? (to understand if they have specialization)
  2.    What is your revenue per employee? (to understand if they are productive
  3.    Describe your company structure? (to understand if they have specialization)
  4.    What is your revenue per employee? (to understand if they are productive)

   Team Structure

  1.    What is your team structure? (to understand their role diversity)
  2.    What fraction of your employees work in client services (account management) vs marketing?
  3.    What is your typical team utilization rate? (to understand if the team is appropriately resourced)
  4.    Who will be our Point of Contact on your team?
  5.    Will we have access to experts and specialists on you team? How?

    Team Structure

  1.    Where are you located?
  2.    How many staff are at your satellite offices?
  3.    Where do you prefer to have most meetings?

    Technology

  1.    What are the major technology products you use?
  2.    What percentage of revenues do you spend on technology and software products? (to understand if they are leveraging technology to create productive output)
  3.    What technology do you use for communication (external and internal), project management, meetings and conferencing? (to understand if they are going to have lag in communicating efficiently)

    Miscellaneous

  1.    What do you think will be the biggest challenges with the requirements outlined in the RFP?
  2.    Explain your approach to client-vendor relationships and what you anticipate needing from us throughout the process.
  3.    While your tool expertise is assumed, explain the relationships you have with vendors of relevant technology.
  4.    What is your approach to project and client management?
  5.    What is the nature and frequency of reporting and status updates you provide?
  6.    Describe at least one difficulty you’ve encountered in this type of work before and how it was overcome.
  7.    How can we ensure that the value of this work is maximized throughout the organization?
  8.    What should we be thinking of as a next step beyond the scope of this RFP?

Methodology

   Systems

  1.    What systems do you use? Technology based? People based?
  2.    How do you train staff on your systems?
  3.    List which systems that you’ve created apply to our project.

   Processes

  1.    What systems do you use? Technology based? People based?
  2.    How do you train staff on your systems?
  3.    List which systems that you’ve created apply to our project.

   Core Values

  1.    What are your core values?
  2.    How do you use core values for decision making in your business?
  3.    What are your marketing and advertising beliefs?

SEO

   Methodology

  1.    Describe your approach to the creation of an overall SEO strategy.
  2.    What is your typical SEO workflow/process?
  3.    What SEO tactics do you view as effective in the current environment? What advantages or disadvantages might [client] face?
  4.    Describe the opportunity for [client] as you see it in SEO.
  5.    Please provide a market assessment of SEO at this time, and any trends [client] should be concerned with over the next three (3) years.
  6.    What measures do you take to test and optimize SEO for mobile?
  7.    What is your approach for local optimization of SEO?

   Technical SEO

  1.    Describe your approach to working with large websites with hundreds of thousands of pages.
  2.    What is your approach towards low-value or duplicate content pages?
  3.    How to do you uncover user intent and align it with keyword research?
  4.    Describe your approach towards aligning content form, format, and function with user intent.
  5.    How do you measure Technical SEO health?

   Content Strategy

  1.    Describe your approach to conducting keyword research and validation of [client]-supplied keywords. How do you determine which keywords would be the most effective? Describe your approach to ongoing keyword targeting strategies (adding new keywords, etc.)
  2.    Describe your approach to evaluating the current site structure/ on-site factors as they pertain to SEO and making recommendations for structural improvements for optimal search engine exposure.
  3.    Indicate your ability to provide specific technical guidance to [client] developers for changes that affect SEO.
  4.    Indicate how important you view site content and what capabilities you have to guide the creation of content and/or provide SEO optimized content where needed.

   Digital PR

  1.    Describe your approach to finding right-fit link opportunities
  2.    Describe your approach to assessing content and link opportunity fit
  3.    Describe your outreach approach
  4.    Is your outreach transparent? Will we be able to review your communications if needed?
  5.    How do you report on link acquisition?
  6.    Do you offer a Pay for Performance link acquisition program?
  7.    How do you stay within Google Webmaster guidelines when acquiring links?

Local Search

   Strategy

  1.     Describe your approach to auditing Local Search health.
  2.    Describe your approach to assessing competitor local search strategies.
  3.    What is your approach to data syndication and citation building?
  4.    How do you measure listing performance?
  5.    How do you report on listing performance?

   Listing Management

  1.    Do you use a data aggregator or syndication partner? Who? Why?
  2.    How do you manage listings? Natively? API?
  3.    How do you troubleshoot errant listings which are merged, duplicate, or incomplete?
  4.    How do you optimize a specific location’s ranking and visibility if the rest of the locations are managed via a data aggregator?
  5.    Do you have any Google Experts in Google My Business on your staff?

   Multi Location Expertise

  1.    How many locations do you manage and optimize for your largest client?
  2.    How many locations do you manage and optimize for your second largest client?
  3.    How is approach for multi-location Local SEO different than single location optimization?
  4.    Describe your experience and approach to optimization a Store Locator.

   Reporting

  1.    How do you measure IYP (internet yellow pages) listing performance?
  2.    How do you measure and report on listing visibility, accuracy, and reach?
  3.    How do you report on ranking? What technology do you use to get localized rankings that mimic a real searcher in the specified location?

PPC

   Account Strategy

How do you rank the following elements of paid search in importance?

  •   Account structure
  •   Ad copy
  •   Bidding
  •   Data analysis
  •   Keywords
  •   Landing pages
  •   Match-types and negatives
  •   Quality score

What is your monthly account optimization process?

Do you have a bidding methodology? Describe it.

How do you align user intent with account structure and keywords?

How do you align landing page content with user intent?

Describe your approach to maintaining scent in your Paid Search funnel.

How do you measure drop-off rates in a Paid Search funnel?

   Reporting

  1.    Who should create the offer? Us or you, the agency?
  2.    Describe your approach to offer creation
  3.    Describe your research process for writing headlines, descriptions, urls, and call to actions.
  4.    Do you create specific offers for specific audiences? How do you deliver these?

   Creative

  1.    Describe your approach for creating creative that converts
  2.    Who should be responsible for creative? Us, or you, the agency?

   Landing Page Funnels

  1.    What landing page platforms do you have the most expertise in?
  2.    Describe your approach to funnel optimization.

   Account Setup

  1.    Describe your keyword research approach.
  2.    Describe your approach to building out our account
  3.    Describe your decision making process on how you’ll either continue with our current account or create a fresh account build.
  4.    Describe how you use technology and manual processes to build the initial state of the account.

   Budget Allocation

  1.    How do you allocate budget by campaign type and objective?
  2.    How do you allocate budget to Display Network, Youtube, Remarketing, and RLSA?

   Optimization Strategy

  1.    Describe your weekly optimization process.
  2.    Describe your process for spotting winning and losing ads, keywords, ad groups, and campaigns.
  3.    Do you use a bid management platform? Which one, and why?
  4.    Describe the level of bid automation you use, if any.

   Optimization Cadence

  1.    How often do you prune accounts for keyword and user intent fit?
  2.    How often do you revamp accounts to optimize quality score?

   Reporting Cadence

  1.    How often do you typically report to clients? Why?
  2.    What is the best format for this report?
  3.    Describe your approach to sharing insights, observations, and recommendations.

   Analytics Consulting

  1.    What segments, metrics, and granularity can be reported?
  2.    How often can reports be provided?
  3.     Who will own the accounts and data?
  4.    What do you require from us to ensure a successful partnership?
  5.    What are some examples of your Digital Analytics thought leadership?
  6.    What is your depth of experience working with Adobe Analytics?
  7.    What is your depth of experience working with Google Analytics?

Partner Questions and Answers

   RFP Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Short Timelines
    Rule of thumb: Time you took from start to finish to get internal RFP approved x 2 (Minimum 10 business days)
  2. Premature Requirements

    Understand that RFPs require a material time commitment from agencies that are already in demand by other clients.
    1.) Security
    2.) Financial statements
    3.) Not including a standard form MSA or SOW template
    Tip: Use what your legal has already approved to cut the RFP process down by 25%
    4.) Rigid Response Requirements
    5.) 
    Labeling a long-term partner as a Vendor

Completion Checklist

  1. Enthusiasm and purpose communicated to excite the agencies invited
  2. Goals and outcomes clearly defined
  3. Appropriately funded – Budgets are clearly established and earmarked
  4. Thoughtful and Practical
  5. Selection criteria is explicitly defined

Example General Terms and Conditions

This is an invitation for proposals only, and not a tender call.

[Your Company] shall not be obligated in any manner to any vendor until a written agreement has been duly executed.

[Your Company] may reject the lowest proposal, or any and all proposals.

[Your Company] shall not be liable for any costs of preparation or presentation of proposals.

The proposals, accompanying documentation, samples, etc. submitted by the suppliers automatically become the property of [Your Company] and will not be returned.

Proposals submitted shall be final and may not be altered by subsequent offerings, discussions, or commitments unless the vendor is requested to do so by [Your Company].

[Your Company] reserves the right to accept any functional sub-set or super-set of the proposal, and to adjust the price proposal accordingly.

While sub-contracting any phase of the work may be considered, the vendor submitting the proposal must assume full responsibility of the end-to-end process.

A vendor, if any, with whom [Your Company] chooses to, pursue a contractual relationship, will be chosen due to their RFP response offering the greatest benefit to [Your Company] and not necessarily the lowest proposal.

A vendor, if any, with whom [Your Company] chooses to pursue a contractual relationship, shall not make any reference to [Your Company] in any literature, electronic media, promotional brochures or sales presentations without the express written consent of [Your Company].

Any and all verbal discussions and responses are not binding on either party.

[Your Company] may issue addenda during the proposal period by the designated official. All addenda become part of the RFP documents and must be submitted with the proposal. It is the responsibility of the vendor to establish whether or not [Your Company] has issued any agenda.

Conclusion

Don’t leave your next RFP to chance. Your company will invest significant time and effort to find the right agency partner for you. Use this guide as a framework to build the perfect RFP that will attract A+ agencies to work with you.

Powered by Search gets invited to Fortune 1000 Digital RFP’s regularly, and we specifically built this guide to put an end to bad RFP’s that benefit no one.

Would you like us to understand your marketing goals and help create the RFP for you?

Want the template as a PDF? Click here to download a copy.

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