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How to write an RFP for marketing

How to write an RFP for marketing

Yikes! Your boss wants you ranking on page one for 20 keywords in six months. Your website is tired and hard to navigate, and the board wants it updated by next month. You’re lacking time and resources. You need to outsource to a digital marketing agency, but how do you find the best? Create an RFP for marketing services. BOOM!

Help Me Manage My Digital Marketing Strategy

If you do outsource your marketing, it’s still good to have a digital marketing strategy. A document that you can work from, when creating future RFPs. It’ll include your goals, KPIs, USPs, metrics to monitor, reporting templates, and more. You can download our free eBook, above, for all the deets.

Back to writing an RFP for digital marketing services...

Finding the perfect marketing agency to manage your marketing campaigns requires effort on your part. But once you’ve written your first request for proposal - RFP - it gets easier and easier, as you have a foundation to build on.

While RFPs are used by many businesses - as you can see above - I've tended towards how to create a marketing RFP, that’ll help you choose the best marketing agency. What you need to include, best practices, FAQs, RFP mistakes to avoid, and RFP tools.

Table of content

What is an RFP?

A business will write and submit an RFP - request for proposal - when they’re looking for a company to provide a service that they’re unable to do themselves. The business may not have the level of technical skill, the time, the resources, etc.

In our world, a marketing RFP is used to find an agency to design a website, manage social media channels, launch a product, and more.

When creating an RFP you should include information about your business, details of your marketing needs, business goals, expectations, budget, timeline, reporting, etc. I’ll go into more detail later…

Marketing agencies that think they can fulfill your request, will respond with a proposal of their intentions, along with a quote for their services.

Once you’ve received all proposals, on a deadline set by you, you can compare and award your project to the agency that meets your needs and budget.

Why you need an RFP

While creating an RFP may seem a daunting task, if you’re looking for an agency to manage your social media channels, launch your latest marketing campaign, or redesign your website, choosing the right agency is crucial.

A comprehensive request for proposal will…

  • Allow you to make like-for-like comparisons between agencies, as they’ll be answering the same RFP questions
  • Help you sort the wheat from the chaff, i.e., only evaluate qualified agencies
  • Ensure you secure the best price, as agencies will be bidding against each other to win the job

How to write a marketing RFP

I’m going to explain how to write an RFP for marketing services, that’ll help you when you need to choose between digital marketing agencies.

There are RFP best practices to consider - business standards - so I’ll list everything that you need to include. Keep it clear and concise. Be specific. Otherwise you’ll get a whole bunch of proposals and none of them will meet your requirements.

Statement of work

This is where you write your project brief.

Sometimes called a Scope of Work, your SOW explains why you’re submitting an RFP and your goals. What are you looking to achieve?

Your SOW ensures that the marketing service meets your full requirements. Be sure to include detailed information, so only relevant agencies respond. While some agencies may specialize in SEO strategies, others could be social media champions. It’s important they understand the scope of your request, before they make a bid. And, be honest about the results you’re expecting.

Your statement of work should include…

  • Why you’ve made a request for proposal - website redesign, PR campaign, product launch, event management, SEO management
  • A detailed description of the marketing services you’re looking for, and I mean detailed
  • Current state of campaign - no website/redesign website, one event/all events, no social presence/managing existing accounts - if there’s history, share it
  • Your timescale for wanting to see results - weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly
  • The date on which you’ll make your choice and announce who won the contract

BTW… ask the agencies interested in responding to your RFP to let you know when they intend responding, otherwise you’ll be pulling out your hair until the final deadline.

Set SMART goals

Sounds a bit obvious, but you should have established your goal before you started writing.

Goal examples could be…

  • You already have an SEO strategy, but it’s not bringing the results you want. Ranking in search engines is low and your competitors are in the top spot.
    “We want to be ranking for 20 keywords by Q4.”

  • You have accounts on all the major social media channels, but you’re not getting followers.
    “We want to double followers on LinkedIn by Q3.”

  • Our website hasn’t been updated since we started our business 15 years ago. Since then, we’ve launched new products and services, and opened new offices.
    “We want to launch a rebranded website, with 5 new product pages by the end of October.”

SMART goals for your marketing RFP - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely.

SMART goals- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely.

  • Specific - real numbers with real deadlines - who, what, where, why?
  • Measurable - how will you track and analyze each achievement?
  • Achievable - choose goals that are challenging, but possible
  • Relevant - check you have the resources to achieve your goals
  • Timely - when do you intend to achieve your goal?

Company overview

Tell them who you are. Your company background. It’ll help any agency submitting a bid, give you a more accurate proposal and quote. Include…

  • When your business started
  • Elevator pitch - how you introduce what your business does
  • Value proposition - a statement that answers the 'why' someone should do business with you
  • Your target audience, along with a breakdown of your customer base
  • All the products and services that you offer
  • Your short and long-term goals

It’s just a taster, because any professional service provider will do their homework, starting with checking out your website.

Determine budget

Opinions differ on whether to include your marketing budget in an RFP. Personally, I think it’s best to be upfront. It’ll save both you and potential agencies wasting time. You won’t be flooded with proposals that are way over your budget range, and agencies will have something to aim for.

Include details like…

  • Your marketing budget, broken down into each channel - social, SEO, events, PR
  • Payment terms
  • Contract renewals
  • Extensions of campaigns, if applicable

Highlight potential roadblocks

It’s time to be brutally honest.

If you don’t come clean about any technical issues or stumbling blocks, potential marketing agencies won’t be able to write a comprehensive proposal. Plus, if you withhold information, you may choose an agency that can’t manage your campaign.

For instance, is your CMS an antique? Are you working with another agency that could create obstacles? Are potential customers dropping off at your shopping cart? Come clean about possible roadblocks, and you’ll receive bids from agencies that can knock them down.

Any potential issues. Put your hands up.

What are you looking for in an agency?

Consider what characteristics will suit your business. For instance…

  • You may want a marketing agency that specializes in working with clients in your industry, so they’ll understand your market
  • Do you need the agency to be local, so they can visit your office, and have face-to-face meetings?
  • Do you want an agency that offers multiple languages?

Define your target audience

Agencies responding to your RFP will need to know who your target audience is. Depending on your goal, you should share demographics, location, language. Which social channels they’re using, and the sentiment they express with regard to your brand and products.

Talkwalker Analytics demographic feature shows age, family status, occupation, interests, to share audience insights in your RFP for marketing services.

Talkwalker Analytics demographic feature - age, family status, occupation, interests.

If you’re struggling to find audience insights, you can use a unified analytics platform like Talkwalker. You’ll be able to analyze multiple data sources - off and online - to understand consumers and conversations at scale.

We’ve a free - simulated - consumer intelligence dashboard that you can download. Take a look. You could be missing more than you think…

Show Me Consumer Insights I’m Missing!

If it’s social media management that you need, and your target audience is predominantly on one channel, it needs to be stated in your RFP. It’ll determine how an agency responds to your RFP, and in some cases, whether they respond or not.

RFP timeline

Not the timeline of your marketing campaign.

Your RFP needs to share a clear project timeline with specific dates and times as to when you want to receive agency responses to your request. Include…

  • Date and time when agencies must submit their proposals
  • Schedule of your review period
  • Date and time when you’ll let agencies know your choice

Reporting schedule

Include your reporting schedule. Do you want daily reports? Weekly? Monthly? It’s important to be clear, so you’ll only receive bids from agencies that can meet your expectations.

Include…

  • Points of contact in your team
  • Details of the reporting you expect for your campaign - followers, leads, ranking, sign ups, etc.
  • Communication method - email, face-to-face, shared Google Docs, etc.
  • Reporting schedule - daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Terms of contract

Legal stuff.

This section requires involvement from your legal team. Information to share in your marketing RFP includes…

  • Project start date
  • Project end date
  • Circumstances that would justify a termination of service

Contact details

Communication works both ways.

Ensure you share the contact details - phone numbers, email addresses - of people in your company that are involved with your project and request the same from the agency…

  • All relevant points of contact in your team/company
  • Contact who should receive RFP submissions
  • Contact who’ll take questions
  • All relevant departments in your company
  • Agency points of contact ready to answer questions
  • Agency project lead

Response submission

Include details as to how agencies should submit their proposals and in what format…

  • Format - PDF, email, hard copy report, etc.
  • Submit by - email, snail mail hard copy, face-to-face delivery, Dropbox, shared Google Doc, etc.

Where to post your RFP

Research. Research. Research.

Before you send your RFP for marketing services out into the world, research possible agencies. Big-name brands with proven success. Smaller, niche agencies that offer a more personalized service. If possible, ask for recommendations from other businesses.

As you can see above, many businesses post their RFPs on social media channels, which is an effective way to share to a global audience.

RFP FAQs

Not saying I’ve remembered all of them, but here’s a list of the most common questions asked about writing a marketing RFP…

RFP vs RFQ vs RFI

  • RFI - request for information - used for collecting information before an RFP or RFQ, with fewer questions. To help businesses build a strategy or database of potential service providers.

  • RFQ - request for quotation - document asking for the cost of services on offer. A company would submit an RFQ when the selection process is based on price alone.

  • RFP - request for proposal - document submitted by a business looking for a service provider, that contains project overview, timeline, delivery schedule, reporting, and quote.

How many service providers should I send my RFP to?

Depends. If what you’re looking for is a specialized service - event management, paid advertising, video editing, SEO - you’ll send to fewer agencies. If your request is more broad, you can send it to more providers.

Choose your top five agencies that you’ve selected by looking at their website, previous clients, social media, referrals, reviews, etc. Once you’ve shortlisted, you can ask for references.

How long should an RFP be?

Again. Depends. What is important to remember, is that it should be comprehensive, but concise. Also, length will depend on your project. Try not to duplicate the content you have on your website. Be honest about what you need, roadblocks, budget, etc.

An RFP is not an exercise in promoting your brand.

What’s the best way to layout my RFP?

Short paragraphs. Bullet lists. Tables and graphics. Images. Your goal is to receive clear and concise answers, so you must ask clear and concise questions.

Do I have to let agencies know who didn’t win?

Manners dictate, yes, of course.

RFP mistakes to avoid

These’ll save you stressing...

Avoid closed-ended questions

Answers of yes or no, won’t help when you come to evaluate bids. Ask questions like…

  • How long do you estimate it’ll take to implement your suggested website updates?
  • What recommendations do you propose to replace our CMS?
  • How much will your suggested paid ads campaign cost and when can we expect to see results?

Avoid writing a novel

Be concise. Use bullet and numbered lists. Short paragraphs. Plain language.

Don’t be vague

You must be specific in your RFP. Explain exactly what you want. Avoid, “we want our social media channels to be more popular.” Or, “we want to attend more events and get more leads.”

Don’t limit your budget

Of course, you’re restrained by your marketing budget, but don’t sacrifice your marketing campaign to cost. Don’t let your selection criteria be based on price alone.

RFP tools

5 tools to help you manage and create professional looking proposals in less time…

RFPIO | RFP response management tool

Home page of RFPIO - RFP for marketing tool

RFPIO response management tool - respond smarter with AI-enabled RFP software that learns over time.

AI-enabled software to manage your RFPs, RFIs, RFQs. From project management to team collaboration, RFPIO is flexible and intuitive.

Features include…

  • Reporting dashboards
  • Auto-response feature
  • Review feature so answers can be checked and approved
  • Response library
  • Automated generation of proposals from your CRM
  • Notification alerts - due dates, tasks, deadlines
  • Integrates with Office software - Teams, Dynamics, and SharePoint

Loopio | RFP automation tool

Home page of Loopio - RFP for marketing automation tool

Loopio RFP software - streamline your RFP process and unleash your growth.

Loopio gives your teams instant access to all the information they need to respond to RFPs. It provides an RFP response library that gives you visibility of your answers to previous RFPs, with an auto-populate feature to speed things up.

An intuitive dashboard means that your teams can collaborate on a centralized platform.

Users of Loopio claim that they have a 37% increase in the number of responses completed, 10% decrease in sales cycle time, and 35% decrease in time spent writing responses.

Features include…

  • Automatically answer questions, schedule content reviews
  • Auto-detects new RFP answers to keep your library updated
  • Customizable library to organize content

RFP360 | Proposal management software

“RFP360 makes the process more intuitive, transparent and effective.”

Home page of RFP360 - proposal management software for marketing RFP

RFP360 - RP too for issuing and responding to RFPs.

This RFP tool provides collaboration features that mean that you can write, review, update, and approve all your responses in your library. On top of that, automate and answer intelligence will speed up your response time, and suggest the most appropriate responses.

Features include...

  • Add multiple people to your user list, from your team or an external company
  • Assign and reassign questions to your team or externals, with individual due dates
  • Dashboards that show assignments with the status of each question
  • Browser extension and add-ons for 3rd party productivity software

Qorus | Streamline RFP management

Home page of Qorus - RFP management tool

Qorus - build proposals and RFP responses faster.

Qorus is an intuitive RFP and proposal management platform that allows your teams to build, collaborate, automate, share, and track insights through the buying journey.

This RFP tool integrates with the Microsoft Office suite, Dynamics 365, Teams, Salesforce, and most CRM platforms.

Features include…

  • Auto Answer feature using Natural Language Process - NLP - and Artificial Intelligence to read your questions, find the best answers, and quickly create a draft
  • Connect to your CRM, SharePoint or OneDrive library to tailor your content to each client’s exact needs
  • Track content engagement to see how people are interacting with your documents
  • Collaborate with subject matter experts directly in your document, by allocating questions to them
  • Track progress, measure win rates, and more

Nusii | RFP software for creative agencies

Home page of Nusii - RFP software for creative agencies, for your marketing RFP

Nusii - proposal software for creative agencies.

Nusii is an intuitive proposal software with a drag and drop editor to build RFPs, and a clean and simple UI, making this a great request for proposal tool for newbies.

The tool allows you to rework existing RFPs, by copying old RFP content and reworking it to fit new proposals.

Nusii is 100% bootstrapped and self-funded.

Features include…

  • Proposal notification so you’ll know when your client opens your proposal email and your proposal
  • Library of free proposal templates that allows you to add your own branding
  • Keep your clients up to date with easy to create online reports

Takeaway

If you’re looking to outsource some or all of your marketing needs, a marketng RFP will help you achieve your business goals. Your comprehensive and concise proposal will enable prospective marketing agencies to understand exactly what you want to achieve. What results you’re looking for, and when.

A lot of businesses are lacking a digital marketing strategy, and those that have one, aren’t sure whether it’s working or not. Is this you?

If yes, it means that your efforts to connect with your audience and convert them into paying customers are limited. Also, as I said at the start of this post, even if you’re planning to hire a marketing agency, a digital marketing strategy is still a must.

Our free Digital Marketing Strategy eBook will help you drive the impact of your brand and increase productivity. It explains how to plan, execute, measure, and analyze your campaigns. Download it now, to see what you’re missing…

CTA button to download Talkwalker's Digital Marketing Strategy Guide