Running an RFP (Request for Proposal) process is often necessary to ensure that your marketing solution and partners are the best fits for your business needs. They provide a structure to ensure that the necessary information is received to make an informed investment decision.

Despite the benefits of the process, they can often be cumbersome, taking a lot of time and resource to execute. This is multiplied by the inclusion of multiple vendors and stakeholders so it is, therefore, crucial to ensure that an RFP process is planned well.

This post will highlight how to best prepare for your next RFP process and avoid some of the key challenges that may occur.

Identifying the key reasons for an RFP

When multiple stakeholders have vested interest in an RFP process, it is common to see the requirements of the potential solution stack up. The best vendor in your opinion may not meet some of the requirements set by your other stakeholders which inevitably causes dispute.

A collaborative approach to requirement building and prioritisation should be taken. You may find that your biggest challenge has been solved elsewhere in the business and other teams have challenges that are similar to yours.

Before engaging any suppliers, the business must fully understand what they are looking to achieve from the process. Ask yourself what the best solution looks like by first identifying the key challenges you need solving. Refer to these key challenges when there is a dispute on the outcome of the RFP process. Avoid disputes by incorporating these into scoring criteria and a scorecard before engaging suppliers.

Keeping the process lean

Whether you are responding to an RFP or submitting one, those involved will not want the process to drag on without an end in sight. Unfortunately, this can be easily achieved for a variety of reasons. The first is simply when too many vendors are invited to respond.

To avoid this, ensure you have subject matter expertise within the business by working with your agency or consultative partners. Leverage this expertise and keep the process lean by inviting only the vendors that are most relevant to your challenges to the process. This doesn’t mean that they should be making the decisions for you but should use their experience to identify the most relevant solutions from the outset.

Keeping the process lean is also achieved by simply reducing the workload put on vendors. I myself have been guilty of asking tech providers to fill out large technical questionnaires that have not always added substantial value to the process. When setting a task or asking a question, ask yourself what it is helping you to discover and how much does it aid the decision-making process.

Timelines are used to track progress and ensure that the project will be completed on time. Without them, it is very easy for a process to operate at a slow pace. Ensure that you have set accurate timelines when running an RFP process and have allocated enough time for potential delays. Ensure that enough time has been allocated for clarification on information post pitch and also negotiations. These can usually take longer than first thought and the time taken may vary depending on the number of vendors you intend to negotiate with.

Identifying unique qualities of the vendors

The correct solution does not simply tick the boxes in terms of technical capability but understands the business challenges and supports you in solving them. It should be very clear what type of solution is being sought and the method of assessing proposals should be fair and consistent. Without this, it is very easy to get into a situation where you are comparing multiple vendors that appear to have very little that separates them.

A lot of ad tech solutions, particularly in programmatic, are becoming commoditised and vendors will start to appear very similar. Ensure that you are evaluating a vendor on more than technical requirements such as the strength of the support teams and their cultural fit with the business. Don’t simply look for the cheapest solution in these scenarios as many vendors can offer more if you scratch below the surface!

One useful way to assess a vendor’s ability to apply their solution to your needs is to provide use cases. What are the scenarios where you would like a vendor to apply their solution? Look for signs that they have researched your business and understood your challenges, this will bring the best solutions to life.

Prepare as if you were taking part yourself

Being prepared helps to ensure there are no unexpected surprises along the way. Ensure that you know what you are looking for and how to identify the best solution for your business. While stakeholder engagement is important to understand the wider business challenges, keep your key challenges in mind and use them to extract the information you need to make an informed decision.