Creating an RFP is a crucial part for a website project. Doing it correctly will help your business find the right vendor to partner with. Here are 5 tips to ensure your RFP is a success.
1. Lay your cards on the table and be up-front about budget.
This is not poker. Companies answering your website project RFP are here to help you. When you are upfront about your budget range, the conversation between you and potential vendors can focus on “what is the best value I can get for this price.”
To often, companies and organizations omit a budget from their RFP. There are usually two reasons for this: One, those leading the RFP have no idea of what the project may cost; and, two, the budget remains guarded in hopes of receiving lower estimates.
In all of my experience, I have never seen omitting a budget from an RFP work to a company’s advantage. Instead, avoiding the cost conversation usually garners responses with enormous price ranges and a lack of direction.
Think of it like buying a house: It is important to tell your realtor your budget range and your criteria (3 bedrooms, hardwood floors, a particular neighborhood, etc.) so that you can narrow down the best value for your money. The same logic holds true for website RFPs.
Whenever asked to help a company write a website RFP, I always start with the budget. Providing a budget up-front demonstrates preparation and focus and is usually a good indicator of a company a vendor will want to work with.
2. Set reasonable project timelines.
Unrealistic timelines are big warning sign to RFP responders. It demonstrates a lack of project management skills, unreasonable expectations, and the likelihood of being a difficult client.
Setting unrealistic timelines may result in vendors willing to work within those deadlines in order to win the bid. However, this usually results in rushed projects of low quality from which nobody walks away happy.
Often, when establishing timelines, the customer does not consider the amount of time they must commit to the project. The time it will take you to provide web copy, photos, feedback and other assets needed to complete a site must be considered in the project timelines. I’ve seen projects grind to halt because the vendor is waiting on the client’s feedback.
3. Ignore the formalities and get to the point.
Companies spend a lot of time writing very formal RFP documents that fail to clearly communicate expectations, business goals, and project constraints. Clear and direct RFPs result in clear and direct responses, saving everyone involved a lot of time and questions.
4. Clearly communicate the review process.
When managing an RFP process, you are the project manager. The RFP timeline should be clear. Each competing vendor should understand what is expected of them in their proposals and during meetings or calls. Failing to do so is a warning sign that you may be a difficult customer and may result in ideal vendors dropping out of the process.
For example, vendors typically expect the opportunity to ask questions and get additional clarification of the RFP so they know if they are a good fit. Be sure to include sufficient time for vendors to submit questions and for you to adequately respond. Submitted questions and answers should be made available to all vendors competing for the RFP.
5. Avoid open bids.
Sometimes, companies will blast their website RFP out to the whole world. In many cases, strong agencies and consulting firms will ignore these open bids. It is mistake to send an RFP to as many people as possible just to get a wide range of responses.
Instead, approach vendors you have already vetted out and consider a good fit for the project scope and budget. Yes, this will require some research and phone calls. However, doing so will result in more engaged responses and better proposals.
As I help companies navigate through the RFP process, the most success comes to those committed to selling their projects to potential vendors. You, as the company, must sell your project just as much as the vendors must sell their services to you. After all, the original intent of the RFP is to develop new business partnerships needed to achieve financial success.
If you are not sure where to begin, contact Richter Sterling today. We will support you through the RFP process so you can achieve better project ROI.
Tim Richter is a seasoned IT leader providing technology agendas that support strategic business plans. Richter Sterling offers an affordable and flexible alternative to expensive in-house IT leadership. As a result, your business can capture a higher return on technology investments.