5 steps to a better website RFP


Is your company in need of an updated or new website, and you’re the one who has been tasked with creating the RFP for the project? Based on our experiences responding to many an RFP, here are a few tips for making an effective website RFP that will increase the chances that you’ll attract quality proposals from the right marketing and creative agencies.

1. Include background on your company

Break the ice by helping potential agencies get acquainted with your company. What products or services do you offer? What’s the size of your business and how long has it been in operation? What’s your company culture like? What’s your vision? Your values?  The Web can do a lot of things for a lot of different people, so the better your candidates understand where you’re coming from, the better they’ll be able to make proactive recommendations about what might improve your company’s online presence.

2. Identify the business purpose for the site

Once you’ve established a foundation, explain what you’re hoping the new or updated website will accomplish for your business. Will it generate additional leads? Is it supposed to be a resource aimed at the leads you already have? Or, perhaps it’s just supposed to be a resource to existing customers to help them engage more fully with your company or to cut down on the customer service phone calls and save you money. Again, understanding why you are creating a website will help candidates provide relevant solutions to make the most of your investment.

3. Detail functionality

In the “functionality” portion of the RFP, you’ll detail the features and functions that you’d like your website to have, such as a content management system, a blog, a slideshow, a user login area, a message board and so forth. It’s highly critical that you be as detailed as possible on how you envision these sections functioning. There’s a lot of room for interpretation when you just say “blog.” Do you mean a simple news system, or are we talking comments, engagement, widgets, email subscription options, related posts widgets and/or analytics? As I tell people, you can build either the “Toyota Yaris” or the “Maserati” of websites, so it really isn’t helpful to just say you want a “car.” The more vague you are in this section, the less accurate your candidates’ budget and timeline quotes will be because they’ll be working off assumptions.

4. Share your sources of inspiration

Some of our customers are able to envision a site from scratch, but many just have an idea of how they would like something to work. For instance, “I want a news system like on CNN.com!” or “I want a Twitter stream like ESPN’s!” Or, perhaps the most common: “I want a design that looks like Apple!” We know that you want to give us creative liberty — and we’ll gladly take it —  but if you have elements or functionality that you’d like to incorporate from another site, don’t hesitate to share it in the RFP. Doing so will help clarify the work that needs to be done.

5. Set ballpark expectations

Many companies are afraid to share too much information about budgets, timelines, etc. because they want agencies to come back with their own estimates, but that’s a mistake. As I mentioned above, you can build the Yaris or the Maserati, so it’s helpful for your candidates to know at least generally of any constraints. Share your budget in very round numbers and set your timeline expectations — not only for the completed project, but also for milestones along the way. RFPs that don’t include this information may not even generate a response from the best firms because they’ll think you don’t have your ducks in a row and won’t want to waste time chasing you down.

There you have it. If your RFP includes the above information, you’ll be a step ahead of 70 percent of the website RFPs we encounter. Still have questions? Tweet me at @dallinharris.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post about the information a web designer needs in order to build a website.


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