Let’s face it: creating an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a project can be a frustrating process. You’ll spend time on research, getting stakeholders’ feedback and buy-in on projects goals, crunching the numbers, and fine-tuning the finished document. The process can get even more complicated because your goals for the project may involve technological knowledge that you’re not familiar with.
But how are you supposed to write an effective RFP for a project where you don’t know what you don’t know? That’s right: it’s impossible. We’re going to help by sharing the 5 most common RFP website writing mistakes with you, and how to avoid them.
1. Using an RFP when it’s not necessary
So let me begin by asking you a provocative question: Do you even need an RFP?
Let’s use a Website Design RFP as an example. Do you need one to land the right web design partner for your project? The answer, in many cases, is a resounding “NO!”
After all, Nuanced Media is a web design agency that has created many successful, lasting business relationships without giving or receiving RFPs—and we’re not the only ones, we can assure you! Check out our infographic on why, especially in creative projects such as web design, an RFP may not be the best option.
At Nuanced Media our process, which essentially replaces the need for an RFP, is called the Discovery Process.
The Nuanced Media Discovery Process is essentially an exploratory process that analyzes how a company operates along with its competitive advantages and specific challenges it may be facing.
2. Being vague in the details
There are so many moving parts in writing an RFP, and in eventually completing the project it was written for. It is easy to confuse and contradict information gathered at different stages in the process by different people.
Do yourself, and your bidders, a favor by doing your research, and being upfront and clear about your requirements. This shows respect for potential vendors, who may disqualify themselves, saving you both wasted time and energy if they don’t meet a make-or-break requirement of your project. Be explicit about your needs and priorities. Identify what you absolutely need, and what you merely would like to have.
You are also protecting yourself from future financial snafus by clearly defining your timeline, budget, and scope. The clearer you are in the RFP, the less wiggle room you leave for nefarious agencies who are trying to do less work for more money, or who look for loopholes to charge you additional fees for service you thought were already included.
3. Not knowing who you’re working with
Choosing which agency to work with is frequently the most difficult part of the proposal process. That’s because the only thing you typically know about an agency is what they tell you themselves.
Don’t be afraid to ask for resumes and examples of projects your prospective team has worked on before. It’s absolutely essential that you work with a team that shares your vision and design style.
4. Creating a lackluster RFP
To foster the right relationship through an RFP, show your personality! We’re in the business of showing consumers who you are, and why they should work with you. Successful partnerships with creative agencies are based in part on personalities, and if the personalities don’t mesh, this lack of alignment shows in the work.
Be open to the expertise of your partner. Agencies love it when you know what you want, but we love it even more when you are open to what you need. You may not be aware of the most creative design solutions and cutting-edge digital marketing strategies that agencies provide. And you shouldn’t be: that’s our job, after all!
5. Ignoring the red flags
This final (and often fatal) mistake is ignoring red flags—or not knowing what red flags to look for in the first place.
- Ongoing website maintenance
Many companies will assume that the rate they pay an agency to create their website will include ongoing maintenance fees to update style sheets and other information once the initial site is launched.
This is a poor assumption—instead, it’s something you should look for in an agency’s proposal. If it’s at all unclear, simply ask your agency point blank what their fees are once the website is complete.
- Responsive Design
“Responsive design” is the ability of your website to adapt to different screen sizes such as tablets and smartphones with an adjusted format and style that matches your original desktop computer design.
Many companies assume responsive design functionality is included as a standard, but that’s simply not true.
Your agency’s proposal should explicitly note the inclusion of responsive design along with the initial desktop website design.
- Own your website’s code!
To be safe, specify in your contract with the agency that the website code you pay for is yours to own. That way, if for some reason things don’t work out with your agency, you can take the website code to another company and not lose your site or your data.Organizations that keep an eye out for these red flags will protect their investments and get the most out of their partnerships with their agencies.
What challenges have you run into writing RFPs? What tips would you give?