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How to write a great RFP

A Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a key element of the process for finding a new WordPress agency, especially if the project is large or complex.

But not all RFPs are equal. The better your RFP, the happier you’ll be. A good RFP can save you time, making it easier for you to shortlist your ideal agency. It’s also a great way to get your new agency relationship off to the best start as less time will be lost scene-setting down the line.

But what goes into a great RFP? We’ve responded to many over the years, so we’re well placed to answer that. Read on to find out how to write a great RFP.

Objectives of the RFP

At the most basic level, an RFP is the document you should use to help kick off the process of finding your ideal agency. The RFP should include all the information relevant to help vendors demonstrate their suitability for the project.

Each one will be slightly different, but this is a general rule of thumb for what you should be including.

1. Intro/background

Potential vendors need to know who they’re going to be working with. Seems basic, but context is key. Be sure to include information about who you are, which industry you’re in, how big you are, which section of a business the project is relevant to, and who the vendor will be working with on this particular project. Provide the more mechanical details of who you are but be sure to bring the business to life too – what are your aims, what’s your mission and vision – what version of the future should the vendor be buying into to help you succeed?

2. Objectives

Before you start writing your RFP, it’s important to clearly define the main objectives of the project. It needs to include the problem you are hoping to solve with this project, and to detail your goals and the outcomes you hope to achieve. The more specific you can be about what you’re looking to achieve, the better placed respondents will be to show that they understand where you’re coming from and that they’re the organisation to help you get where you need to be.

3. Scope

What functionality or key features do you expect to be part of the project? Are there any key features from an existing site that need to be retained or migrated? This area will form a large part of the discussions you have with shortlisted vendors, as they should be coming with ideas and approaches you may not have thought about before. But by having a well-considered view on what needs to be built you’ll be well placed to drive value from follow-up conversations. You might also want to include related information such as any preferred tools or ways of working you might have, or if there are any specific accessibility or compliance requirements to be mindful of.

4. Success metrics for the project

To ensure you’re getting the results you want from your build, it’s important to define success metrics. Try and provide detail here. Website performance, marketing and business metrics are all relevant, so include them all. Agencies capable of helping you deliver meaningful results will understand how their contributions play out across all relevant areas of focus; technical, performance and commercial.

5. Budget

Some projects are too big or small for some vendors, and that’s fine. It saves everyone’s time if that’s made clear up front. Including a budget range can also help vendors better understand constraints and propose solutions within a price range, if they’re able to do so.

6. RFP timelines

If your team is working with ideal time frames in mind, include these in the document. It’s also really useful to know if there are any key milestones that need to be hit within the project, or any deadlines that cannot be missed along the way. Similarly, if there are any dates that need to be factored in (product launches, exec reviews, regulatory requirements, etc), these are valuable pieces of information too.

7. About you (them!)

You don’t want to see RFP responses where vendors speak about themselves throughout. If anything, it’s a red flag that they aren’t focusing sufficiently on solving your problems. But it is important to provide space for respondents to tell their story. It’s a great way to understand the cultural fit of a potential partner, and, on a more practical level, it’s incredibly important to get an overview of how they work – are you well-suited in terms of how the project will be delivered? Do they follow Agile principles? Allowing the respondent to describe their company and ways of working in their own words should be very illuminating.

8. Selection criteria

Clearly define the selection criteria that you will use to evaluate proposals. This may include things like experience, technical expertise, or the vendor’s approach to project management – likely it’ll be a combination of these things and more. Whatever means of shortlisting vendors you’re likely to choose, detail it in the RFP. This all helps agencies know where to focus attention, and it helps them know how good a match they’re likely to be.

9. Questions

Make sure to include a section or process for vendors to ask questions about your RFP. This can help to clarify any ambiguities or misunderstandings and ensure vendors are able to submit the most accurate proposals possible. (Note: It would be wise to expect this to be a non-trivial amount of work, and set time aside to handle any back and forth promptly and thoroughly to avoid dragging things out. You may be able to join or use tools like Slack or Teams to speed up conversations and avoid long, cumbersome email reply chains).

10. RFP process

Be clear about the process you’re running, how interested parties can get in touch with you, and what next steps and timelines will look like. This could include a timeline for review, criteria for shortlisting vendors, and any additional steps that you will take before making a final decision. Clarity on what to expect, and sticking to it where possible, ensures the process will be conducted in a timely manner, and provides agencies with the rules of engagement regarding how to participate.

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