So you're going to write a request for proposal (RFP). Being involved with an RFP can be frustrating since it requires a lot of planning and writing before you ever see the end product, which might not even be what you need to begin with. So where do you start? What do you write about? Most importantly, are you asking for the correct things to achieve what the company actually needs—not simply what you want? In this blog post, we'll tell you the common issues with RFPs and why you need to analyze your project with a discovery process before you start writing.
What Happens When You Don't Plan Your RFP
Basically, everyone involved loses. It's bad for you and your bidders when you don't have a strategic plan, not to mention your project. You open up your project to technical issues, profit loss, and virtually unattainable goals. But going through a discovery process before you write an RFP ensures that you get what you ask for at specified times for how much you agreed to pay for it.
What are RFPs?
A request for proposal (RFP) is a public document that businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations use to identify what they want completed by another company for a specific project (ex: a website redesign or new website development). Most of the time, the organizations that release RFPs are required to do so, like government entities, including cities, chambers, and police departments. Other times, requests are issued because businesses consider this an easier path to finding the best fit for the job.
Once the request for proposal is released, multiple agencies, contractors, or vendors bid on it for a chance to win that business for their company. They'll create a booklet of documents explaining who they are and what they'll do, and they'll try to explain why they're the best choice for this project. The organization that released the RFP judges the entries after the submission deadline has closed. They might request an in-person pitch from the companies they like and chooses the agency that is best qualified to work on their project.
Common Issues with RFPs
Requests for proposals are meant to give bidders an accurate representation of their project. When companies don't do their due diligence when preparing to write a request for proposal, it can lead to an unclear message, which can cause confusion, lost profit, and frustration.
Telling your bidders that, "I just want people to have a good experience," or "I want a site that looks good" is like telling a construction company that you want a house, to which they'll scratch their head and look at you funny. Do you want granite countertops or marble countertops? How about a doorbell? There isn't enough detail.
Budgets that don't align with the deliverables requested set your project up for near failure. It's important to not set your expectations too high when you don't have the appropriate budget.
Not Understanding the Project
A general lack of understanding of technical parameters leads to the winning vendor running into issues during the project development, which can cost you resources, time, and money.
Ignoring User Intent
When you require a certain functionality or use for your website and don't consult your audience, you'll see a major decrease in whatever goal you were trying to accomplish.
Lack of Research
Companies that don't consult experts, analyze the issues of their current website, or consider if their goals align with their audience's goals don't make a good impression on their bidders. They will often leave vendors struggling to understand how they're going to complete your requests and why they were made in the first place.
How You Can Unintentionally Sabotage Your Project
Planning Your RFP Within Your Company
Talking internally about your RFP project is usually the only action organizations take when planning a propsal, and it can strangle your project from the very beginning. Company decision-makers, like board members, the CEO, CMO, and marketing managers discuss the project to identify details, including budgets, expectations, goals, and wants. This is a no-no. Unfortunately, this approach can only harm your project because you're only seeking information from one source. Decision-makers have an idea of how they can help the company, but they aren't website development experts. They often don't understand that their ideas might not let users interact with their site the way they intend to, which creates a bad user experience from assuming or completely disregarding user intent. That's not good.
Even if you have good intentions when asking decision-makers critical questions about your request for proposal, you could just dig your project deeper down a rabbit hole. As noted above, when you only discuss your needs within a group that has the same background as you (i.e. has the same knowledge and agenda), you're stunting your RFP's strategic development. While you can definitely identify key goals, a budget, and other metrics this way, brainstorming within a biased group leaves room for missing important steps and information.
Why Website Discoveries Create Successful Projects
To build a successful website, you need a tailored, strategic plan that is in sync with your specific goals and objectives before you start asking for things you don't necessarily need, don't understand, or can't afford. Talking among yourselves won't get you there either. Analyzing your project with experts leads to having a detailed plan that will help you articulate your vision, define your website priorities, and know what resources you need to invest in.
Save Money & Effort with Project-Specific Recommendations
Discovery processes are designed to define and document different aspects of your project. Identifying pain points and goals, while considering requirements, are some things a discovery process can help you do, which creates a successful development project. More specifically, they include a couple different steps to identify different aspects of your project, set your expectations early, and help you set expectations for your bidders. In the end, you'll have the appropriate recommendations to move forward by doing it yourself or finding a firm to do exactly what you need.
Website discovery processes identify:
- Desired & necessary features, functionality & integrations
- Branding & design
- Requirements for theme research or custom design & design services delegation
- Final website architecture (sitemap)
- Audiences, existing content & needed content
- Project scope & budget
With these documented items, it's easy to work efficiently and with a defined purpose. You'll stay on track, use less resources and time, and see a speedy ROI on your new website.
Keep Your Users in Mind
Yes, this project is for your company in some ways, but it's really for your users. People visit your website and expect to do certain things. When you go through a discovery process with professionals, you're kept on track to focus on the people that matter.
Keep Your Proposal Organized
Use our RFP Template with writing prompts to
streamline your proposal writing and bidding process.